The Book End


Kathleen's Cariole Ride

A heart-warming tale of romantic Knight-and-Lady Courtly Love 

By Margaret Kell Virany

Margaret Kell Virany was born in Cookstown, Ontario, Canada in 1933. She loved nursery rhymes, fairy tales, poems, parables and stories of real lives. In 1937 she went by ocean liner to a family reunion in England. She got an Honours BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Toronto in 1955, where Northrop Frye taught her. In 1955 she married Thomas Virany, BASc, her editor on the student daily, The Varsity. From 1981 to 1990 she and her husband co-owned and edited the Aylmer Bulletin, a weekly newspaper. The Portsmouth UK News awarded her a bouquet of flowers and full-page coverage for her family-history rendition, A Book of Kells. Eating at Church, celebrating the cuisine and anniversaries of two pioneer churches, sold out in Gatineau, Quebec (across from Ottawa), where she lives.

Now here is Margaret Kell Virany telling us in her own words about the exciting, romantic love affair of her parents and their more than 60-year marriage as they found themselves everywhere from the back country to the company of prime ministers and royalty.

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I find the material my parents left me an endless source of awe, and I hope that I can share this passion and fun with the general public.

My parents were an unlikely pair: Kathleen Ward, a city councillor's daughter from Portsmouth, England (pop. 190,000) and Jack (John Ambrose Campbell) Kell from Cookstown, Ontario (pop. 550, not counting the pigs, horses and cows). What brought them together in 1917 was a horrific conflict (World War I).

Nostalgia and Facts about WWI

Most of the eligible Englishmen had been killed, including my mother's high school sweetheart. My father couldn't resist the enlistment posters' appeal to serve, marching bands, sweethearts' farewell kisses, uniform and free passage across the ocean so he signed up as a sailor with the RNCVR. He served on a minesweeper in the English Channel and the North Sea. He narrowly escaped the Halifax disaster. After the armistice, but while still enlisted, he sailed on an expedition as a mine-sweeping escort of the HMCS Stadacona from Halifax to Victoria.

Transatlantic Courtship

Travel time across the ocean was 10 days each way. Once she re-established contact by letter in 1926, they wrote and preserved 72 onionskin letters. He is turning on the charm (not just his, but Canada's), trying to persuade her to marry him. She needs to find something in common with him e.g. books? tennis? By now he is a missionary to the Swampy Cree on a reserve in northern Manitoba. The letters go by steamboat, train, canoe, dog team or horse toboggan, moccasin and the very occasional plane. She asks him to come over for another look before she decides and he does, twice.

An Interesting Time in History

My parents' lives were co-existent with Lester Pearson (my father's history tutor), the Prince of Wales (a friend of my grandfather's) and Princess Mary (an attraction at the cafe my mother managed). The doings of Charles Lindbergh, Mackenzie King and Lord Byng are mentioned. My parents were caught up in the roaring twenties, Prohibition, invention of radio and telegraph and founding of the United Church of Canada. Their experiences give insight into what went on in an Indian reserve, and it wasn't all bad by any means. For a quick honeymoon, they flew across the English Channel, 17 years after Louis Berliot made the first crossing by plane. The book ends just before they get into the dim years of Depression and WWII.

Unique Experiences in the Canadian North

My mother's most incredible experience was being pulled by horsedrawn cariole on a 180-mile trek to have her first baby in a hospital, at Norway House, Manitoba. It was late January, the temperature was -30F and she slept outside or in shacks for five nights. She recounts it in detail in letters she sent home to her mother. The cariole is a very ancient Canadian conveyance, invented by aboriginals in the high north. The craftsmen in Norway House were expert at making them. A special one was made for Lady Grey's visit. The name toboggan comes from the original Native word. The French Canadians came up with the word cariole. It is bigger than a normal toboggan and has canvas sides, a back rest and a storage area behind it. My mother was also paddled up the fur trade route — not a bad way of getting to know Canada! My father made these trips often.

Knight-and-Lady Courtly Love Tradition

A more bookish interview might delve into how my parents' love story was almost epic because, basically, what they had in common was that they had read the same books (good, classical ones and the Bible). Texting in those days meant you lived by a text. They honestly tried to behave well, they stuck to their marriage vows, were best friends and rescued each other when they got into trouble. They knew how lovers behaved in great tragedies and comedies. Theirs was a comedy. They were together for over 60 years and died natural deaths at over age 90 (my father died in my mother's arms).

I'm sure I have given you plenty of information for now. You might wish to look at my author's page on Go to 'books', 'search' and put in my full name. When the catalog page opens, click on my name.

Have a wonderful life.

Margaret Kell Virany