From: THIS ENGLAND, Spring, 1999, Page 61
A Silver Cross for the courageous twin who fights for
our freedom. By David Leake.
Norris McWhirter, who has dedicated many
years to speaking out in the cause of Britain's
sovereign independence, and our right to choose and
control our own destiny. Defenders of Britain's sovereign
independence have devised a sweet way of crystallizing
the humbug and doubletalk shrouding moves towards a
federal Europe. They have been tucking into "Euro Fudge"
courtesy of The Freedom Association; a body fiercely
determined to protect Britain's independence and with
the boxes comes an ironic message.
Delivered by the association's chairman,
Norris McWhirter -- a name with which millions readily
identify -that says: "Not the world's greatest Fudge.
That is still in the making." It is a typically
trenchant comment from a man who has dedicated many
years of his long life to speaking up for Britain. He
has done so with a singularity of voice and purpose that
have become impossible to ignore.
When it comes to defending his country's
independence and freedom to control its own destiny,
there has been no fudge and no room for mistake about
the stance of someone whose tenacity, reinforced by a
daunting grasp of British constitutional law, has become
an enduring thorn in the side of his opponents.
But Norris McWhirter, CBE, MA, author
publisher and broadcaster, one of the outstanding
athletes of his day, is an internationalist who, in the
words of Rodney Atkinson, that other prominent
anti-Brussels campaigner, 'defends his nation and its
democracy and yet admires, encourages and trades with
all the other free peoples and nations of the world."
Together he and Norris wrote the
best-selling Treason at Maastricht, which has gone into
three editions and warns of the threat posed to the
British constitution in particular and the nation state
in general by moves towards integrating Britain into a
Recommending his colleague for the silver
Cross of St. George, Rodney Atkinson says: "When a
nation is in terrible danger, as the British nation is
today, we can no longer look -- if we ever could -- to
the kind of people who mistake professional politics for
"Instead we must look to real democrats
who have understood the essence of freedom and
democracy, real leaders who are independent of party
patronage or corporate pay- packets, real men of
principle who will put their country and their
parliament before their political party and their petty
"In Norris McWhirter the British people
are lucky to have such a fearless fighter...with the
knowledge and courage to point to that which binds us
historically into the most successful nation in the
history of the world." A ringing citation -- but even
with- but his formidable presence at the heart of the
European issue, Norris McWhirter's achievements and
courage in other walks of life would in themselves merit
Much of that life was inextricably bound
up with that of his twin brother, Ross, whose murder at
the hands of an IRA assassin in 1975 pierced him to the
heart. They were born in August 1925, at Winchmore Hill,
London, the sons of William Allan McWhirter, managing
director of Associated Newspapers and Northcliffe
Newspapers Group, and even allowing for the intrinsic
closeness of twins their careers, talents and interests
mirrored each other to an almost uncanny degree.
Both went to Marlborough College; both
were at the same college - Trinity - at Oxford
University; both were outstanding track athletes,
representing their university and running together in
the Achilles Club team that won the Amateur Athletic
Association 4 x 110 yard relay championship; both served
in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the war, where
both saw minesweeping duty, and in addition to other
publishing ventures both went on to found The Guinness
Book of Records, which became the world's all-time
best-selling copyright book.
Where athletics were concerned, however,
Norris had the edge. He not only ran for Oxford but for
Scotland in the seasons 1950-52 and Great Britain in
1951, and in the late Forties and early Fifties
virtually monopolized the Middlesex 100 and 220 yards
titles, winning them a total of five times.
His pace helped to make him an
outstanding rugby player, too. He played wing
three-quarter for Saracens and won a county jersey with
the Middlesex XV in 1950. By then he had taken his first
steps into journalism, and his ability not only to
perform at sport's highest levels but to describe it
informatively and entertainingly opened up ever-widening
Both the London Evening Star and The
Observer homed in on him as their athletics
correspondent for stints that were to last 10 and 17
years respectively, and along the way the broadcasting
media pricked up its ears.
Norris was dispatched by BBC radio to the
other side of the world to cover the 1956 Olympic Games
in Melbourne, Australia. That went so well that
television work followed, with the BBC choosing him for
their commentary team for four successive Games: Rome
(1960), Tokyo (1964), Mexico (1968) and Munich (1972).
But where television was concerned it was
his appearances with the late Roy Castle as co-presenter
of the long-running BBC series Record Breakers that made
him a "star" and a household name.
There have also been appearances on
Desert island Discs and Any Questions? and more than 700
radio and TV interviews around the world, many of them
promoting the book that first brought Norris and his
brother to prominence. Mention its title virtually
anywhere in the world and it will be instantly
recognizable. The Guinness Book of Records, which they
launched in 1954, was to make them internationally
They had already established an agency in
London to provide facts, figures and features to the
Press, publishers and advertisers, and in 1951 brought
out their first book.
Get to Your Marks, a history of
athletics, was critically acclaimed as being
"distinguished by a degree of precision and thoroughness
which no athletics historian has achieved before."
Its successor long ago began creating
publishing records of its own. To date The Guinness Book
of Records, which Norris co-edited with Ross for 21
years before his brother's tragic death, has sold 84
million copies in more than 400 editions in 37
languages, making it the most phenomenal success in
For Norris, who continued with Guinness
for a number of years after the tragedy, there were
other editorships -- Athletics World, The Dunlop Book of
Facts, The Guinness Book of Answers -- but it was a
moving personal memoir that lingers most in many
Ross -- the Story of a Shared Life, was
written within months of his brother's murder. He was
shot on his doorstep at his home in Enfield, Middlesex,
in November 1975, by two IRA terrorists, and died in
hospital soon afterwards.
In the previous weeks he had been
crusading to raise f50,000 as reward for information
leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the London
terror campaign in which the IRA had up to then taken 54
On the initiative of his friends, the
Ross McWhirter Foundation was set up with subscriptions
totaling f100,000 to advance his qualities of "good
citizenship, personal initiative and leadership, and
personal courage as an example to others".
They are all attributes which, as in so
many other aspects, are shared by his brother, though
Norris -- a trustee of the foundation, which makes
annual awards for acts of moral and physical courage --
would be the first to pooh-pooh the suggestion.
At heart private and unassuming, when he
is away from public service and the relentless demands
of his involvement with The Freedom Association, he
likes to spend his time "hunting in libraries and
visiting small islands".
For a man whose achievements, integrity,
and steadfastness to his cause are an example to us all
- the Silver Cross of St. George.