Tribute to Doris (Churchill) Spurrell

by Lester Green

Dot proudly displaying freshly baked bread.

Dot proudly displaying freshly baked bread. (Photo credit: Lester Green)


Doris Churchill, affectionately known as Dot,  was born to John and Elizabeth (Shaw) Churchill on January 22, 1915. She was the oldest of nine children and raised in the community of Hodge’s Cove.

She first entered into service at the tender age of fourteen for a family of Churchill’s in Hillview. For her next job she bordered the train at Goobie’s and found herself working in St. John’s for Marjorie and Ross Gulliford.

At the age of 19, she met and married Joseph Spurrell, son of Jacob and Minnie (Seward) of Butter Cove. Dot and Joseph travelled to St. John’s and  were married on December 18, 1933 at St. Mary’s the Virgin in St. John’s.

She always claimed that Marjorie and Ross Gulliford were very kind people who treated her extremely well as an employer. The respect that she developed for them is reflected in the name she gave her first born son, Ross. Her fourth born child was a girl. She had little difficulty in choosing a name and again she reflected on the kindness shown by the Gulliford’s. Her first born daughter was not named after a family member but the name Marjorie was chosen. Dot often told stories of how she continued to receive gifts of clothing for Ross and Marjorie  long after she finished service and had settled to live in Butter Cove.

Joseph and Dot raised a family of eleven children and their granddaughter, Michelle in the tiny fishing community of Butter Cove. This had been Joseph’s home and he felt that he could provide for his family in the community that he was raised. Dot often spoke of the days she spent making bread and cooking for such a large family. She had to provide clothing made from a variety of fabrics such as flour bags, which was common among material for clothing during this time period.

Joseph passed away in 1979 leaving Dot to raise her granddaughter, Michelle, on her own. She continued to live in the house that she raised her family but after a few years, she moved into the basement of her daughter, Marjorie, house. A few years later she purchased a house from Roy Smith and continued to raise Michelle. She remained in this house until her death on May 7, 2012.

Doris loved making bread and up until the age of 93, visitors would be welcomed into her house by the smell  of freshly baked bread. Her warm, cozy house was often a scene of social activity in later years as people would gather to play her favorite card game, 120. The sound of her shouting 30 for 60 indicated how much she loved company. The cards would be delivered on the table with a thud but when it came to laying the 5 or the Ace of Hearts, she would lay it down and shout: “take that now!”

Dot always enjoyed a “good smoke” an habit she had taken up after the death of her husband Joseph. Whenever our family visited, Dot would be sitting at her table looking out the window with a cigarette in one hand and ready to tell a story.

In her later years, she often passed time knitting double mitts and socks. These found their way into many Christmas socks as gifts. Our family still has pairs that we refuse to wear on cold winter days because we value them so much. She loved reading hymns and her Bible. She always said her prayers.

One of her later passions was reading materials that were written on Newfoundland, especially those that contained the subject of Random, Trinity Bay area. She could vividly recall being newly married on December 18, 1933 and being present on the dockside in St. John’s four days later when the crew of the Edward VII arrived in St. John’s aboard the passenger ship Rosalind. She was related to some of these men and knew other members of the crew. She accompanied them back to Random on the train and took part in the celebrations at Long Beach and Hodge’s Cove. The towns had given up hope that the men would be found alive.

She found comfort in her large family, after the passing of Joseph. Joseph and her family had grown extremely large and consisted of 11 children, 27 grandchildren, 48 great grandchildren and 12 great great grandchildren. One could easily forgive her, if at times she struggled to recall your name and blurted out someone else.

Caleb Churchill and his sister Doris Spurrell on her 95th birthday. (Photo credit: Lester Green)

Caleb Churchill and his sister Doris Spurrell on her 95th birthday. (Photo credit: Lester Green)

Joseph Spurrell, his wife Doris (Churchill) and her mother Elizabeth (Shaw) Churchill. (Photo donated by daughter Marjorie Smith)

Joseph Spurrell, his wife Doris (Churchill) and her mother Elizabeth (Shaw) Churchill. (Photo donated by daughter Marjorie Smith)