Tag Archives: Ross McWhirter

Ross McWhirter – TV personality Assassinated by the IRA

Ross McWhirter

12 August 1925 – 27 November 1975

Alan Ross McWhirter (12 August 1925 – 27 November 1975) was, with his twin brother, Norris, the co-founder in 1955 of Guinness Book of Records (known since 2000 as Guinness World Records) and a contributor to the television programme Record Breakers.

He was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1975.

Ross McWhirter
BornAlan Ross McWhirter
12 August 1925
Winchmore HillMiddlesex, England
Died27 November 1975 (aged 50)
Gordon HillGreater London, England
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
EducationMarlborough College
Trinity College, Oxford
Occupationwriterpolitical activisttelevision presenter
Notable credit(s)The Guinness Book of RecordsRecord Breakers
Spouse(s)Rosemary McWhirter
RelativesNorris McWhirter
FamilyWilliam McWhirter, father; Margaret Williamson, mother

Early life

McWhirter was the youngest son of William McWhirter, editor of the Sunday Pictorial, and Margaret “Bunty” Williamson. He was born at “Giffnock” (after Giffnock Church in Glasgow, where the McWhirters were married), 10 Branscombe Gardens, Winchmore Hill, London, N21.

In 1929, as William was working on the founding of the Northcliffe Newspapers Group chain of provincial newspapers, the family moved to “Aberfoyle”, in Broad Walk, Winchmore Hill. Like his two brothers , Ross McWhirter was educated at Chesterton School, Seaford, Marlborough College and Trinity College, Oxford. Between 1943 and 1946, Ross served as a sub-lieutenant with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on board a minesweeper in the Mediterranean.


Ross and Norris both became sports journalists in 1950. In 1951, they published Get to Your Marks, and earlier that year they had founded an agency to provide facts and figures to Fleet Street, setting out, in Norris McWhirter’s words:

“to supply facts and figures to newspapers, yearbooks, encyclopaedias and advertisers”.

While building up their business, they both worked as sports journalists. One of the athletes they knew and covered was runner Christopher Chataway, an employee at Guinness who recommended them to Hugh Beaver. After an interview in 1954 in which the Guinness directors enjoyed testing the twins’ knowledge of records and unusual facts, the brothers agreed to start work on the book that would become The Guinness Book of Records.

In August 1955, the first slim green volume – 198 pages long – was at the bookstalls, and in four more months it was the UK’s number one non-fiction best-seller. Both brothers were regulars on the BBC show Record Breakers. They were noted for their encyclopedic memories, enabling them to provide detailed answers to questions from the audience about entries in The Guinness Book of Records. Norris continued to appear on the programme after Ross’s death.

In 1958, long after the legend of William Webb Ellis as the originator of rugby had become engrained in rugby culture, Ross managed to rediscover his grave in le cimetière du vieux château at Menton in Alpes Maritimes (it has since been renovated by the French Rugby Federation).

Political activity

In the early 1960s, he was a Conservative Party activist and sought, unsuccessfully, the seat of Edmonton in the 1964 general election. Following his killing, his brother and others founded the National Association for Freedom (later The Freedom Association).

Norris McWhirter interview 1979

Views on Ireland

McWhirter advocated various restrictions on the freedom of the Irish community in Britain, such as making it compulsory for all of them to register with the local police and to provide signed photographs of themselves when renting flats or booking into hotels and hostels.

 In addition, McWhirter offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for several recent high-profile bombings in England that were publicly claimed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In doing so, McWhirter recognised that he could then be a target himself.

This was described as a bounty by McWhirter, and considered a bounty by the IRA Army Council, a view that led directly to the events that followed, although the idea was not originally his, but that of John Gouriet.


On 27 November 1975 at 6.45 p.m., McWhirter was shot and killed by two IRA volunteers, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty, both of whom were members of what became known as the Balcombe Street Gang,[ the group for whose capture McWhirter had offered the reward. McWhirter was shot at close range in the head and chest with a .357 Magnum revolver outside his home in Village Road, Bush Hill Park.

He was taken to Chase Farm Hospital, but died soon after being admitted. Duggan and Doherty were apprehended following the Balcombe Street siege and charged with murdering McWhirter, in addition to nine other victims. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

See : Balcombe Street Siege

See: 27th November deaths in the Troubles


27th November – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

27th November

Thursday 27 November 1969

A Commissioner for Complaints, John Benn, was appointed to deal with matters related to local government and public bodies.

Saturday 27 November 1971

Two Customs officials, Ian Hankin (27) a Protestant and James O’Neill (39) a Catholic, were shot by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) sniper who fired upon a British Army (BA) patrol investigating a bomb attack on a Customs Post near Newry, County Armagh. A British soldier was shot dead in Belfast.

Wednesday 27 November 1974

Roy Jenkins



Roy Jenkins, then British Home Secretary, introduced the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill into the House of Commons, Westminster. One of the provisions of the Bill provided the police with powers to arrest and detain suspected terroristts for up to 48 hours in the first instance, and for up to seven days if the police applied to the Home Secretary for additional time.

The provision also allowed for exclusion orders to be made against people suspected of involvement in terrorism. Jenkins described the provisions in the Bill as “draconian measures unprecedented in peacetime”.

[The Bill became law on 29 November 1974.]

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out two bomb attacks near an Army museum in Tite Street, Chelsea, London. Initially a small bomb exploded in a post office pillar-box at 8.30pm. Approximately 20 minutes later a second, larger bomb, exploded behind a hedge just a short distance away from the first explosion. Twenty people were injured in the second explosion including an explosives officer, six policmen and two ambulance men.

