Norris McWhirter

Norris McWhirter

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Norris Dewar McWhirter, CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (12 August 1925 19 April 2004) was a writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

, political activist
Activism
Activism consists of intentional efforts to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change. Activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing...

, co-founder of the Freedom Association
The Freedom Association
The Freedom Association is a pressure group in the United Kingdom that describes itself as non-partisan, centre-right and libertarian, which has links to the Conservative Party. TFA was founded in 1975 as the National Association for Freedom and gained public prominence through its anti-trade...

, and a television presenter. He and his twin
Twin
A twin is one of two offspring produced in the same pregnancy. Twins can either be monozygotic , meaning that they develop from one zygote that splits and forms two embryos, or dizygotic because they develop from two separate eggs that are fertilized by two separate sperm.In contrast, a fetus...

 brother, Ross
Ross McWhirter
Alan Ross Mayfield McWhirter , known as Ross McWhirter, was, with his twin brother, Norris McWhirter, co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records and a contributor to Record Breakers...

, were known internationally for the Guinness Book of Records, a book they wrote and annually updated together between 1955 and 1975. After Ross McWhirter's assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 by the Provisional Irish Republican Army
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 (IRA), Norris McWhirter carried on alone as editor.

Early life


Norris and Ross McWhirter
Ross McWhirter
Alan Ross Mayfield McWhirter , known as Ross McWhirter, was, with his twin brother, Norris McWhirter, co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records and a contributor to Record Breakers...

 were the twin sons of William McWhirter, editor of the Sunday Pictorial newspaper, and Margaret Williamson. In 1929, as William McWhirter was working on the founding of the Northcliffe Newspapers
Northcliffe Media
Northcliffe Media Ltd. is a large regional newspaper publisher in the UK and Central and Eastern Europe, owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. The company's name was changed to Northcliffe Media from Northcliffe Newspaper Group in 2007.It operates from over 30 publishing centres, and also...

 chain of provincial newspapers, the family moved to "Aberfoyle", in Broad Walk, Winchmore Hill. Like their elder brother, Kennedy (born 1923), Ross and Norris were educated at Marlborough College
Marlborough College
Marlborough College is a British co-educational independent school for day and boarding pupils, located in Marlborough, Wiltshire.Founded in 1843 for the education of the sons of Church of England clergy, the school now accepts both boys and girls of all beliefs. Currently there are just over 800...

 and Trinity College, Oxford
Trinity College, Oxford
The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope , or Trinity College for short, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It stands on Broad Street, next door to Balliol College and Blackwells bookshop,...

, where, at his choice, he completed his law degree in two years rather than the usual three. Between 1943 and 1946 Norris served with the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 on escort duty in Atlantic and on board a minesweeper
Minesweeper (ship)
A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

 in the Pacific.

Sports


Norris was an all-round athlete and represented Scotland at running during the 1950s. The brothers both became sports journalists in 1950. In 1951 they published Get to Your Marks and later in 1951 they founded an agency to provide facts and figures to Fleet Street
Fleet Street
Fleet Street is a street in central London, United Kingdom, named after the River Fleet, a stream that now flows underground. It was the home of the British press until the 1980s...

, setting out, in Norris' words: "to supply facts and figures to newspapers, yearbooks, encyclopedias, and advertisers". At the same time Norris became a founding member of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians
Association of Track and Field Statisticians
The Association of Track and Field Statisticians was founded in 1950. It is an international organization run by volunteers whose goal is to collect and disseminate the statistics of track and field athletics.- Yearbook :...

.

Norris came to particular public attention while working for the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 as a sports commentator. On 6 May 1954, Norris McWhirter kept the time when Roger Bannister
Roger Bannister
Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, CBE is an English former athlete best known for running the first recorded mile in less than 4 minutes...

 ran the first sub four minute mile. After the race, McWhirter began his announcement:
As a result of Event Four, the one mile, the winner was R.G. Bannister of Exeter
Exeter College, Oxford
Exeter College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England and the fourth oldest college of the University. The main entrance is on the east side of Turl Street...

 and Merton
Merton College, Oxford
Merton College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its foundation can be traced back to the 1260s when Walter de Merton, chancellor to Henry III and later to Edward I, first drew up statutes for an independent academic community and established endowments to...

 Colleges, in a time which, subject to ratification, is a track record, an English native
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 record, a United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 record, a Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an record, in a time of three minutes...


