Tuesday, 6 May 2014
Hibernia is the name that Romans gave to the island of Ireland. As for stout, it is of course a (divine) dark beer made of roasted malt or barley, the most famous of which came out of the brewery of Arthur Guinness in Dublin. In case you wondered: the Guinness book of world records refers to the same Guinness. On the 10th of November 1951, the story goes, Sir Hugh Beaver (managing director of the Guinness breweries) was on a hunting trip in County Wexford, in Ireland. Having shot at (and missed) a golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), he engaged in a heated argument with his hunting companions regarding the identity of Europe's fastest game bird: was it the golden plover or the Scottish red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica)? (We know now that it is the golden plover, who can reach 100 km/h. Such information on birds and their flight speed might come in handy if you ever have to cross the Bridge of Death).
Finding no reference book containing this crucial information, sir Hugh reflected that there was probably a demand for it, and he resolved to see to it. He was referred to the twin brothers Norris et Ross McWhirter, of London, who ran an agency collecting data and figures; the two were commissioned to collate the information that would be found in the first Guinness book of records in 1954. Admittedly, the book was initially meant as little more than a publicity stunt, not as something meant to generate a profit... but it became a huge best-seller.