Saturday 19 January 2019

Couple who light up each other's lives

Lamp maker Eoin Shanley and marketing guru Yvonne McGarry are together 10 years and have two girls

'Incredibly relaxed in each other's company'... Yvonne McGarry met Eoin Shanley in 2007. Photo: David Conachy
'Incredibly relaxed in each other's company'... Yvonne McGarry met Eoin Shanley in 2007. Photo: David Conachy

Andrea Smith

Yvonne McGarry met Eoin Shanley through friends in a Dun Laoghaire bar in 2007. As they got chatting, they found that they really liked one another. Yvonne was attracted to Eoin's big smile and height and found him handsome, but she thought the jumper he was wearing was so "horrific", it was almost a deal-breaker.

"It was a quality jumper," the affable and witty Eoin protests, adding that the jumper mysteriously disappeared once they started dating and was never seen again. Funny that. "I thought Yvonne was gorgeous and I was attracted to her fantastic mind. She has an extraordinary way of thinking that I find stimulating."

By their own admission, Eoin is softer and more in touch with his feminine side. Yvonne, who eschews sentimentality, says she'd definitely win in an argument. He puts this down to having had a very happy childhood in Monkstown growing up in the middle of four sisters.

His eldest sister, Keelin, is the newly-announced RTE Six One News presenter, and then there's Muireann, Emma and Niamh. His mum Orna, a physiotherapist, passed away from ovarian cancer in 2006. His dad is Professor Derry Shanley, former dean of the School of Dental Science at Trinity College, who is now married to Eoin's stepmum June. Eoin's two passions were always fishing and music, and he studied fish-farming in Tralee when he left school. He worked in a fishing tackle shop in London for a year, and then studied business, joined a couple of bands and attended the Rock School in Ballyfermot. He worked as an actor for a while, but ultimately decided it wasn't for him.

When he and Yvonne met in their 30s, they were surprised they hadn't encountered one another sooner as both did stints at the Rock School, played in bands and knew the same people. Yvonne grew up in The Naul, Co Dublin, and has three younger siblings, Aine, John and Niamh. Her mum Fidelma is a former nurse, and her dad Noel died aged 52 from a heart attack. Describing herself as a studious and idealistic youngster, she did a philosophy degree at UCD, after courses in journalism and business and, of course, attended the Rock School.

Her career was principally in sales and marketing and she spent four years in London, and then worked in Microsoft Ireland for 13 years, which she loved. She left her position in September to become a self-employed marketing consultant. While she was still living in London, Yvonne bought a 200-year-old mud and stone cottage in Leitrim that needed to be restored. When she met Eoin, he joined her in the restoration project and they had great fun adding a thatched roof and doing it up at weekends. While they have since sold it, it is part of Leitrim's Green-Door eco-houses.

Yvonne and Eoin were married in an art gallery in Leitrim in 2010, and they held their reception on a barge. They are proud parents to Orna, who will turn eight this week, and Alice, six, and the family have a dog, Bo Selecta. She's female too, consolidating Eoin's destiny to be surrounded by women in life - not that he's complaining. The family lives in Delgany, and having been made redundant from his sales manager job in a fishing tackle company in 2015, Eoin became a stay-at-home dad. "I'm brilliant at doing the girls' ponytails, but apparently my plaits are appalling," he laughs. Yvonne says that Eoin has his own vernacular that the girls have picked up. This can be baffling to their teachers and classmates, she laughs.

Also in 2015, Eoin began making lamps and mood lighting from old timber and copper piping. using skills he acquired during the Leitrim renovation. While the beautiful and distinctive lamps were for his own home, friends started putting in requests and soon his new business, Copper Fish Studio, was born. The handcrafted lamps are made using natural and upcycled materials, such as driftwood and timber from old boats, and Yvonne helps with the website. He first started selling them through Industry on Drury Street, and they are now in several outlets and online. He also designed the fabulous rope and copper lighting system which is used throughout the Kilkenny shop ground floor. He does bespoke orders as well, and statement pieces for the corporate world.

After dropping the girls to school, he works "hammer and tongs" at the business until they come home again, and often works in the evening at the business in the garage. He has just acquired an industrial unit, so Yvonne can "wave goodbye to bits of wood all over the house".

"You can follow Eoin around the house and know where he has been, because there's a tool left here and a piece of wood there," says Yvonne. "I'd say my own worst quality is that I can be a bit too straight sometimes."

"Oh, she can be frighteningly straight," Eoin teases, "but that's also to do with her mind, which is her best quality, so it's worth it. We get on extremely well and we're incredibly relaxed in each other's company. We rarely fight, but if Yvonne is annoyed, she gives little coughs under her breath, whereas I tend to do a blinding huff."

Eoin Shanley's Copper Fish Studio lamps are stocked in Industry & Co, Drury Street; Kilkenny, Nassau Street; Galway, Douglas Court and Lavitt's Quay; Strawbridge, Mount Usher Gardens and Westgate Design, Wexford.

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