Norris (1925-2004) & Ross (1925-1975) McWhirter
Norris and Ross McWhirter were born in London, the second and third youngest sons of the Scots-born Fleet Street editor, W.A. McWhirter.
They were educated at Marlborough and Trinity College, Oxford, where Ross read law and Norris read economics. In 1944-46 they both served
as Sub-Lieutenants, RNVR, in minesweepers. Returning to Oxford, Ross represented the University as a sprinter and, like Norris who
represented both Scotland and Great Britain; he was in the Achilles Club team, which won the AAA national sprint relay title in 1948.
Both twins played rugby for Saracens.
The twins began their career as sports journalists and sports commentators with the BBC. In 1954, Norris was the official timekeeper
when his close friend, Roger Bannister, broke the four-minute mile.
In 1953 Ross and Norris set up a publishing business. Their most famous product was the Guinness Book of Records that broke all authorship
records by selling more than 25 million copies in 14 languages, later moving on to more than 100 million in 44 languages. They took part
in some 350 radio and television shows overseas, mostly in the USA and Australia.
As a private citizen, Ross, supported by Norris, launched a series of legal actions from 1953 to 1975 to uphold the Rule of Law. Among the
most significant were four actions to prevent Enfield Council imposing comprehensive education in an unlawful fashion; another against the
Home Secretary to prevent delay in implementing revised constituency boundaries. Details of these actions have been told in the book
‘Ross: Story of a Shared Life’ (Written by Norris McWhirter, Churchill Press 1977) and his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography’ (OUP, 1987).
In 1975, two issues most concerned the twins. The first was what they considered the unlawful usurpation of power by sectional trade union bodies,
and the other was government laxity in taking measures to preserve the Queen’s Peace after numerous murderous terrorist attacks in the London area
without a single arrest.
After the murder in London of their friend, the cancer expert Professor Gordon Hamilton Fairley, by an IRA bomb intended to kill someone else,
Ross tried to persuade the Home Office to introduce bounties for information leading to convictions. When the Home Office rejected the idea
(which they later adopted), the twins set about organising £50,000 bounties through private enterprise.
Both brothers were regulars on the BBC show Record Breakers, on which they used their extraordinary (but not photographic) memories to provide
detailed answers to any questions from the audience about entries in the Guinness Book of Records.
Ross was assassinated by shooting in the doorway of his home in Enfield on 27th November 1975, at the age of 50. Four IRA terrorists were
found guilty of this and five other murders on 9th February 1977.
Soon after Ross's death, Norris formed the Ross McWhirter Foundation (now The McWhirter Foundation) and the National Association for Freedom
(now The Freedom Association) – a pressure group that mounted legal challenges against the trade union movement in the UK, the Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament (CND) and the European Economic Community (EEC) in Brussels. Norris was at the forefront of The Freedom Association’s successful action
in the European Court of Human Rights, known as the ‘Railwaymen's Case’, which contributed to the abolition of the closed shop.
Norris was awarded the CBE in 1980 and continued to appear on Record Breakers, until Roy Castle died in 1994. However, he continued to write and
edit several books including the Book of Millennium Records, in 1999.
Norris died from a heart attack during a tennis match at his home in Kington Langley, Wiltshire, on 19 April 2004.
Ross married Rosie (née Grice), in 1957 and had two sons; Iain and James. Norris married Carole (née Eckert) in 1958, with whom he had a daughter,
Jane and a son, Alasdair. Following Carole’s death in 1987, Norris married Tessa (née Pocock) in 1990, with whom he pursued his passion for visiting
offshore British islands.
"Freedom is usually appreciated only by those who have lost it, consequently it requires not praise but intelligent, active and continuous defence.
We campaign for limited government and the fundamental freedoms essential to the maintenance of a humane and civilised society."
Norris McWhirter C.B.E.
The following quotations were made in the hours and days following Ross’s assassination.
"He was one of the finest people of his generation. I hope those who believe in freedom will now come forward in large numbers to show the same kind of courage
as Ross McWhirter showed."
Rt Hon. Baroness Thatcher L.G., O.M., P.C.
House of Commons, 28th November 1975.
"Ross McWhirter exemplified the true fibre of our people in time of danger… "
The late Viscount De L’Isle, V.C., K.G., P.C.
"Clearly he was a remarkable man, with whom I would not always have agreed, but whom one could easily have admired. "
Rt. Hon. Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, P.C. Home Secretary
"He took a stand against evil. He was always courageous in support of the Rule of Law. He died in support of it. "
The Rt. Hon. Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls, 1979