DSS Champion Fionn Crombie Angus
08 Sep, 2023
If you’re strolling down Shop St in Galway City in good weather, keep your eyes and ears out for the guy busking outside the bank. It’s Fionn Crombie Angus, at his favourite spot, and hard at work.
It is his job, after all. Fionn has been playing the fiddle for 18 of his 27 years and has lived in the city since he was 19. Fionn, who has Down Syndrome, and his father, Jonathan, have approached life with a singular zeal and a laser-like focus. It has meant Fionn as a one-man company, Jonathan as employee.
"Fionn grew up in Co Clare, but when he turned 19, he wanted to move to the city, mostly for busking,” Jonathan explains. "So, we said okay, we would figure out how we could get his own apartment and I will move in too.”
It meant a “fight” to establish a company. "We do a lot of that sort of thing”, Jonathan says, referring to looking at what supports are available and then utilising them in the best way possible. Fionn now gets a weekly wage.
"Fionn makes a pretty penny when he busks, you are going to be paid an hourly rate and all of that is corporate profits - busking money goes into company coffers,” Jonathan explains. There is also a bigger picture, however; according to Fionn: “This is about giving people a voice.”
Fionn, with his music and passion for zoology, is forging a different path, one in which he is living life to the full, with the support of those around him. According to Fionn: “A bit like self-advocacy, independence is a good starting place. I think inter-dependence is another way to look at it - family, friends and community.”
It is also about challenging perceptions of what is achievable for people with a disability. Jonathan refers to the “good system” they have in place for Fionn but adds: "His biggest challenge for autonomy is the limits of the people around him, like me and other families, and community. We may give bad advice.” In fact, Fionn was due to give a speech to the UN in Geneva in 2020 but due to the pandemic he had to deliver it online - it was entitled ‘Bad Choices’.
In some ways, the new laws and the Decision Support Service (DSS) allow for people to have the autonomy to make a mistake, according to Fionn and Jonathan.
His father says they feel like "pioneers" in terms of exploring different schemes and supports and making them work for Fionn. "It is important work that we are doing," Jonathan says. "The idea that Fionn can have a great life is one where we say to everyone with a disability, you can have a great life."
To prove their point, Fionn has already been to Malaysia, Australia, and the Amazon. He has lectured in more than 30 universities - "which must be some sort of record," according to Jonathan - and plays music wherever he goes. On one memorable occasion, Fionn played songs deep in the Amazon rain forest, following a 30-hour boat ride up the Rio Negro. According to Jonathan: "They told us the children in the village had never heard a violin played before.
"There are a lot more places on his list he would like to go than places he has gone.”
As with Fionn's burgeoning travel ambitions and his family's efforts to ensure he can live independently, but with support so he can maximise his potential, it may start small. But as Jonathan says, "we will get there.”
To learn a little bit more about Fionn, please watch a short video at this link.
*More information and music available at https://www.fionnathan.com