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Friday People: Colin Shirlow's special relationships

Oyster eater: Colin has won the Hillsborough contest eight times
Oyster eater: Colin has won the Hillsborough contest eight times

The 58-year-old is the eight-time winner of the Hillsborough Oyster Festival World Oyster Eating Championship. The contracts manager for VSS Ventilation Surveys & Services lives in Dromore, Co Down with his wife Carole and their children Lesley (31) and Nikki (29).

My wife, Carole

Carole and I have been married for 25 years and we met when I owned a gym in Coleraine. Carole and one of her friends tried to set me up with another girl – I could never understand why I had to give her a lift every time we all went out. I never twigged that she liked me.

I went to Blackpool for a bodybuilding show with some guys from my gym and I realised the only person I could think of was Carole. We started going out when I came back home. Carole was a civil servant but she's now retired and spends a lot of time with our grandchildren.

My daughters, Lesley and Nikki

Lesley had a baby boy called Thomas two weeks ago and Nikki and her husband have Katy (4), Joshua (18 months) and baby Jacob, who was born four months ago.

We spend as much time with them as we possibly can. I was given the job of bathing Thomas two weeks ago along with his dad. When we had finished we gave each other high fives – it was the first time either of us had done anything like that and we were just pleased that we all survived the ordeal – including Thomas.

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It's funny because Nikki was a real tomboy when she was younger and it was Lesley who was into dolls. Now things have changed because Nikki has produced three gorgeous kids and Lesley has married a farmer so she spends all her time running around the countryside.

My best friends

Michael Reddick and I have known each other since we were 11 – we met when I worked as a messenger boy on a bike. He had the same job so we met doing that in Derriaghy. There's also a fellow called Rowan Watson. He and Michael and I all went to school and the scouts together. We went to Dunmurry High which got knocked down about six months ago.

Then there's Trevor Todd and Tom Snodden – I played football with them for Dunmurry United and we all still see each other on a regular basis.

My parents, James and Jean

My mum is still alive but dad passed away about four years ago. My mother worked in the Grundig factory here and dad was a member of the Harbour Police. Before he got married, though, he was a professional boxer.

I have two sisters, Jennifer and Lorraine, and I also have a brother, Ian, who I'm very close to. Ian was a boxer and a professional wrestler under the name of Chris Sommers and helped me out a lot when I opened my second gym.

I got into the oyster eating competition almost by accident. I had gone down to the festival to have a look and ended up getting roped into it.

The first time I entered I ate 233 oysters which was a record. I've matched it twice but I'm hoping to beat the record this year.

I went to a hot-dog eating competition on Long Island in the States in July this year. I came 11th out of 15 and a couple of the professional eaters from that are coming over here for the oyster festival this year to try and beat me.

Who I go to for advice

Like all men I tended to keep a lot of stuff to myself and then it started to build up. Carole noticed a change in me and when she asked about it the floodgates opened. Now, I know not to let the dam build up but to keep the river flowing smoothly.

My mentor, my dad, Jim

My dad was the person who helped me set up my first gym. I worked as a fitter in Belfast but I had always been interested in health and fitness.

There came an opportunity to open a gym in Coleraine and dad came up to have a look with me. I looked around and didn't listen to anything the owner told me – I was only 23. Dad asked all the right questions and listened. He also told me on the way home that if I left my job with the proper notice and good terms then my boss would understand that I wanted to improve myself.

My secret  crush... Kin Wilde

I really loved Kim Wilde when I was young. I was also a huge Top Of The Pops fan so my other crush would have been Pan's People. I didn't like any of them individually but as a group I loved them all.

My fantasy dinner party

I would ask Freddie Mercury. When I was 17 I got my first car and I would listen to a Queen cassette in it before they were really popular. When I saw Freddie perform at Slane Castle I loved his personality on stage.

I'm into body building and I've always admired the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger so I'd also ask him. On my dad's account I'd ask the boxer Sonny Liston – my father was a huge fan. Finally, I'd invite Mick Jagger – I've seen him at Slane Castle too.

He has such an on-stage presence that it would be great to meet him.

  • Colin will be attempting to beat his record of 233 oysters at this year's World Oyster Eating Championship at Hillsborough on Saturday, September 6. For tickets and information go to

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