....at which the rest of McWhirter's announcement was drowned out in the enthusiastic uproar.

One of the athletes covered was runner Christopher Chataway
Christopher Chataway
Sir Christopher John Chataway is a British former middle- and long-distance runner, television news broadcaster, and a Conservative politician...

, the employee at Guinness
Guinness
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost...

 who recommended them to Sir Hugh Beaver
Hugh Beaver
Sir Hugh Eyre Campbell Beaver, KBE, was a British engineer, industrialist, and founder of the Guinness Book of Records.-Biography:...

. After an interview in which the Guinness directors enjoyed testing the twins' knowledge of records and unusual facts, the brothers agreed to start work on the book that would become The Guinness Book of Records
Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records, known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records , is a reference book published annually, containing a collection of world records, both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world...

in 1954. In August 1955 the first slim green volume - 198 pages long - was at the bookstalls, and in four more months it was England's No. 1 nonfiction best-seller.

In 1954, Norris and his brother Ross sued Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

 sports writer J. L. Manning
J. L. Manning
James L. Manning was a 20th Century sports columnist for the Daily Mail. Born in Bristol, Gloucestershire in 1914, Manning was the eldest son of Lionel Victor Manning, and the elder half-brother of Brian Stuart Manning a leading British Marxist historian.- Career :In 1954, as a member of the...

 for his critical piece about non-journalist (i.e. not members of the National Union of Journalists
National Union of Journalists
The National Union of Journalists is a trade union for journalists in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It was founded in 1907 and has 38,000 members. It is a member of the International Federation of Journalists .-Structure:...

) sports writers. The McWhirters were awarded £300 in damages.

Norris was also part of the BBC commentary team for their Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

 coverage between 1960 and 1976.

Political activity


He was an active member of the Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 in the early 1960s and fought, unsuccessfully, to recapture Orpington
Orpington (UK Parliament constituency)
Orpington is a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.-History:...

 in the 1964
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

 and 1966 UK general elections
United Kingdom general election, 1966
The 1966 United Kingdom general election on 31 March 1966 was called by sitting Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson's decision to call an election turned on the fact that his government, elected a mere 17 months previously in 1964 had an unworkably small majority of only 4 MPs...

 after its loss to the Liberals
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 in the 1962 by-election
Orpington by-election, 1962
The Orpington by-election of 1962 is often described as the start of the Liberal Party revival in the United Kingdom.The election was caused by the appointment of Donald Sumner, Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Orpington as a County Court Judge...

.

Together with his brother Ross, he founded the "National Association for Freedom", later "The Freedom Association
The Freedom Association
The Freedom Association is a pressure group in the United Kingdom that describes itself as non-partisan, centre-right and libertarian, which has links to the Conservative Party. TFA was founded in 1975 as the National Association for Freedom and gained public prominence through its anti-trade...

", in the 1970s. This organisation initiated legal challenges against the trade union movement in the UK, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is an anti-nuclear organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

 (CND) and the European Economic Community
European Economic Community
The European Economic Community The European Economic Community (EEC) The European Economic Community (EEC) (also known as the Common Market in the English-speaking world, renamed the European Community (EC) in 1993The information in this article primarily covers the EEC's time as an independent...

 (EEC) in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, and he was an active supporter of UKIP.

Ross McWhirter was a constant critic of British government policy in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, and called for a "tougher" response by the British army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 against Irish republicans. Ross McWhirter was shot dead by the Provisional Irish Republican Army
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 in 1975 at his home after offering a reward for information leading to the apprehension of those carrying out a bombing campaign in London at the time.

Norris McWhirter was a member of the Secretariat of the anti-communist European Freedom Campaign, established in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 at an Inaugural Rally at Westminster Central Hall
Westminster Central Hall
The Westminster Central Hall or Methodist Central Hall is a Methodist church in the City of Westminster. It occupies the corner of Tothill Street and Storeys Gate just off Victoria Street in London, near the junction with The Sanctuary next to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre and facing...

 on 10 December 1988. This group's co-ordinating committee consisted almost exclusively of representatives from countries behind the Iron Curtain
Iron Curtain
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989...

.

Record Breakers


Both brothers were regulars on the BBC show Record Breakers
Record Breakers
Record Breakers was a British children's TV show, themed around world records and produced by the BBC and originally presented by Roy Castle with twin brothers Norris McWhirter and Ross McWhirter. It was broadcast on BBC1 from 15 December 1972 to 21 December 2001...

