Born from an idea conceived in Wexford in 1951, the Guinness Book of Records set its own record by becoming the biggest and fastest selling copyrighted book of all time. David Tucker looks at its history and recalls some notable Irish entries.


THE Guinness Book of Records is a trusted household name that is renowned throughout the world, a storehouse of fascinating facts from the better-known to the bizarre and obscure.

Get into a pub argument about some ‘who is the biggest this and the fastest that’ and chances are the book will shed some light on your quarrel.

You might be surprised to discover that the tallest windmill in the world is in Dublin and that Ireland is where the largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns took place. Would you believe that Ireland holds the record for the most cups of tea made in an hour? Well yes – you probably would believe that! Read the book and you’ll find all the answers.

While it is now separate to the Guinness beer empire, the book’s origins date back to 1951 when South African-born Sir Hugh Beaver (1890-1967), Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery, attended a shooting party at the North Slob, near Castlebridge, in County Wexford.

There, he and his hosts argued about the fastest game bird in Europe (the golden plover), and failed to find an answer in any contemporary reference book.

Much of the discussion took place in now-derelict Castlebridge House, which with its elegant conservatory made by the Pierces Foundry, was the focal point of the County Wexford village.

In 1954, recalling his shooting party argument, Sir Hugh had the idea for a Guinness promotion based on the idea of settling pub arguments and invited the twins Norris (1925-2004) and Ross McWhirter (1925-75), who were fact-finding researchers from Fleet Street, to compile a book of facts and figures.

Guinness Superlatives was incorporated on 30th November and the office opened in two rooms in a converted gymnasium on the top floor of Ludgate House, 107 Fleet Street, in London.

Guinness World Records, now a multi-media brand agency with a wide range of products and services, says that after an initial research phase, work began on writing the book, which took 13ƒ 90-hour weeks, including weekends and bank holidays.

Little did the McWhirters know that taking shape was a book that would go on to become an all-time best seller and one of the most recognised and trusted brands in the world.

Almost 70 years on, and the trusted Guinness World Records brand is a beloved household name. The book continues to be a best-seller each year, enjoyed through the generations. Beyond publishing, the global company has a wide range of products and services, and a key presence across digital, events, and business solutions.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own