Carol Cumming Speirs

Languages: English and some French

carol cs

I am a third generation Unitarian, a child of this Church congregation and baptized by Lawrence Clare*. Yes baptized….. I have a church baptism certificate that serves as my birth certificate. This was the practice in Quebec at that time. It was music that drew my mother’s parents, Frank and Betsy Symons, into the Church of the Messiah on Simpson Street, drawn by the celebrated organist, George Brewer and the Gallery Choir, as it later became known, under organist and choir director, Donald Mackie.

All of Frank and Betsy Symons’ children were married in the Church of the Messiah: Jean to Stan Cumming, Dora to Arthur Ferguson, Stewart to Mary Moxley and Joy to Anson McKim. My mother and father stayed in Montreal but the other three at varying times found their way to the West Coast and some descendants can be found in two of the Vancouver Churches and one in Victoria, to this day.

One of my early memories is of Sunday afternoon meetings at my grand parents home of my grandfather and Angus Cameron. They would be sequestered in the dining room where the siphons of whisky and soda were located, dissecting Angus’s sermon from that morning. There was great pounding of fists on the table, raised voices, and works by GBS, Bertrand Russell, HG Wells, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Emerson, Thoreau and Channing among other references, would be fetched from either the library where I would be quietly reading or from the shelves lining the fireplace. 

I am the proud mother of three children, Lara, Greg and Scott and Granny Carol to seven very active grandchildren (ages 2- 11) of whom I am intensely proud. Two of my children live in Toronto so I get to see their families less frequently than Scott’s family who lives in Montreal. My daughter is General Counsel to a large employment agency, my Toronto son, Greg, is in real estate investment, while my Montreal son is in commercial real estate.  

In my work life, I trained as a social worker and worked first in the Department of Psychiatry at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (6 years), then was recruited by the McGill School of Social Work, first as a field teacher and then as a member of the faculty with an academic appointment (38 years). I also trained as a marriage and family therapist. During that time, I served on the Faculty Association, the University Senate, and chaired a joint Faculty Association and Administration Committee, and wrote the report on non-tenure track faculty that resulted in a change in policy. I also served as the University Ombudsperson for 5 years. 

In more recent years, I have served the Unitarian community in a number of ways – as chair of Communications Committee, the Music Ministry Collective, the Board of Management (2x), the Ministerial Search Committee that recruited Diane Rollert, the Choir Director Search Committee that recruited Maider Martineau, and currently serve as Secretary of the Board of Canadian Unitarian Council, our denomination’s national body.

Music also plays a role in my life.  I attend MSO concerts and sing in a choir with a wonderful group of women called Women Making Music. We join forces with the McGill Choral Society to present two concerts a year under the direction of Mary Jane Puiu. This year we sang Mozart’s Messa Solemenis in C and Rejoice by Handel. Last year at Christmas. we sang the whole of Handel’s Messiah. Singing folk and nursery songs with grandchildren is a special joy.  At the UCM I can usually be found belting out the hymns with great enthusiasm. 

* See pictures of Ministers on the stairway wall – Leonard Mason married Derek Speirs and myelf in 1967. Charles Eddis and Ray Drennen spoke at my father’s Memorial Service and Diane Rollert at my mother’s.