Ross McWhirter killed by IRA
It is sometimes easy to forget just how much the Northern Ireland troubles at their height infiltrated and damaged so many strands of British life. The death of Ross McWhirter in 1975 was an event that shocked a nation from the youngest upwards.
Ross McWhirter with his twin brother Norris had in 1954 created The Guinness Book of Records, a publication which had become part of the national fabric, a regular Christmas gift and source of amusement for all the family. The two men had become well known faces through their appearances on Record Breakers, a children’s TV programme hosted by Roy Castle that plugged into the same British fascination with strange and extreme facts.
But there was a more serious side to Ross McWhirter’s life: he was a political activist who espoused some very right wing causes; once a member of the Conservative Party he founded in 1975 what eventually became The Freedom Association. Somewhat contrarily he wanted to reduce the political and personal freedoms of Irish residents of mainland Britain because of the terror campaign at that time.
After a series of bombings by a Provisional IRA cell in England he offered on November 4 1975 a reward of £50,000 for information leading to its capture. Less than four weeks later two members of that cell, armed with pistols, approached his North London home as his wife was returning to it a little before 7pm. He came to the door, and was shot in the head and chest, dying at Chase Farm Hospital that evening, November 27.
The four men on whose heads McWhirter had put a price, and two of whom murdered him, were captured a fortnight later at the end of the Balcombe Street siege .
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