Sunday 15 December 2019

Love for Irish pilates couple: 'I told him he wasn't allowed call me his girlfriend because I was allergic to being in a relationship'

Pilates couple Naomh Kirwan and Gary Nethaway recently became engaged, and the proposal went viral

In Sync: Naomh and Gary with their girls Bella and Ava.
In Sync: Naomh and Gary with their girls Bella and Ava.

Andrea Smith

An engagement video was recently shared all over the internet, in which singer Gavin James serenaded a woman over breakfast with the song Book of Love, while her partner got down on one knee and proposed. "I cried through the entire thing," says Naomh Kirwan, who happily accepted Gary Nethaway's romantic proposal at Powerscourt Hotel.

"I love Gavin and that song, and Gary went on the road with him before, so when he walked out in Powerscourt and started singing it, I just knew what was happening. Gary brought the girls along, and Ava, 8, had a T-shirt saying, "Momma will you marry Dada," and baby Bella's t-shirt said, "Please say yes."

Gary was 27 and Naomh was 32 when they first started dating in 2008. Naomh, 40, was previously married and her daughter Ava is from that marriage. She met Gary through a mutual friend in Gibney's in Malahide when she was eight months pregnant, and thought he was kind and lovely. He was just home from living for five years in Canada, and she presumed he was interested in her single friend.

Baby Ava was born in 2007, after which Naomh's marriage broke up, and she went out on a blind date in Wright's cafe bar in Swords the following year at the end of 2008.

As it happened, she got stood up most unchivalrously by the other guy that night, but Gary just happened to be in the same place and they got talking. They had a few drinks and Gary ended up kissing Noamh at the end of the night, because they were so relaxed with each other and had hit it off so well.

"We started dating and I was a nightmare to him at first," laughs bubbly Naomh. "I told him he wasn't allowed call me his girlfriend because I was allergic to being in a relationship. I only went on the blind date because everyone else was telling me I had to get out there again, and then I was stood up. It was lovely that he was there though, as he is such a nice guy and I felt secure with him. He has been in Ava's life since she was one, and she also has an awesome dad, and now Gary and I have Bella together, who is a year old."

Naomh is from Howth and has an identical twin sister Aoife. She has two other sisters and twin brothers - also identical - and their parents Carmel, a hairdresser, and Brian, a company manager, were 39 when she and Aoife were born. This was considered old in 1975, so the babies made the cover of Woman's Way.

Naomh modelled when younger and went to Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology to study interior design, which taught her all about colour. She became friends with make-up artist Paula Callan when they were 16, and they both trained in make-up together and worked in Brown Sugar. Naomh ultimately left that salon and joined the Morgan agency, where she primarily worked on photoshoots.

Gary, 35, was attracted to Naomh's strength and sense of humour, and also thought that she was gorgeous. "There was a spark and our worlds collided in a way that I never thought worlds could collide," he says. "We have had lots of ups and downs but have always come back together. That spark has a lot to answer for."

Gary is from Swords, and comes third of Peggy and the late John's four children. He also has three step-siblings as his dad, who died five years ago on Gary's 30th birthday aged 88, had been previously married. He retired from being MD of an electrical company while Gary was still at primary school, which meant he had a lot of time to spend with his children. Gary's mum is a nurse who still works with nursing agencies.

He was passionate about football growing up, until a knee injury ended his dream of turning professional, and he also played the drums. His band, The Dirty Epics, are currently on a break, and he also does stage management. He and Naomh broke up a couple of times in the early years, and she would pretend to Ava that he was away on tour.

"It's funny because it was like I always knew we would get back together," she admits. "I think we both needed to deal with our own stuff before we were able to deal with each other's. I was dealing with a marriage breakdown and couldn't really be with Gary through that, but then I couldn't be without him."

Gary realised that part of the problem lay with an issue he had around commitment, but having seen an amazing family counsellor, he was able to work through that. He's quite soft and sensitive, he says, but Naomh likes that he is so kind and generous. "He greets everyone on the street," she says. "Gary is really good at one-on-one conversations and talking problems over, which some men aren't, and is a really good role model for the girls. He's a nerd who watches documentaries on the weather, but I love it!"

Naomh became passionate about Pilates after she had an accident and recovered her fitness through it. Gary also worked out his old soccer injury through Pilates, and both of them loved it so much they trained to become teachers. They now run The Pilates Movement in Dun Laoghaire together, an extensive exercise studio operating seven days a week. They set it up last August, and work alternative days so someone is always there for the children. They also have an au pair, Denisa, which means that Gary can still play music and Naomh can do make-up for shoots, where required.

"We love the studio and are really committed to getting clients to move properly," says Naomh. "We want to get people out of pain, give them a better posture and correct movement, and losing weight or getting toned is just a bonus. With Pilates, you see the longevity in your practice. We have athletes and regular people from teens to people in their 70s coming to us as it suits everyone."

"While our lives can be quite chaotic at times with work and children, Pilates gives us a really nice balance," adds Gary.

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