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How a row on the banks of the River Slaney resulted in the Guinness Book of Records


Norris and Ross McWhirter

Norris and Ross McWhirter

Norris and Ross McWhirter

It all began with a stubborn search for a solution to pub arguments. Ireland's consistent interest in Guinness World Records is understandable, given that the roots of the book trace back to the River Slaney in Co Wexford.

In the early 1950s, Sir Hugh Beaver, then managing director of the Guinness brewery, was at a shooting game with friends when he missed a shot at a golden plover bird.

A debate ensued when Sir Hugh wondered was the plover the fastest game bird in Europe - but he could not find an answer in any reference book available.

He later invited sports journalists, twins Norris and Ross McWhirter - who was later murdered by the Provisional IRA - to compile a book of facts and figures from a converted gymnasium on 107 Ludgate House, Fleet Street, London.

Over almost 14 weeks of working through weekends and bank holidays for an average of 90 hours a week, their research was carried out into the world's weird and wacky trivia. On this day in 1955, the first edition of 'The Guinness Book of Records' was bound and released in the UK.

It quickly became a Christmas bestseller and a US version was published the following year.

Because they only monitored specific UK and world records, the question on Sir Hugh's mind has remained unanswered by the records until now. Guinness World Records today revealed that the record for the fastest game bird in Europe is jointly held by the red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) and the Eider (Somateria mollissima), both of which can probably exceed an air speed of 104kmh (65mph).

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