It all began on the banks of the River Slaney, writes Jim Devereux

What is it that intrigues us about facts and records? Well we all know that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon and that Usain Bolt is currently the fastest man on earth. But where was the largest ever gathering of people dressed as St Patrick, and at what cafe can you buy the biggest fry up?

Well the answers all lie of course in the Guinness Book of World Records which this year marks its 60th anniversary, being first published on 27 August, 1955.

As might be expected, the book’s origins lie in a dispute about facts.

The story goes that in November 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, the Managing Director of Arthur Guinness Ltd, was one of a party out shooting, or rather not shooting, birds on Slob Hill by the River Slaney, in Wexford.

The golden plover was too speedy for most of the shooters but reference books were unable to confirm whether this was the fastest game bird in Europe.

Sir Hugh, spotting a gap in the market, invited twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter who ran a facts and figures agency, to a lunch meeting at the Guinness Brewery in Park Royal, London, where they were served draught Guinness in silver tankards. The McWhirter brothers impressed the Guinness Board so much at this meeting that they were commissioned there and then to collate and compile a book of facts and figures to be called the Guinness Book of Records.

Continue reading in this year’s All-Ireland Finals Annual