History of The McWhirter Foundation
Ross McWhirter was assassinated by Irish Republican gunmen at his home in north London on 27th November 1975. Ross was the spokesman for a group of
individuals who were increasingly concerned at the IRA’s “success” in bringing their campaign of random and targeted acts of murder and violence to
the mainland. He appeared on television offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Whilst not having been involved in Irish politics prior to this, Ross’s action, with characteristically little regard for his own safety, was motivated
by his firm belief in the importance of the rule of law. A civilized society must solve its disputes, however emotive, within the law rather than resorting
to murderous acts of violence. He paid with his own life.
The Ross McWhirter Foundation was established in December 1975, by friends and colleagues, to honour Ross and to give continuing life to his ideals and his work.
The founding Trustees were close friends of Ross and first met on 9th February 1976 to discuss the Trust Deed and the launching of an appeal.
The appeal, which rapidly raised a capital sum of more than £90,000, provided a positive outlet for the sense of outrage at his cold-blooded murder and a practical
method for maintaining the work he had begun.
The charitable purposes of the Foundation are wide, but the object is expressed in the following passage from the Trust Deed:
"The mental and moral improvement of the public in the principles and practice of good citizenship, and in particular as to the exercise of personal initiative
and leadership and the impact of personal courage both in a moral and physical context as an example to others."
The Foundation has sought to pursue these objectives through a number of activities.
The Ross McWhirter Award (1976-present)
These awards are given for individual acts of initiative, leadership or courage by citizens, usually outside their customary calling and of a kind unlikely to attract official recognition.
National Essay Competitions (1977-1982)
Conscious of the need to reach young people, the Foundation financed an essay competition for six years with prizes for two age groups – under 19 and under 25. The winners received
their prizes at our annual Awards Dinner. The subject for the essays was influenced by the Trustees desire to reflect the importance of the Rule of Law. Judges included the Law Lords
Devlin and Scarman.
Young Citizen’s Awards (1980-1992)
In 1990 the Foundation was invited to sponsor a scheme for rewarding acts of good citizenship by young people. Nominations were received annually from police, magistrates, teachers,
youth leaders and other members of the public. Some of the Awards were for single acts of bravery, but most paid tribute to sustained efforts by young people over a number of years
in raising funds for charities or helping at old people’s homes or mental hospitals, for example.
Initially, sponsorship was shared with Caxton Publications, but during 1982 their role was assumed by Britannia Arrow, later Invesco Plc. The press, radio and television gave valuable
support and Radio Luxembourg took a particular interest in the scheme. The Awards were discontinued in 1992 due to competition from the BBC with a similar scheme.
The Dicey Trust Conferences
In January 1975 a group of people concerned about the threat to the Rule of Law founded the Dicey Trust, named after A. V. Dicey, Vinerinan Professor of English Law at Oxford University from 1882-1909. The Trust sought to emphasise the importance of the Rule of Law and parliamentary democracy for the future stability of the country and the well-being and safety of its citizens.
In October 1977, the Dicey Trustees, believing that they could more effectively pursue their objectives as part of a joint programme with the Ross McWhirter Foundation, resolved to effect a “merger”.
The preferred procedure was to keep two separate Charitable Trusts, each with the same Trustees. When the Dicey Trust had expended its funds, it was wound up in 1993.
The Dicey annual conferences were started in 1979 at Hertford College, Oxford when the dinner speaker was Sir Patrick Neill Q.C., Warden of All Souls College and subsequently Vice Chancellor of
the University. Later conferences were held at St Edmund Hall and recently at Trinity College.
Proceedings have always filled the best part of two days. The programme consists of plenary sessions, work in syndicates, a forum with a questions to a panel (including delegates) and a dinner
in the college hall with a guest speaker. Attendance has ranged from 60 to 100 delegates.
The first conference was attended almost entirely by head teachers and teachers in secondary schools, maintained and independent. For the second and third, the teaching profession was joined
by social workers, magistrates and police. Journalists and broadcasters were added on the fourth occasion, together with half a dozen sixth formers. In 1983, the theme was not directly relevant
to social workers, magistrates or police, but the sixth form contingent was increased to thirty, about 40% of the total. This has now risen to virtually 100% student delegates, with a few teachers
Valuable sponsorship has been received in the past from The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Guinness Plc, Invesco Plc and James Capel & Co Ltd. (now part of HSBC).
The McWhirter Foundation
In 2004, following the death of Norris McWhirter, Ross’s twin brother, past Chairman and founder Trustee, the Trustees agreed to rename the foundation as The McWhirter Foundation in recognition
of the work that Norris had done and their shared life, work and principles.