William Fitzwater Wray, G. Herbert Stancer (1939)
From the CTC Gazette January 1939
Cyclists lost one of their truest friends and perhaps their doughtiest champion, when William Fitzwater Wray died peacefully on December 16th under an anaesthetic in the operating theatre of a London hospital. He had been ill but a short time and was writing for the Daily Herald in his vigorous, smooth, scholarly way only a day or two before the end. If he could have chosen his method of departure from the world that he has enriched with his culture and philosophy he would not have had it otherwise.
He had never grown old, and even as he approached seventy he remained the same light-hearted, care-free companion that I had known in Yorkshire over forty years earlier. He was not a Yorkshireman by birth, but the county could claim him on every other qualification; and it was in Bradford that he made his name as a brilliant writer on cycling topics, who was destined to take the foremost place among the counsellors and critics of his generation.
The son of a Wesleyan minister, the Rev. Samuel Wray, he was born at Hitchin, Herts, and educated at Kingswood School, Bath, before going to Yorkshire. Taking up lithography as a profession he turned over to process engraving when that method of illustrating newspapers and periodicals began to develop on a large scale; and as a black-and-white artist he showed great promise.
Although his career was not to follow this direction, for his literary genius soon shaped a different course for him, he continued throughout his life to do a little drawing and painting and so typical specimens of his pen-craft are to be found in “The Kuklos Papers,” published in 1927. He also painted an inn sign on one occasion – a beautiful piece of work that I saw and admired in several stages of its evolution.
In 1894, by which time Wray was a keen and highly competent cyclist, having graduated from the high Ordinary, he was commissioned to write a regular cycling column for the Bradford Observer, and in this connection he adopted his now familiar pen-name of “Kuklos” – a Greek word signifying a circle or wheel.
His contribution became the most famous of all the cycling features in the lay Press, and after a few years the Daily News sought his services and brought him to London, where I too, was soon to renew his acquaintance. As a member of the Yorkshire Road Club he has won a number of medals in time trials but he finished racing before I began, and I knew him only as a long-distance tourist. At midsummer, 1906, he and I rode from London to York with the North Road C.C, his participation in that one-time famous fixture being the result of a challenge thrown out to him by one of his critics. He went though the ride with flying colours and afterwards joined the North Road Club.
“Kuklos” knew the British Isles like a book and the Continent almost as well. After his marriage he was accompanied everywhere by “Klossie,” his charming and talented wife, and together they wandered over many parts of Europe as well as touring extensively in Scotland and Ireland. These tours produced a magnificent collection of photographs which formed material for the lantern lectures that “Kuklos” delivered to enthusiastic audiences all over the country and were also the basis of such literary works as “A Vagabond’s Notebook“, “Across France in War-time” and “The Visitors’ Book.”
Among this other notable literary achievement were his translations of Henri Barbusse into English, a task upon which he received the warm congratulation of the critics. Wray spoke French fluently, and when I went with him to Brittany last July I delivered myself entirely into his hands.
His services to the C.T.C, as lecturer and fearless advocate of cyclists’ rights were immense. They were recognised in 1928 by the award to him of the Sir Alfred Bird Memorial Prize for the “most signal service” to the Club; and on several other occasions he was elected a vice president. His speeches sparkled with wit and wisdom, and his last appearance on a C.T.C platform, when he addressed a vast crowd at Harrogate during the Diamond Jubilee rally, was one of his most striking successes.