Margaret Kell Virany   Lover of life, language and literature; note-taker of Northrop Frye; journalist; editor; author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas.



Author and Northrop Frye student Margaret Virany née Kell was born in Cookstown, Ontario in 1933. Her United Church of Canada minister father, John, and his WWI war bride, Kathleen (née Ward in Portsmouth, UK) spent their vacation month of July on the farm of John’s mother (an Irish Campbell) to help with the harvest. The Kells (from Yorkshire, UK) and Campbells had pioneered Crown land in the 1850’s and owned neighboring farms. Margaret graduated in English Language & Literature from Victoria College, University of Toronto in 1955. There she met her future husband Thomas Virany while working on the student newspaper, The Varsity. She was a professional YMCA secretary (for publications and publicity) in Montreal and Toronto until 1961. Then, except for part-time and freelance work, she was a stay-at-home mother of three until she became editor of the Aylmer (QC) Reporter in 1977. When it folded in 1980, Arthur and Kitty Mantell invited Margaret and Thomas to become co-owners and co-founders of the Aylmer Bulletin. They put it out in their basement while he, a mechanical engineer, continued his career of federal patent examiner. By 1989 the Bulletin was established as a prosperous business and sold to another publisher. In 2003, Margaret wrote A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, the story of her parents’ honeymoon years spent as missionaries to the northern Cree, with a sub-story of her growing up as a minister’s daughter. She published Eating at Church in 2006 and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, a non fiction romance, in 2010. Margaret is the author of eight chapters of student notes of Northrop Frye’s Lectures edited by Robert D. Denham and published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2016.

A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego VoidStats

In the thick of World War I, Kathleen Ward, a city girl from Portsmouth, England meets Jack Kell, a farm boy from Cookstown, Canada, over a cup of tea. Long after Jack has sailed home, when he is just about to go far north as a Methodist missionary, they begin writing to each other. The correspondence is a life raft of purity, innocence and hope after the trauma of the war. They vow always to be best friends, have a fitful transatlantic courtship, fall in love, get married and plunge into preposterous adventures on a northern Manitoba aboriginal reservation.The raw emotions of these romantic 20th century adventurers engage the reader as the author weaves a heartwarming tale out of letters, journals and photos her mother left her in a keepsake box. To complete the story as her parents age, she recounts her sufferings and recovery from the stress of otherworldly expectations put on a preacher’s kid in her growing-up years. This book about love is wrapped in an analogy to The Book of Kells. Just as a community of Irish monks copied and illustrated the holy scriptures to create the most notable ancient manuscript of Western civilization, so did generations of one homonymous family try to illuminate the gospels and be good examples to others by the way they lived their daily lives.

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride 

This love story in the knight-and-lady courtly tradition is written as a tribute to the bravery of the author’s mother Kathleen Ward Kell. It is a companion to A Book of Kells, with a dozen authentic pictures and no sub story of the author’s growing up as a minister’s daughter. A spark ignited in World War I develops into a lasting love in the snowy expanses and frozen lakes of northern territory inhabited by the Swampy Cree. They met in 1917 when her father, a Sunday school teacher, invited some colonial servicemen home for tea. The courtship is conducted on onion skin stationery over 5,000 miles between fog and bog. She asks him to come over again before she decides and he does, twice. Bravely she sets sail, leaving all and everybody she has ever known to start a new life “… as the helpmate to a minister I have never even heard preach. How can a sensible person such as I do such a thing?” The writing recounts flying from London to Paris in 1927, crossing the Atlantic, canoeing up the fur trade route, and trekking in winter on a cariole in search of a hospital to give birth. The day-to-day life of First Persons is observed, and the positive role of missionaries in that era. Jack and Kathleen worked and stayed together for sixty-one years and died natural deaths at over age ninety.

Eating at Church  One hundred and seventy-five recipes from fifty amateur chefs are interspersed with amusing anecdotes from the history of two Ottawa valley congregations whose combined age tops 350. 

Reviews and Author Page


“I was just blown away by the ending of your book, a very unexpected twist but completely unexpected by your skillful setup. The end of the book has so much energy and brazen personality because it was about you — and you know yourself best! The authentic aspect begs for a sequel.” R.S., Orlando, FL

“Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko, Ottawa, Canada

“Whilst in Frankfurt during the Book Fair I picked up a copy of A Book of Kells. Back home in The Netherlands I read it and very much enjoyed its style of writing. What a lovely book. Being a writer and translator I know what it takes to accomplish a book.” Hans Offringa, Apeldoom Area, The Netherlands