'Guinness Records' Book Co-Founder McWhirter Dies

posted 2004-04-22 12:29:35 by arnoldam

LONDON (Reuters) - Norris McWhirter, who founded Guinness World Records with his twin brother and turned the book into a global best seller, has died aged 78, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

McWhirter suffered a heart attack on Monday after playing tennis at his home in south-west England, the spokesman said.

The London-born son of a newspaper director, McWhirter was a writer, sports commentator, athlete and political activist but will best be remembered for co-founding the "Guinness Book of Records" -- now known as "Guinness World Records" -- in 1955.

The book of superlatives topped the British bestseller list that year and has since become a publishing phenomenon with sales of more than 100 million copies in 100 different countries and 37 languages.

It lists every world record from the breathtaking to the bizarre -- such as the world's fastest chicken plucker.

McWhirter's family said in a statement:

"Norris cared passionately about Great Britain, democracy and the rule of law and was always active in politics, but usually behind the scenes...

"The two things he attached most importance to were the freedom of the individual and the sovereignty of the United Kingdom."

Outside their publishing careers, McWhirter and his brother Ross founded the Freedom Association, a right-wing group that campaigned against British involvement in the European Union (news - web sites).

Both brothers held strong political views. Ross was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (news - web sites) (IRA) in 1975 for his outspoken opinions on the turbulent situation in Northern Ireland.

The killing shocked Norris, but he maintained a high public profile with appearances on the BBC children's show "Record Breakers," and later wrote a book criticizing the European Union.

He ended his editing career at the Guinness book in 1986 but stayed with it for another decade in an advisory role.

He leaves a wife and two children.