[The tactic of the ‘come-on’ bomb was one which the IRA used on many occasions in Northern Ireland.]

Thursday 27 November 1975

Ross McWhirter (50), who had publicly criticised Irish Republican Army (IRA) violence, was shot dead by the IRA at his home in Village Road, Enfield, London. McWhirter was a founder of the Guinness Book of World Records and had offered a £50,000 reward for the capture of the IRA members responsible for the bombings in London.

Saturday 27 November 1976

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed two Catholic civilians in separate booby-trap bomb attacks in Lurgan, County Armagh and Bogside, Derry. The bombs had been intended for the security forces.

The Peace People held a rally in London which was attended by approximately 30,000 people. Republican sympathisers held a small counter demonstration and chanted ‘troops out’.

Thursday 27 November 1980

Humphrey Atkins, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, told the House of Commons that there was still no consensus amongst the parties in Northern Ireland and little prospect for a devolved government in the region.

Sunday 27 November 1983

Dominic McGlinchey, believed to be chief of staff of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), admitted that his organisation had been involved in the Darkley killings on 20 November 1983


Wednesday 27 November 1985

The House of Commons approved the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) in a vote of 473 votes to 47. During her speech Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, said that the government would not give way to threats or violence.

Tuesday 27 November 1990

During the Conservative Party leadership contest Margaret Thatcher failed to win outright victory and withdrew from the race. John Major was elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party and the new British Prime Minister.

Wednesday 27 November 1991

Four members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) were arrested outside the home of Laurence Kennedy, then leader of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party.

Saturday 27 November 1993

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) held its annual conference in Cookstown, County Tyrone. In his address John Hume, then leader of the SDLP, stated that John Major, then British Prime Minister, held

“the key to peace”.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) held its annual conference at Castlereagh in Belfast. Ian Paisley, then leader of the DUP, told delegates that Northern Ireland faced “the greatest threat to the Union since the Home Rule Crisis”.

Monday 27 November 1995

Catholic Killed in Sectarian Attack Norman Harley (46), a Catholic civilian, was found beaten to death at the Waterworks, off Cavehill Road, Belfast.

[Harley was going through the park to visit his mother when two Protestant men beat him to death with an iron bar before going to a public house. This sectarian killing appears not to have been carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries (McKitterick, 1999; p1383).]

Thursday 27 November 1997

Jack Mahood was shot and injured in his taxi depot in north Belfast.

[The attack was blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Mahood had been a member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) negotiation team who resigned over differences on matters of policy.]

Friday 27 November 1997

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) published a list of the main initiatives introduced since the IRA ceasefire of 20 July 1997 to reduce the impact of security measures.


Friday 27 November 1998

British soldiers who were serving in Derry on 30 January 1972 were offered immunity from prosecution when they provide evidence to the Saville inquiry into the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’.

Saturday 27 November 1999

The Ulster Unionist Council (UUC), the policy-making body of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), held a meeting in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, to discuss the Mitchell Review. The Council decided by 480 votes to 349 to back the deal. The decision opened the way for the UUP to enter the power-sharing Executive with Sinn Féin (SF).

The UUC also attached a condition that the Council should meet again in February 2000 “to take a final decision” on the matter. At a press conference after the vote David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said:

“We’ve done our bit. Mr Adams its over to you. We’ve jumped, you follow”.

[It was later revealed that Trimble had lodged a post dated resignation letter with a party official which would come into effect if Irish Republican Army (IRA) decommissioning did not occur.]

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) held its annual conference at the La Mon House Hotel near Belfast. During his speech Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said that Northern Ireland was facing its gravest crisis and that no unionist should be holding negotiations with the Irish government, the SDLP, or Sinn Féin. He accused the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) of betrayal and said Trimble was as “much of an enemy of Ulster as the IRA”.




Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

11 People lost their lives on the 27th November between 1971 – 1995


27 November 1971
Ian Hankin,  (27)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Customs official. Shot by snipers firing at British Army (BA) patrol which had just arrived after bomb attack on Killeen Customs Post, near Newry, County Armagh.


27 November 1971
James O’Neill,  (39) Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Customs official. Shot by snipers firing at British Army (BA) patrol which had just arrived after bomb attack on Killeen Customs Post, near Newry, County Armagh.


27 November 1971
Paul Nicholls, (18)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, St James Crescent, Falls, Belfast.


27 November 1972
Rory Gormley, (14)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot while travelling in car, junction of Downing Street and Ariel Street, Shankill, Belfast


27 November 1973
Desmond Morgan  (18)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during attempted hijacking of vehicle, Coalisland, County Tyrone.


27 November 1975
Ross McWhirter,  (50)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot at his home, Village Road, Enfield, London.

see : Ross McWhirter 


27 November 1976
Philomena Green ,  (16)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb in derelict house, Mary Street, Lurgan, County Armagh. House had been used as British Army (BA) observation post.


27 November 1976
Frank McConnellogue,   (46)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb in entry, off Lecky Road, Bogside, Derry.


27 November 1978
Robert Bachelor,  (36)

Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot just after leaving his workplace, Institution Place, off Durham Street, Belfast.


27 November 1982
John Martin,   (34)

Status: ex-Royal Ulster Constabulary (xRUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot at his garage, The Mall East, Armagh.


27 November 1995
Norman Harley,   (46)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found beaten to death, Waterworks, off Cavehill Road, Belfast.


see : Ross McWhirter