Although he was born and reared in Dublin, Fiachna Ó Braonáin of Hothouse Flowers has strong links to the Connemara Gealtacht. His grandfather was from Carraroe and his family still have a house there, where Fiachna spent many childhood summers.

Both of his parents are Irish speakers and Fiachna was reared through Irish too, as well as attending Gaelscoileanna in the capital. He considers Irish to be his first language.

Recently, Fiachna returned to these roots, taking up the role of Luke Ó Riordán in TG4’s Ros na Rún, making his debut at the very end of 2020. The Irish language soap is filmed in Spiddal, about 20 minutes from Carraroe.

Although this is the first time Fiachna has appeared on Ros na Rún, he has read for parts twice before, both of which bore no result. And so when the request came through to know would he try for the part of Luke, albeit this time via a video due to restrictions, he wasn’t sure, but his wife convinced him to go for it... Initially!

I’m very used to getting up on a stage

“She said, ‘Ah sure what else are you going to be doing? You might as well give it a go’. So I taped myself, sent it back to them and showed my wife. She said, ‘Ah, you needn’t worry, there’s no way they’re going to give you that part’,” Fiachna laughs heartily. “Then the next thing about a week later an email came in from them saying, ‘We’d like to offer you the part of Luke’.”

What’s striking about Fiachna, despite his musical success with Hothouse Flowers and presenting RTÉ Radio 1’s Late Date, he’s down to earth and honest. He doesn’t gloss over the fact the he was nervous getting into acting.

“I’m very used to getting up on a stage,” Fiachna explains, “but I’m used to getting up on a stage to play music. Something that’s very much second nature to me. I’ve no theatre experience, no real acting experience at all.”

Before I set off I’d run the lines with my wife

Fiachna’s nerves dissolved after a couple of days on set and he also worked out a clever way to memorise his lines. The night before filming, Fiachna would travel to the west and stay in the family house in Carraroe.

“Before I set off I’d run the lines with my wife,” Fiachna says. “She would literally speak the lines of my counterpart then into the phone and leave the gaps where I would have to deliver the corresponding lines back to her. The drive down, I would be playing it and practising away on my own.”

School days

Although he has other strings to his bow, from acting to presenting, Fiachna’s first love is music. He played the tin whistle and guitar growing up, often attending trad sessions with his father on a Friday evening.

By the time school came along, music competitions were a big focus.

An early incarnation of Hothouse Flowers was formed in Coláiste Eoin by himself, Liam Ó Maonlaí – who have been the nucleus of the band – and a few others.

Much of the early stuff they wrote was contemporary rock as Gaelige.

I didn’t have the heart for in anymore

After school, Fiachna started a law degree in University College Dublin (UCD). However, a spate of busking by himself and Liam in the summer after first year changed things.

“By the time the summer of 1985 was over and I had to go back to college, I didn’t have the heart for in anymore,” Fiachna recalls. “I had this new life and it was promising at that stage. While nobody was making a living from it, we were making a bit of pocket money playing gigs in wine bars, being fed and watered that kind of thing.

They gave me a two-year leave of absence

“About three months into second year I ended up going to the Dean of Law. They were noticing that I was no longer attending my tutorials, lectures or anything. I was more interested in being up in the Ents Office booking gigs for the band. So I went in and explained the situation to them. They gave me a two-year leave of absence, which was really an amazing thing to do.”

Did he go back?

“Within those two years we had made our first record, we were touring the world and making a living from it. By the time the two years were up, we were very much up and running. We were travelling the world and doing well.”

Hothouse Flowers don’t go away on very long tours anymore, but the band did have a lot of gigs planned for last year, which were of course cancelled. Reflecting on the pandemic, Fiachna is pragmatic.

There were and are challenges. He has a young daughter aged nine and a son aged six. His son is on the autism spectrum. When Irish Country Living speaks with Fiachna, he’s very disappointed with the initial Government decision not open schools for children with additional needs. Since, the decision has been revisited, but at the time of going to print the outlook on the situation was still very much uncertain.

“He has high-functioning autism. He accesses learning differently to most kids. It was a bit of a sucker punch getting the news that these schools wouldn’t be opening.”

Looking on the opportune side, the pandemic has given Fiachna the chance to release solo material. He recorded and released an EP, Winter Sun, recently. And of course, he is still presenting Late Date.

Like most (if not all) musicians, Fiachna is looking forward to getting back on the road. But no fear, he has plenty of Gaelige on Ros na Rún to keep him busy.

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