seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Assassination of Ross McWhirter

ross-mcwhirterAlan Ross McWhirter, co-founder of The Guinness Book of Records and a contributor to Record Breakers, is murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on November 27, 1975.

McWhirter is the youngest son of William McWhirter, editor of the Sunday Pictorial, and Margaret “Bunty” Williamson. He is born at Winchmore Hill, Middlesex, England on August 12, 1925. Like his two brothers, he is educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Oxford. Between 1943 and 1946 he serves as a sub-lieutenant with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on board a minesweeper in the Mediterranean Sea.

Ross and his twin brother Norris become sports journalists in 1950. In 1951, they found an agency to provide facts and figures to Fleet Street, setting out, in Norris McWhirter’s words “to supply facts and figures to newspapers, yearbooks, encyclopaedias and advertisers.” In the same year they publish Get to Your Marks.

While building up their accounts, they both work as sports journalists. One of the athletes they know and cover is runner Christopher Chataway, an employee at Guinness who recommends them to Hugh Beaver. After an interview in 1954 in which the Guinness directors enjoy testing the twins’ knowledge of records and unusual facts, the brothers agree to start work on the book that becomes The Guinness Book of Records. In August 1955, the first 198-page green volume is at the bookstalls, and in four more months it is the UK’s number one non-fiction best-seller. Both brothers are regulars on the BBC show Record Breakers. They are noted for their encyclopedic memories, enabling them to provide detailed answers to questions from the audience about entries in The Guinness Book of Records. Norris continues on the programme after Ross’s death.

In the early 1960s, McWhirter is a Conservative Party activist and seeks, unsuccessfully, the seat of Edmonton in the 1964 general election. Following his killing, his brother and others found the National Association for Freedom (later The Freedom Association).

McWhirter advocates various restrictions on the freedom of the Irish community in Britain, such as making it compulsory for all of them to register with the local police and to provide signed photographs of themselves when renting flats or booking into hotels and hostels. In addition, he offers a £50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for several recent high-profile bombings in England that were publicly claimed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In doing so, he recognises that he might then be a target himself. This is considered a “bounty” by the IRA Army Council, a view that leads directly to the events that follow, although the idea is not originally his, but that of John Gouriet.

At 6:45 PM on November 27, 1975, McWhirter is shot and killed by two IRA volunteers, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty, both of whom are members of what becomes known as the Balcombe Street Gang, the group for whose capture McWhirter had offered the reward. He is shot with a .357 Magnum revolver at close range in the head and chest outside his home in Village Road, Bush Hill Park. He is taken to Chase Farm Hospital but dies soon after being admitted. His killers are captured and charged with his and nine other murders. They are sentenced to life imprisonment but freed in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.


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Assassination of Irish Criminal Martin Cahill

martin-cahillMartin Cahill, prominent Irish criminal from Dublin, is assassinated on August 18, 1994. Cahill generates a certain notoriety in the media, which refers to him by the sobriquet “The General.” During his lifetime, Cahill takes particular care to hide his face from the media and is rarely photographed.

At age 16, Cahill is convicted of two burglaries and sentenced to an industrial school run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Daingean, County Offaly. With his brothers, he continues to commit multiple burglaries in the affluent neighbourhoods nearby, at one point even robbing the Garda Síochána depot for confiscated firearms.

In 1983, Cahill and his gang famously steal gold and diamonds with a value of over €2.55 million from O’Connor’s jewelers in Harolds Cross. The jewelers subsequently is forced to close, with the loss of more than one hundred jobs. He is also involved in stealing some of the world’s most valuable paintings from Russborough House in 1986 and extorting restaurants and hot dog vendors in Dublin’s nightclub district.

On November 1, 1993, Cahill’s gang abducts National Irish Bank CEO Jim Lacey, his wife, and four children and holds them hostage in an attempt to force the bank to hand over the estimated €10 million in cash in the bank’s vault. Ultimately, the plan fails and the gang is arrested.

With all gang members from the Lacey kidnapping released on bail, on August 18, 1994, Cahill leaves the house at which he has been staying at Swan Grove and begins driving to a local video store to return a borrowed copy of Delta Force 3: The Killing Game. Upon reaching the intersection of Oxford Road and Charleston Road he is repeatedly shot in the face and upper torso and dies almost instantly. The gunman, who is armed with a .357 Magnum revolver, jumps on a motorbike and disappears from the scene.

There are a number of theories about who murdered Martin Cahill and why. Within hours of Cahill’s murder, the Provisional Irish Republican Army claims responsibility in a press release. The reasons cited are Cahill’s alleged involvement with a Portadown unit of the Ulster Volunteer Force, which had attempted a bomb attack on a south Dublin pub which was hosting a Sinn Féin fund-raiser.

Another theory surfaces that reputedly claims that two of Cahill’s underlings, John Gilligan and John Traynor, had put together a massive drug trafficking ring. When Cahill demanded a cut of the profits, the Gardaí believe that Traynor and Gilligan approached the IRA and suggested that Cahill was importing heroin, a drug that the IRA despised and were trying to prevent from being sold in Dublin. Gilligan reputedly paid the Provisional IRA a considerable sum in exchange for Cahill’s assassination. Frances Cahill’s memoir, Martin Cahill, My Father, alleges the General detested and steered clear of the drug trade.

After a Roman Catholic requiem mass, Martin Cahill is buried in consecrated ground at Mount Jerome Cemetery. In 2001, his gravestone is vandalised and broken in two.