When he was in his late 60s, Leonard Cohen said “I don’t think much about death, but in a certain stage in your life it becomes very clear that your time is not unlimited.” I thought about this when I heard that Munroe Scott had recently died at Adelaide Place in Lindsay at 92, “peacefully in his sleep” as his obituary read. He had been battling cancer prior to the end of his third act.
As one of Canada’s most prolific authors and playwrights — he spent 62 years as a freelance writer — Scott was a keen observer of the political scene and a great writer of documentary films. His most famous written work is probably a biography of Dr. Robert McClure, a surgeon and lay moderator of the United Church of Canada. Scott also wrote and directed episodes for several CBC series. Just five years ago, at 87, Scott presented a new, full-length play at Showplace Performance Centre in Peterborough called The Orator: The Involuntary Resurrection of Col. Ingersoll.
I grew up reading Scott’s weekly column in Lindsay This Week called “Down Paradox Lane.” Sometimes acerbic, often witty, Scott was never parochial or regional in his thinking. He was a pan-Canadian nationalist in the most positive sense of that word. His Canada was progressive, welcoming, and inclusive; it was a nation that charted its own destiny. It was not beholden to the United States for direction, and certainly not as a role model. Scott railed against corporatism and welcomed initiatives for the public good.
Aside from his writing, I got to know Scott after I participated in the public hearings known as the Spicer Commission — the Citizens’ Forum on Canada’s Future — when I was 19.
After staying in touch intermittently over the years, Scott reached out to me after the creation of the Advocate about two years ago. He told us how much he enjoyed the magazine and insisted we come by his Adelaide Place home for a glass of wine. After talking politics, culture, and mortality, he gave us a copy of his book, The Carving of Canada, which paid tribute to artists who have interpreted Canada in stone and glass in the heart of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. We would bump into him several times again at local events, this nonagenarian who was still participating in community life.
Scott was still blogging, too — his site was aptly named “Return to Paradox” — up until mid-September of this year, including his final words on Sept. 11. He knew he wouldn’t see the results of the federal election, but he did have some words of wisdom.
“I have no words of encouragement in the midst of the shambles our species is creating for itself … all I can propose is to harken back to a phrase from World War Two and put our faith in it.”
“Carry on Canada!”