IT was December 30, 1936, and thousands of Yorkshire men, women and children braved the bitter cold on the steps of Bradford Town Hall to witness the arrival of their own superhero, ‘the one armed rider’ Walter Greaves.

Bradford born Walter, who was to make his home in Bradley, was finally arriving home having cycled 45,383 miles in a year to capture the ‘World Year Cycle Endurance Record.’

The final mile was carried out in Hyde Park, London, with Greaves- a staunch vegetarian, drinking pints of milk while racing for protein - leading a procession of hundreds of cyclists to beat the former record set by Australian Ossie Nicholson.

Moving on almost 50 years, in1981, Aled Owen, bought a bicycle for £45 at a cycle shop in Wakefield.

He made some inquiries, spoke to the previous owner and discovered it had been built in 1948 by the very same Walter Greaves.

“It was only after some half-hearted inquiries that I learned that he had at some stage held the World Year Cycle Endurance Record, and that he was alive and living at Craven Forge, Bradley,” says Aled.

He set about researching the life and times of the once famous cyclist, whose record breaking ride was reported widely across the country, and who it turned out had started writing his own autobiography but had never managed to finish it. Finally, after 30 years - prompted to take it up again during the coronavirus lockdown - Aled has published a biography of the great cyclist, Walter Greaves - True Yorkshire Grit.

This, says Aled, is the story of how a man overcame hardship, poverty and prejudice to become a celebrity in his time.

The book describes Greaves` roots in the Skipton and Bradford where his quack doctor grandfather travelled the fairs of the then West Riding, selling Yorkshire Strongman`s Herbal Remedy.

His father, Albert, also became a quack doctor, but moved on to become a blacksmith.

Life was hard in the 1920s, and Albert became keen on his drink. It was while driving when drunk, with 14-year-old Walter as a passenger, that Albert was involved in an accident which resulted in the loss of Walter’s arm.

Battling the Great Depression was hard for Walter, who, despite training as an engineer, found himself frequently unemployed, so he ‘got on his bike’ in 1936.

Unemployed, virtually un-sponsored and poor, Walter endured the winter snows, the spring rains and the summer heat to achieve his record aim.

This book chronicles his ride, telling of his wanders across his beloved West Riding, his forays to London, his meetings with celebrities and his ultimate triumph at the steps of Bradford Town Hall.

However, success was short lived, and Walter found himself unemployed again.

His life became a battle against adversity as he set up a cycle business, a café, and, ultimately, a blacksmith workshop.

Those travelling between Bradford and Skipton may remember Craven Forge in Bradley, which, at one stage became the subject of protracted battles with the planning authority over its appearance.

An ardent communist and activist, Greaves battled against the establishment, both in the cycling world and in public life, and no doubt suffered because of his strong beliefs, says Aled.

Those beliefs were translated first into poetry and song, when he became the “Singing Blacksmith”. In later life, he turned to sculpture, responsible for some artistic creations which could be seen when passing the forge.

In later years, the staunch vegetarian battled with Parkinson`s disease and ultimately died aged 80 in 1987

This is the story of a quite remarkable man, a story that has been largely forgotten until now, a story of true Yorkshire grit.

British long distance cyclist, broadcaster and author, Mark Beaumont, who holds the record for cycling round the world, completing his 18,000-mile route on September 18 2017, having taken less than 79 days, says about the book: “Having pedalled around the world a few times, I have some insight into what it would take to cycle over 45,383 miles in a year, but on the broken roads and a bicycle in 1936 and with one arm! Not to mention the craftsmanship and following career - this is a brilliantly researched story that speaks to the fortitude and spirit of this wartime generation, as well as a great pioneer of the British bicycle industry.”

Walter Greaves – True Yorkshire Grit is dedicated to the memory of Walter Greaves and his wife Margaret, to Joe, his son, and to Mathew, his grandson.

It is available from the author for £8.99, post free by emailing: