William Fitzwater Wray (Kuklos) - some biographical notes

Tim Dawson

William Fitzwater Wray was one of the most widely-read cycling journalists of his day. Articles by him appeared weekly in national newspapers between 1895 and some point in the 1930s under the byline 'Kuklos'. His journalism covers the boom of the 1890s through the dog days immediately after the First World War to the new enthusiasm for recreational cycling of the 1930s. And through all of his works ran the conviction that: "on every real bicycle there is the unseen pennant of progress, the standard of democracy, (and) the banner of freedom."

At the time of his death, G Herbert Stancer, president of the Cyclists Touring Club wrote: 'Cyclists have lost their truest frient and perhaps their doughtiest champion'.

Wray was the third son of the Reverend Samuel Wray a Methodist Minister of Sacton, a village around five miles west of Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Ann Fitzwater, of Laleham, Middlesex was his mother. His date of birth does not appear in Who Was Who, but must have been around 1870.

Methodist ministers at that time moved frequently from circuit to circuit, so the Church ran two boarding schools to educate their clergy's children. Wray attended both, the Kingswood School, in Bath, and Woodhouse Grove on the outskirts of Bradford.

Although Wray left Yorkshire in his 20s, there are frequent mentions of Bradford, and the Yorkshire Dales in his writing - suggesting both that they remained close to his heart. He almost certainly started cycling as a schoolboy. Indeed, in one piece he talks about buying a bicycle from a shop in Bradford in 1887.

He did not adhere, however, to his father's faith. In 1896 he wrote: "While still at boarding-school I revolted from the orthodox Christianity (sub-section Dissent) into which I was born and brought up...So I have never been since (to Church), except to temples not made with hands".

His early career was as a lithographic artist, then a photo etcher and pen draughtsmen. He initially wrote a cycling column for the Bradford Observer. After a few years, he was recruited to write for the Daily News - which occaisioned his move to London and its environs. From 1894, his articles started to appear under the byline Kuklos and by the following year, it seems, he was earning enough from them to make his living solely as a writer. The name Kuklos comes from a Greek word, which literally means wheel, or circle, but is often used to mean a metaphorical circle, such as a circle of poems.

Several collections of his writings were published as books, among them A Vagabond's Note-Book (1908) and The Kuklos Papers (1927). He also published The Visitors Book (1937) a collection of observations culled from hotel visitors' books. In 1916 he translated the French Communist novelist Henri Barbusse's Le Feu - which appeared in English as Under Fire. The Kuklos Annual was published until around 1960, although it clearly had no connection with him for most of the later years of its production.

In common with other well-known cycling writers such as Bywayman, Wray also toured the country giving lectures with lantern slides. Entrance was usually upon production of a programme (see above), which outlined the subject of the talk and had a tear off strip that was collected like a ticket.

When The Daily News merged with The Westminster Gazette to become The News Chronicle, Wray stayed with the paper. He resigned, however, in 1935 when the paper refused to publish a column in which he suggested that motorists were as guilty as cyclists of ignoring rules of the road from time to time. In a private letter to a friend written notepaper from The Daily Herald, however, he reported that the four major newspaper groups were vying for his services. Around that time, the CTC Gazette described him as: "the best-known of living cycling writers".

According to his own articles, Wray was married, and in 1912 he and his wife built themselves a house. He subseqently listed his address as Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Construction of that town started in 1920, so this suggests a second move. He served as a Special Constable during the First World War. Wray died in 1938.

Sources: Who Was Who, A Bibliography Of Cycling Books, Edward Williams 1993, The Kuklos Papers, Fitzwater Wray (1927), papers in the Derek Roberts collection at the National Cycle Archive, The CTC Gazette January 1939.

TD Sep 10

I would be grateful to hear from anyone who can add any flesh to this outline.



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