Runaway Princess, a hopeful tale of heroin, hooking and happiness – Mary Goggin

A few years ago, I decided to write a one-woman show based on my life. The result is Runaway Princess which I am bringing to Edinburgh Fringe.

Relatives of Mary Goggin have walked out of her one-woman show, coming to Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Relatives of Mary Goggin have walked out of her one-woman show, coming to Edinburgh Festival Fringe

I have received many awards from other festivals, yet there are members of my family who refuse to see me perform this “scandalous” show.

There are those who may agree with them, who think some things should not be said out loud, especially to a paying audience. Why do that when there are carpets under which they can be swept, curtains to be pulled around? Why, you too may wonder, have I chosen to do this? I wanted to know why a 13-year-old girl would run away from home, shoot heroin and become a hooker.

In the beginning, there was Eddie Goggin. My dad, who hailed from Scarth, just outside of Schull, in West Cork. He headed to Dublin to drive a truck.

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Lilly Murphy, my mom, born in Mayo, was told by her father to leave Bangor Erris: there was nothing there for her. She headed for London, and graduated from King Edward Memorial Hospital on VJ day. She’s a registered nurse. She had choices: Africa, Australia, America?

Dad’s sister, my precious Aunt Mary, sponsored him to the Bronx. Uncle Bill, in Brooklyn, did the same for my mother. Dad then drove a bus in New York City.

He could not read or write. He was a man who, in the true Homeric oral tradition, passed on to me the poems and songs of his youth. A man of few words, the greatest of which was love. I was never in any doubt he loved me unconditionally.

Eddie Goggin spoke loudest to me. He who had no voice other than his songs and poems, his favourite was Skibbereen (no wonder I have abandonment issues). He is the sole reason I survived to tell the tale of the Runaway Princess.

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In my family, if there was a feeling in the room, kill it. Keep the secrets, hide the truth, bury any emotions which might let someone see inside your soul.

My mother was stoic, like all great Irish matriarchs. Her greatest gift to me was sending me away to keep me alive, to the nuns in Dublin first, then more nuns in Cork, and Santa Monica’s Hotel California. She physically kept me alive. She never gave up on me.

The point of my story? All I ever wanted was to belong and feel loved. I truly believe this tale may have been completely different if some supportive adult had asked me: “Are you OK?’

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Relatives have been to my show; some have walked out. That’s cool. It ain't easy being the truth-teller. It gets lonely sometimes, being up there on the stage telling stories which most people would try to wipe from their history. I once dated a guy who’d seen the show. He just assumed I was into S&M.

Coming from a different culture, I was not prepared for puberty in the 1960s. I once had a shrink tell me my adventures were a “massive reaction to sexual repression”. Heck, I grew up in Catholic household in the 50s and 60s, did he really need to study for four years to tell me that?

When I turned 12, all hell broke loose. I ran. I was accused of being pregnant by Sister Mary Bernard, my Catholic school principal. I wasn’t and I refused to go back. I ran to the other side of the overpass, into the arms of local heroin addicts where I felt loved. I mattered.

Then I ran to Greenwich Village and anything I was handed I shot, snorted or drank. Lily send me to public schools, Catholic school, hairdressing school, modelling school. Then Ireland, Dublin. Was I going to the laundries? Oh that’s right, I was not pregnant! I do not think they accepted Yanks at the Magdalene laundries .

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Then home for Xmas. Fillmore East, shooting meth, dropping acid, back to a different convent, one that I loved (Shakespeare, elocution and French), that is until I got caught stealing money from the principal. Bed sheets out the window, picked up by the Garde in Cork City.

The Sisters of Mercy sent the crazy Yank back to the Bronx. Ran with a motorcycle gang, got busted, landed in “the woman’s house of detention”, NYC. Next stop a drug program in Santa Monica, California, the cult of all cults, the Hotel California. I went in at 16, came out I at 21. I have not gotten to the hooking, but you get the idea…

One of the things I love about being an artist is, when asked what I did before I started acting, I say “I drank”. That’s it, no questions asked. I decided instead of being at the mercy of casting, I’d write my own stuff.

I am instinctual; I am a healer. I have always known I needed to write my story. And you know what? It did help and the fact I can stand in the spotlight and tell the tales of my life is testament to this. On the other side of addiction hell, sharing my secrets, I realized that when I did I got better and stronger.

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This is not really about me; it gives others permission to share theirs, and heal. I’m told I am brave, it’s kind of just who I am. And maybe I am, not a Purple Heart brave. This is an inner journey. When I was little, I wanted to be an archaeologist, digging for the truth. That’s what I do.

Also, I did not want to be on my deathbed saying “I wish I had”.

Oh, and Sister Mary Bridget, wherever you are. I am sorry for robbing the Sisters of Mercy cashbox. Nothing personal. I loved Rosscarbery, especially your elocution class.

It came in real handy. Thank you.

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Runaway Princess at [email protected] Street from August 5-27

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