With a strong Irish heritage on both sides of her family, it could be glibly remarked that actor Kate Mulgrew has the gift of the gab. Listeners to The Ryan Tubridy Show know she has, in fact, the soul of a seanchaí.
In Galway for the International Arts Festival, the Orange Is The New Black and Star Trek: Voyager actress, had Ryan, and his listeners, enthralled from the off. Ryan wondered when Kate had first come to Ireland?
“It was my father who compelled me to come to Ireland. My first stop was Dingle, Ireland, when I was 18 years old. My father called me, I was in New York studying. He said “you’ve got to get on a plane and come over, I’ve fallen in love with an Irish woman”. Of course he was well married to my mother at the time, so had I to jump on that plane to see with my own eyes who had felled my old man.”
Kate’s father and her relationship with him, is at the centre of what brings her to Galway. In town to discuss her new book, How To Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir, Kate told Ryan how she had come to the shores of Lake Corrib to write a novel. Memories of her father persisted though, until she surrendered to them.
“I’d say it’s the tap, tap, tap of the subconscious, psychic ice pick. It’s the thing that won’t leave you alone and you keep running away from it.”
She went on to describe how years of tension between them culminated in a reckoning of sorts, they day he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was this moment that became the starting point for her memoir.
“Every day I’d start some paragraph about some interesting thing about my father that I was going to novelise. I’d come back to my father the day he was told he had just a few weeks to live and the night that we spent after that death sentence that was directed at him. Every day I came back to it for a good two weeks. Finally in front of the fire, with tears streaming down my cheeks and a whiskey, I said, alright Dad, I guess we have a reckoning, so I’m going to write about that night.”
The impasse that existed between Kate and her father until that point, was inextricably linked with her mother, his adoration of her, and her commitment to Kate.
“She was the elusive light of his life. The rest of us came as a result of that love. He was always scratching after her heart.”
Ryan returned to Kate’s first memoir Born with Teeth for a moment to discuss the birth of her first child and the baby girl’s subsequent adoption. Rendering Ryan lost for words, Kate described vividly and poignantly the decision, the regret, the 20 year search and reunion.
“It shaped my whole life, every movement thereafter. I believe who I am in every way was defined by that decision.”
You can listen to Ryan and Kate’s conversation in full here.
How To Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir is published by HarperCollins.
You can find details of Kate Mulgrew’s event at the Galway International Arts Festival here.
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