Virginia McKenna remembers her friend Roger Moore

Roger Moore and Virginia in "I Capture the Castle"

“I have been thinking about the date, May 23rd 2017. The news of the Manchester bomb attack and the death of a loved and famous actor revealed to us on the same day.

As a parent, I can only imagine the horror being endured by those who have lost loved ones or whose beautiful children have been brutally injured by the disgusting and cowardly attack at the Ariana Grande concert. We all weep as one and we all share a determination to resist those who seek to force us to be other than the caring, compassionate, inclusive society we cherish.

The death of Roger Moore has been a shock and is another great sadness. I knew he was ill, but – nevertheless. I understand well what his family are going through and, of course, I feel for them very much.

My personal memories are perhaps different from what we are reading and seeing on television. They go back to 1954. Bill and I together with Roger were in a theatre production of “I Capture the Castle” in London (pictured). Roger played the part of Stephen Colly and we all thought he was gorgeous and charming. So did Hollywood, as he was whisked off there, before the play ended, and signed a contract with MGM.

But, in spite of fame and fortune, Roger had a deep current of compassion flowing through his veins. Compassion for humans, expressed through his long-term work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (since 1991) – he was awarded the UNICEF Audrey Hepburn Award in 2004. And compassion for animals, where he held some very strong and critical views on animal exploitation and cruelty. Trophy hunting, the use of wild animals in circuses, the relentlessly cruelty involved in the production of foie gras (his work significantly contributed to Selfridges ending foie gras sales in November 2009).

For many years we exchanged emails on these issues. He was deeply shocked that anyone could hurt or hunt a wild creature for “fun”, sport, or a trophy.

When it came to wild animals in circuses, I know he had reserved a very special bottle of champagne to take to Downing Street to present to Teresa May if – no, WHEN – she (or whoever the Prime Minister of the day was at the time) finally ended this archaic and cruel relic of the past. We agreed to knock on her door together.

As a tribute to his memory, I once more ask Mrs May to do just that. I am aware that many issues are on her desk at the moment, but the job is done, the legislation is written, the support is overwhelmingly there. It shouldn’t take much precious Parliamentary time Prime Minister.

Surely the animals deserve that and dear much-missed Roger can rest in peace.”

Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder and Trustee, Born Free Foundation

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