VIDEO: The story behind the Clare couple running a goat farm and producing award-winning cheese
They work together, but John Harrington says his partner Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith runs the show at the cheesemakers, says Andrea Smith
As a young lad growing up on the Beara Peninsula in Cork, John Harrington's sister Angela used to tease him about being in love with the girl pictured on the Calvita cheese box.
In June 1992, he walked into the Hillgrove Hotel in Dingle, and Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith's blonde hair and blue eyes reminded him of that girl. "She was drinking a pint, and I thought, 'The Calvita girl has grown up'," he laughs.
On that basis, it's ironic that Siobhan and John would go on to run a cheese company, but the first hurdle was getting past her friend Donal's vetting. "Donal got talking to John and at the end of the night, he said, 'He's alright Siobhan, he'll do'," she says.
Siobhan was living in Galway at the time, and she and John discovered they had a lot in common. They had both trained as teachers, for example, and had fathers who were county councillors.
A few weeks later, John visited Galway and phoned and asked her out for a drink. She dragged her flatmates along, as she wasn't sure if she'd recognise him or even if she wanted to spend time with him. Luckily it all went well and she gave the girls the nod to go home. "He began to grow on me," she says.
Siobhan (50) grew up in the village of Inagh in Clare, and initially worked as a primary school teacher, like her parents, Flan and Mairead.
She took a career break as she developed an interest in food, and after courses in marketing and PR, she left teaching altogether and worked at wholesaling local and regional food products, one of which happened to be St Tola Irish Goat Cheese.
When she met John, she liked that he gave her confidence and ideas around developing her career in food. He also introduced her to meditation, mindfulness and self-awareness, which she found interesting.