Ever had a grouse about a (Red) Grouse? Well, Sir Hugh Beaver did. Sir Beaver wasn’t quite convinced whether the Red Grouse was the fastest game bird in Europe. You see, he had been out hunting that afternoon and the hunting party had missed a few Golden Plovers; his argument therefore, was that the Plover was the faster of the two birds in Europe.
As arguments over drinks tend to go – as he realised must be regular case in pubs all round Britain and Ireland – for ever, he soon accepted that there was no definitive solution to this, in the sense of a published reference. And so on, November 10th, 1951, a magnificent thought occurred to him; all because his hunting expedition in the North Slob, by the River Slaney in County Wexford, Ireland earlier that day was slightly unsuccessful.
That evening at Castlebridge House, a revelation dawned upon him that, a book that researches and chronicles such details would really come in handy to settle such arguments and therefore, might prove pretty successful.
Was he right about it or was he right! He was at that point, the managing director of a famous brewery – somewhat legitimising his concerns for drunk debates – and so proposed the idea of compiling such a book. (Sir) Christopher Chataway (Olympian, television broadcaster, politician) had just graduated Oxford and was at this point employed in the same company. Sir Chataway heard of the idea and suggested the services of his university friends, fellow sprinters, twins and proprietors of a fact finding agency in London. Norris and Ross McWhirter.
And so, history was written, at 107 Fleet Street, London. The brothers employed a curious method to collecting information – “When writing to an expert they did not ask for a direct bit of information, but stated a fact that they figured might be close enough to being right and asked the expert to correct it” – “We found that people who have a total resistance to giving information often have an irresistible desire to correct other people’s impressions”
The first 198 page edition was ready on 27th August 1955 and was soon topping best seller lists in the UK and the USA. A book that lists records, curiously holds the record for the world’s best selling copyright book ever.
Something that began as a debate over drinks is such a huge marketing success that (arguably) more people know of the book than the parent brewery. The story literally went from a pint to print (different pronunciations not withstanding); what a difference an added letter can make to history!
Sir Hugh Beaver, engineer, industrialist, and founder of the Guinness Book of Records!
PS: For the record, it was the Red Grouse which was faster.