Clash of the Ash: Meet Irish modelling's golden couple
Photography by Kip Carroll. Styling by Liadan Hynes
Oscar Wilde's enduring epigram that youth is wasted on the young is comprehensively contradicted once you meet Aisling Quinn and Ashley Duane - the most uncynical 21-year-olds, not just in Ireland, but possibly further afield too.
You could generate megawatts of electricity with the amount of positivity coming off these two.
To make it all a bit confusing, they both constantly refer to each other in conversation as Ash.
"My proper name is Aisling," she explains, "but everyone close to me knows me as Ash. He's known as Ash too. So we both call each other Ash," she explains.
So, they are unofficially Ash 'n' Ash, which has a certain blingtastic brand-name quality to it, like Brippa, HuberBod, or even Posh 'n' Becks. They both laugh at the marketing possibilities for the future. The romantic possibilities appear equally endless for Ash 'n' Ash. Not least, says Aisling, if they take after her mum and dad - Gillian and Niall Quinn. "If Ash and I could be half as happy as my mum and my dad are, in years to come, I'd consider us very lucky."
She adds that for her 21st birthday, as a present, Gillian and Niall "sent us to New York for three nights".
I say to Aisling that I interviewed her mum, Gillian, in New York in 1994.
"That was the year I was born," Aisling laughs, before adding that she has looked up to her mum her whole life.
"My mum is very strong woman with the kindest of hearts. She is an absolute lady and anything she sets her mind to, she tries really hard to master it. Her decision to undertake a degree in psychology, aged 40, is inspirational," she says.
"I aspire to be like her," says Aisling.
Ash and Ash both model for 1st Option Models. Aisling started modelling when she was 14. She was that age when she did her first shoot with LIFE magazine. They both have blue eyes. She is 5ft 10in. He is 6ft 3in. "I'm a bit dwarfed by Ash's dad," Ashley says of Niall Quinn, former Arsenal and Ireland football demi-god, and now the wise man of all things soccer on Sky Sports.
Ashley was born in Dublin on December 16, 1993, while Aisling was born in Manchester on February 5, 1994 - "my dad was playing for Manchester City at the time," she says.
"I was brought up in the north-east of England. So it was very working class," she says. "When I moved to Ireland in 2003, it was the Celtic Tiger. It was in the boom. So it was such a stark contrast. There were kids in my class who would take helicopters to go to the races."
And did you?
"I didn't! God, no," she laughs. "We are certainly a bit more down-to-earth now," she says of people in Ireland, "and there's a bit more humility about us nowadays."
Aisling is studying law at UCD, while Ashley is studying pharmacy at Trinity - on his Twitter bio, he describes himself as: "Studying in TCD to become a certified drug lord".
They will be together two years on the upcoming June bank-holiday weekend. On their anniversary, Aisling will be running the VHI Women's Mini Marathon for the charity Nurture - her mum's an ambassador for them. I ask Love's Young Dream about when they first met. "We met for the first time when we were about 15. We were both in school in Kildare," says Ashley. He went to Newbridge College and she to Gael-Cholaiste Chill Dara. ("I hadn't a word of Irish going in, but I am now fluent and adore the language now," she says.)
Ashley continues: "We both had mutual friends and there were, like, little house parties that we were both invited to and where we met each other. We spoke a few times. Then she had a 16th birthday party in Mantra," he says, referring to the club in Maynooth for which Aisling's auntie, Valerie Roe, was doing the PR, "and she invited me and all my friends along."
"But then I repeated my Leaving in 2013 and Ashley took a year out," Aisling says.
Why did you repeat your Leaving Cert?
"I wasn't happy. I went into Trinity College doing economics and sociology and I didn't like my course. I wanted to get a few more points in the bag and go back to college. So when I repeated, Ash was taking his gap year. He ended up caddying for my dad a bit. So we became much better friends."
"We weren't dating at that stage," says Ashley. "We were just friends."
"I had no interest in him at the time," Aisling butts in. "He was clearly my friend."
Asked how it went from friendship to becoming Love's Young Dream, Ashley explains: "After we first made the transition - which was a very, very slight transition - from friends to a relationship, it was very easy.
"She went to Spain for a holiday and she came back. Then, two days later, I went travelling in America for three weeks in the summer of 2013 with a few friends.
"And when I came back, it really began then." Their first time away officially as a couple was actually with Gillian and Niall, to Barcelona, at the end of August 2013.
So, how did he ask Aisling to become his girlfriend?
"Dutch courage," she laughs.
"I was a doing a bit of caddying in the K Club in Kildare for Ash's dad, who is a great golfer. Then, over the June bank-holiday weekend, Niall and I were down in the Heritage Hotel [in Killenard, Co Laois] and he played a tournament . . ."
Ashley reveals that, deep down, he was starting to feel "more" for Aisling. "I was having a few pints with Niall and then, later, I ended up telling Aisling, 'I have these feelings for you'."
What time did this outpouring of romantic revelation occur?
"At about two in the morning," Aisling laughs.
And what was your reaction to what Ashley said to you?
"I had already thought I would end up with him one day, I guess, since we became friends. We talked about travelling together. We had the same sort of dreams, I suppose. So I thought, 'Maybe one day, down the line'. And, then, when it happened, it wasn't really like I had the time to think about it. It just felt right. And I kind of went with it. And two years later," she smiles, "here we are . . ."
Are they living together now?
"Oh God, no," laughs Aisling, almost alarmed at the very thought.
"We both live at home still," says Ashley.
Aisling lives with her parents in Eadestown, just outside Naas. Ashley lives "just on the Curragh" with his parents, Deirdre and Brendan, a secondary school teacher. "They have adopted Ash as another child and I think sometimes they actually prefer you to me," he laughs. "My parents love Ash."
The secret of their success as a relationship, says Ashley, is that they make a lot of time for each other: "We make an effort to see each other, even if we are tired, or even if we have really stressful days," says Ashley.
"I think, as well, we are as happy studying together in our jammies as we would be in Paris," Aisling chimes in
Ashley says: "We don't socialise that much. We go out the odd time. I do rowing with Trinity College, so I am training eight or nine times a week with that, with 6am starts and stuff. So I don't really have time, but she is really supportive of it."
So when you go to Paris, you can row her down the Seine?
"I suppose I could do it in Venice if we were on a gondola."
"So Ash rows and I play football as well. Gaelic football," Aisling laughs, just as I think she was following in her father's footsteps. "So because we are both active, into fitness and health, we are not inclined to go out partying on weekends. Ash gets out very rarely with rowing. Rowers get the odd night off and I'll probably go out with him then.
"It is great that Ash is getting involved with modelling as well," Aisling continues. "If we can both work together the odd time, it would be lovely." Like today, for LIFE magazine.
Is there a plan to walk up the aisle as oppose to the catwalk? "Not yet! Not for a long time," says Aisling.
"We both want to travel," says Ashley.
You could do that on honeymoon, I point out.
"Ash got me, for our first anniversary, a big picture of the globe," says Ashley, "and you can scratch off the places you've been on it. I thought I was fairly well travelled, but once I scratched off all the different countries, there is so much of the world that we haven't actually seen. Like South America and Africa."
Does Aisling want to become a mum one day?
"You can't say that," she blushes. "The plan is - finish college. I'm hoping to get into humanitarian law. I'd love to be a barrister in that area. I'm not sure yet - I change my mind a lot."
But never about Ashley?
They both laugh.
"I'm studying pharmacy and it is a very broad degree," says Ashley. "So my initial thought now, which could change, is that I would love to go into research pharmaceuticals to find new drugs, or to work on current drugs to make them better."
Like Breaking Bad?
"Not Breaking Bad, no," he laughs. "There is the apparatus in college to make that," he adds, meaning, presumably, methamphetamine, "but, no! It was a great show."
Asked to describe each other, Aisling says of her dreamboat - even row-boat - fella: "Ash doesn't really know how great he is. He is my best friend. He is very supportive and dedicated. He is great fun as well. We always have a good time."
"Ash is understanding," says Ashley of Aisling, "because I come with a lot of baggage, I suppose, with all the rowing and the early mornings. She is really caring, and she always puts others before herself. Sometimes that annoys me because she always puts herself out there, before others. She is really loving as well. She is funny, too."
"I'm not funny," she claims.
A few seconds pass in the Radisson Blu St Helen's Hotel in Dublin's Stillorgan, where we are having lunch, before Aisling finally lets her funny, very funny, side slip . . .
When Aisling took her boyfriend to Berlin last summer (he had taken her to Paris the Christmas before, where they stayed in an apartment overlooking the Champs-Elysees) she brought her beau to a certain type of spa. "Little did he know that Germans go nude! Little pranks like that! Having to walk around starkers for an afternoon," she roars with laughter.
"You don't have any inhibitions about your body," he says to her.
"With the amount of training I do, I don't really focus on body image. I'm more about fitness and being healthy," she says.
To clarify: the nude spa in Berlin was a practical joke, Aisling?
"Ah, yeah," she replies.
"I didn't actually realise," says Ashley, "until we went to reception and the woman said, 'No swimming clothes'. I was, like - 'Woah! Grand!'"
What annoys you about him?
"He falls asleep a lot," she replies. "It is probably a lot to do with the training and early mornings. But, yeah, if we are sitting watching a movie, and he falls asleep, that's generally when I give him a kick!"
"Especially if she picks a movie like The Notebook," he says. "But if it is something I want to watch, I'll last a lot longer . . ." he claims.
"He still falls asleep," she corrects him.
What annoys you about Aisling?
"Nothing," laughs Aisling.
"Yeah, nothing. She cooks me really healthy food," he says.
"My mother taught me," she adds. "My brother [Michael] is a great cook as well; my dad not so much."
"He's a legend," Ashley says of the mighty Quinn.
Did he give you a talk when you first started going out with his daughter?
"No, because I was in the house a lot. So it wasn't even a change of relationship. We just continued on as normal. I still play golf with him. We really do get on really well."
So he won't be putting you under any pressure to make a honest woman of his daughter?
"No, not for another while. I'm still 21!"
"My dad is a big, gentle giant," says Aisling. "He is very genuine, very honest and humble."
Is there something about your parents' relationship that you want to have in your own? "I think it is family values. Loyalty and honesty are very high up for me and I see that in Ash."
After Ash 'n' Ash finish their respective exams this month, they are off to Europe to spend six weeks Interrailing around Italy, France, Austria and Germany.
"Ash's family are joining us in Munich on August 11 for his dad's 60th birthday," says Aisling.
Lets hope, I say to her, that you don't arrange to bring them all to a nude spa without filling them in.
"A family pass!" Ash 'n' Ash say in unison.
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