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Final Word

May 03, 2004
May 03, 2004

Table of Contents
May 3, 2004

Final Word

DIED Of a heart attack while playing tennis, Norris McWhirter,
78, who in 1954 compiled the first Guinness World Records with
his twin brother, Ross. The McWhirters, sons of a British
newspaper editor who brought home 150 papers a week, worked as
sportswriters before starting a business that sold obscure facts
and figures to newspapers and advertising agencies. Their work
caught the attention of Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of
the Guinness brewery, who a few years earlier while hunting had
gotten into a heated argument over which was the fastest game
bird in Europe--the golden plover or the red grouse.

This is an article from the May 3, 2004 issue

Believing people might be interested in a reference work that
would resolve such disputes, Beaver commissioned the brothers to
compile a collection of world records. The first, relatively
slender edition of the McWhirters' book, containing 8,000
entries, came out in August 1955 and was an immediate hit. In its
49 years the Guinness book has sold over 100 million copies,
settled countless bar bets and inspired attention seekers around
the world to grow a 56-inch thumbnail and spend 14 minutes
spinning a frying pan on one finger. The McWhirters, who became
public figures in the wake of the book's success, used their
visibility to advocate conservative causes. In 1975 Ross offered
rewards totaling $102,000 for the capture of IRA terrorists
responsible for a series of London bombings. He was assassinated
outside his home shortly afterward, and the IRA claimed
responsibility.

Norris, who presided over the continuing growth of the book (the
most recent edition was translated into 37 languages) retired as
Guinness editor in 1985. "He was a human dynamo," Roger
Bannister, a close friend, told The New York Times last week. "My
family and I will miss him more than I can say." --S.P.

COLOR PHOTO: GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS LTD. (BOOK)B/W PHOTO: CENTRAL PRESS/GETTY IMAGES (MCWHIRTER) RECORD COLLECTION McWhirter (above) chronicled bowling-ballstackers and mustache-growing champs.COLOR PHOTO: SHERWIN CRASTO/AP (MUSTACHE MAN) [See caption above]B/W PHOTO: KEITH PHILPOTT (BOWLING BALLS) [See caption above]