Tell me, what is the faster game bird in Europe? The Golden Plover, or the Grouse?
I know we’ve all debated this very question over the years, and I can tell you with some authority that the answer is the plover.
This is because this is the question that caused an argument between two gentlemen at a shooting party in Ireland in 1951 that eventually led to the creation of the Guinness Book of Records. One of these gentlemen involved was then the managing director at Guinness brewery, Mr. Hugh Beaver.
Beaver, quite correctly, figured that lots of people around bars, pubs, hunting grounds, bowling alleys, and perhaps even Volvo dealership breakrooms may be having these types of debates every day with no way to solve them. So he set about working on a book that would tell us what is the fastest, longest, largest, and most bedazzled anything ever.
Today of course, we have the internet, which I’m sure has hurt the book’s sales somewhat, but the legend stands. I myself remember poring over the many records as a young one, eager to learn about who the world’s most popular television star was (David Hasselhoff, I believe) or how long a grown man could willingly grow his fingernails (way too long).
Once the idea was born, Beaver got right to work. In 1954, he commissioned two fact-finder brothers in London to compile all the records into one book, which was to be given away for free. The book found amazing success, and unexpectedly became the number one bestseller of England’s Christmas season in 1955. Since then, its various editions have sold more than a hundred million copies, solving bird-related arguments for men carrying shotguns everywhere.