. They were noted for their photographic memory, enabling them to provide detailed answers to any questions from the audience about entries in the Guinness Book of Records.

After Ross's death, Norris continued to appear on the show, eventually making him one of the most recognisable people on children's television in the 1970s and 1980s. Norris McWhirter was made a CBE
CBE
CBE and C.B.E. are abbreviations for "Commander of the Order of the British Empire", a grade in the Order of the British Empire.Other uses include:* Chemical and Biochemical Engineering...

 in 1980. He left Record Breakers in 1994 after the death of Roy Castle
Roy Castle
Roy Castle OBE was an English dancer, singer, comedian, actor, television presenter and musician. He attended Honley High School, where there is now a building in his name...

 - although the show continued until 2001 with various other presenters.

Personal life and death


He retired from the Guinness Book of Records in 1985, though he continued in an advisory role until 1996. He continued to write, editing a new reference book, the Book of Millennium Records, in 1999.

In 1985 he launched an unsuccessful defamation case against the Independent Broadcasting Authority
Independent Broadcasting Authority
The Independent Broadcasting Authority was the regulatory body in the United Kingdom for commercial television - and commercial/independent radio broadcasts...

 for the TV programme Spitting Image
Spitting Image
Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show that aired on the ITV network from 1984 to 1996. It was produced by Spitting Image Productions for Central Television. The series was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, winning one for editing in 1989....

which had inserted a subliminal image of McWhirter's face imposed on the body of a naked woman.

In 1957 Norris McWhirter married Carole Eckert, who died in 1987; they had a son and a daughter. In 1990 he married Tessa von Weichardt, née Pocock.

Norris McWhirter died from a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 following a tennis match at his home in Kington Langley
Kington Langley
Kington Langley is a village and civil parish about north of Chippenham in Wiltshire, England.-Geography:The parish covers about . The geology is mostly of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. It is on a high water table and the soil is composed of sand with a sub-soil of Oxford Clay. The village...

, Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

, on 19 April 2004, aged 78. His memorial service—attended by, among others, Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

, Jeffrey Archer, John Gouriet
John Gouriet
Major John Prendergast Gouriet was a British Army officer, company director and political activist. He was best known as a founder of the National Association for Freedom , and for pioneering the use of legal action to oppose actions of trade unions and campaigning groups which he believed...

 and Roger Bannister
Roger Bannister
Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, CBE is an English former athlete best known for running the first recorded mile in less than 4 minutes...

 – who read the lesson
Lection
A lection is a reading, in this context, from Scripture.The custom of reading the books of Moses in the synagogues on the Sabbath day was a very ancient one. The addition of lections from the prophetic books had been made afterwards and was in existence at the time of Jesus, as may be gathered...

—was held in St Martin-in-the-Fields
St Martin-in-the-Fields
St Martin-in-the-Fields is an Anglican church at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, London. Its patron is Saint Martin of Tours.-Roman era:Excavations at the site in 2006 led to the discovery of a grave dated about 410...

, Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

, London, on Thursday 7 October 2004.

Selected bibliography


Sports and general encyclopædia
  • Dunlop Illustrated Encyclopedia of Facts
  • Get To Your Marks (1951, with Ross McWhirter)
  • Guinness Book of Records (1955–1975, with Ross McWhirter)
  • Guinness Book of Records (1976–1985)
  • Guinness Sports Record Book (1977–1978)
  • Book of Millennium Records ISBN 1-85227-805-6


Personal
  • Ross: The Story of a Shared Life ISBN 0-902782-23-1
  • Winchmore Hill Lives S Delvin (1991) (Contributor) ISBN 0-7212-0896-7


Political
  • Treason at Maastricht (1994, with Rodney Atkinson
    Rodney Atkinson
    Rodney Eric Bainbridge Atkinson is a British Eurosceptic conservative academic, political and economic commentator, journalist and author...

    , contributions by Daniel Hannan
    Daniel Hannan
    Daniel John Hannan is a British journalist, author and politician who is currently a Member of the European Parliament, representing South East England for the Conservative Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists political group...

    ) - criticism of the Treaty of Maastricht and the Bilderberg Group
    Bilderberg Group
    The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an annual, unofficial, invitation-only conference of approximately 120 to 140 guests from North America and Western Europe, most of whom are people of influence. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from...


External links