(l-r) John Weir Foote and Marc Moir (courtesy Marc Moir)
It's a fantastic story, it's a Canadian story and when something like that comes across your desk as a playwright, you have to write it.
—Marc Moir, playwright
When playwright Marc Moir was writing the script for Padre X, he had a very specific venue in mind.
"When I first wrote the play, one of my dreams, the main
goal was to do it at the War Museum so it was thrilling to get the call," he
That call came when the Canadian War Museum started planning their Remembrance Day programming. They invited Moir to bring the one-man show he stars in to Ottawa for a series of performances.
Padre X tells the story of John Weir Foote, the only Canadian army chaplain to receive the Victoria Cross - the highest military decoration that is awarded to acknowledge acts of bravery in the face of the enemy.
Foote was given the award after joining the men he ministered on a raid at Dieppe. He ended up a prisoner of war after refusing to leave his squad.
It's a story that Moir came across as a kid, and one he thought was worth revisiting. "I've always been a big reader and when I was a kid my dad kept some old elementary school readers from the late '40s, early '50s. And in one of them was this short story called "John Weir Foote V.C.", and I read this amazing story of this Canadian war hero," he explained.
In 2008, when he was looking to start a new writing project, Moir came across the story again and decided to pursue it. He quickly realized that the only problem with researching a little-known story is that there isn't much source material.
"No one had ever written this guy's story. There was the little snippet in the reader, there was a very short story in Reader's Digest in '48 and a citation when he won the V.C. was published in the newspaper. It's a fantastic story, it's a Canadian story and when something like that comes across your desk as a playwright, you have to write it," he said.
Moir also works as a full-time pastor in Northwest Winnipeg, and he felt a kinship with his main character. "I was able to see a lot of real similarities, in terms of character and sense of humour, a lot of stuff that I could really identify with. It's a great story of hope. He kept these guys alive because he kept their hope alive. He was a real servant, he was a humble man, he was a pastor, he was their shepherd," Moir said.
Bringing the play back to the stage over the Remembrance Day weekend is a good fit for Moir, because he believes Canadians should be doing more to honour their veterans. "I think in our country we make a mistake sometimes. We seem to think the idea of remembrance is somehow celebrating war and I don't think that's right," he said.
"What matters is these people went out there, put their lives on the line and they bled and died so we could have these discussions. I'm 27 and I feel in my generation there's a real sense of apathy towards our veterans. They do not get the respect, remembrance and even the money they deserve."
Padre X runs at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa through November 11.