Looking things up in Wikipedia

I was looking through the entries in Wikipedia for peeps from the old Alma Mater Minor (as you do) and have to admit to a certain surprise.

From around and about my year there\’s me (purely because someone started a section on British bloggers years ago), a couple of screen writers (one really rather famous, or at least his films are), couple of actors, couple of musos, a newspaper editor (now fired) and, umm, that seems to be about it.

Oh, couple of rugby players as well.

Which seems an odd list of \”successful people\” to end up with from a British public school. I thought we were all so privileged, as a result of our private education, that we were not so much going to storm the ramparts of the establishment as to be already inside them, effortlessly gliding up that greasy pole of power and wealth.

What happened?

Is it that, to give a list of a few where I know they are, international lawyers, BBC senior management, Lloyds insurance brokers, Daily Mail journo and the rest just don\’t get mentioned in Wikipedia?

Or is this public school thing somewhat over rated in how easy it makes the ride to the top?

17 comments on “Looking things up in Wikipedia

  1. > international lawyers, BBC senior management, Lloyds insurance brokers

    For all of those, I’d guess the problem is lack of reliable sources, and lack of obvious achievement. To give a minor example from my own experience, of the people I knew at university, I’m the only one I know of with a wikipedia entry (not that I’ve looked too hard for the others) which I got from the GW controversy stuff, not from my actual work. Some people I knew have very clearly been more successful in a career sense, but are nearly invisible from outside their worlds.

    So, don’t write off the public school just yet, but contact their PR department 🙂

  2. I went to a pretty decent and respectable state Grammar school (Churston) that’s been established for awhile and when setup effectively absorbed what had been Dartmouth Grammar as well.

    So, based on your premise, you’d expect my old school to have a fair number of notables, right? Your old school has a page all to itself, with a large number of people, your time there has more people than my old school has in total.

    Most famous person on my schools list is comedian Andy Parsons.

    I think, given Wikipedia’s notorious deletionist brigade, for one school to have as many as yours has is evidence against your supposition, is it not?

  3. And your lot gain not only from the dreaded Public Schoolboy Conspiracy but also from the yet-more-dreaded Papist Conspiracy. No doubt some of them are also in league with the Freemasons and the Elders of Zion.

  4. Well. Have a guess how many

    “international lawyers, BBC senior management, Lloyds insurance brokers, Daily Mail journo[s]”

    let alone

    “a couple of screen writers (one really rather famous, or at least his films are), couple of actors, couple of musos, a newspaper editor ”

    there are from my comprehensive upper school. Approximately.

    (Clue: dividing any number by the correct answer gives an error on your calculator).

  5. I strongly suspect this is Wikipedia bias.

    I just tried it for my school (private, but hardly ‘public’).

    There’s no-one from my year (no, I don’t have a page), and only 3 who would have over-lapped with me, none of whom I remember from school or have heard of in adult life.

    But looking down the whole meagre list, of 29, there are:
    – 1 very, very senior accountant;
    – 1 Army officer (Indian Army under the Raj, so not very recent);
    – 2 bishops (yes, another of those Papist schools);
    – 2 politicians;
    – 2 footballers and 1 athlete; and
    – 20 in (loosely defined) the arts & media.

    Now mine wasn’t a very artistic school in any sense. The accountant, the bishops, the politicians and the footballers all seem likely old boys, but there is no way that 69% of them being in the arts & media is at all representative of the school.

    Media, ‘arts’, sports and politics seem to dominate Wikipedia, and it seems if you’re in one of those fields you get a page even if your achievements are (relative to your field) fairly modest. But it seems in business or the professions you have to get a lot higher up your tree (like our Old Boy accountant) to get your own Wikipedia page.

    A few examples:

    – Every single MP has his or her own Wikipedia page, regardless of whether they did anything noteworthy as an MP. And so does almost every MP all the way back to 1868.

    – There is a page of “Doctor Who supporting characters”, with about 100 actors named – all but about half a dozen have their own page.

    – But try the Big 4 accountants or the Magic Circle law firms, and not even the Senior Partners or Chairmen have their own page except one (Linklaters – overactive PR department?).

  6. I suspect my school days were all a bad dream.

    From the day I left (1977) to today, I have NEVER met, or heard of a SINGLE person that I was “at school with”.

    Which, considering my job was wandering the streets of the home town, 24 hours per day, “keeping people safe” (aye! the police USED to do that….sometimes), is not bad going.

    Did they all drop off a cliff on the day of leaving, or where they never really there?

  7. I get Armando Ianucci, Hardeep Kohli, AJ Cronin, Paul Coia, and John Cumming from ‘Mogwai’. Useful clarinettist in his day, as well, he was – I think it was clarinet.

  8. Well, looking at my school (an “independent” school in Canada), we’ve got a few near-billionaires (but not quite, mostly in the deca-/centi-millionaire range, although the son of an actually billionaire did go to the school), an Anglican clergyman or two, a smattering of judges, a couple sort of middle-ish army officers, a smattering of investment bankers in NYC and SF, a smattering of commercial real estate brokers, a couple random diplomats, a bunch of lawyers, including some corporate counsel types who seem to have done well, some accountants, some indie rock musicians who’ve become sort of famous.

    So, not much there, really, at least not compared to the really grand American and British schools.

  9. Just learnt that the lad who used to sit in the desk next to mine is a professor of actuarial science.
    He was a bundle of laughs at school as well…

  10. Ah. I know a chap whose family went to Ampleforth (and latterly, Eton). Acts very posh, although I doubt the actual faciness. (I frankly don’t care that much, being Canadian.)

    The thing about this sort of thing is the overall social support environment rather than the individual school. In a society where high-end norms corroborate those you had at school, then you’d do better than otherwise.

    In the Canadian context, of course, this means nothing. Thus my school wasn’t that particularly distinguished.

  11. I’ve just discovered that, amongst all the rugby players, I was also at school with KT Tunstall. But missed Andrew Marr (he is somewhat older than me and probably didn’t stay there very long until he went somewhere much posher.

    But my year has the usual smattering of accountants, academics, medics, and one high end graphic artist (award winning Hollywood), none of whom have their own page. Nor, of course, do I – although I do get mentioned on several.

  12. Myles (#8) said that the list for his “independent” school in Canada includes:

    “… a smattering of investment bankers in NYC and SF, a smattering of commercial real estate brokers, a bunch of lawyers, including some corporate counsel types who seem to have done well, some accountants …”

    Interesting – that’s just the sort of people that we’ve been saying British schools’ Wiki sites don’t list.

    Cultural / social / class differences between England and the colonies?

  13. Interesting – that’s just the sort of people that we’ve been saying British schools’ Wiki sites don’t list.

    Sorry, better clarify. I got most of them from the school magazine, not the Wiki. The Wiki only listed the tycoons and the judges. The magazine lists updates from people.

    And the deca-/centi-millionaires I know mostly through the grapevine.

  14. There is one school in Canada (Ridley, not my school) that has had a bit of a lock of the governorship of the Bank of Canada, but that’s because it’s traditionally been a favourite of the Ontario old (United Empire) Loyalist families heavily involved in banking and finance.

  15. Mine has the usual smattering of judges, army bods, sportsmen, musicians, TV people, cineastes. The list includes one broadsheet newspaper editor, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th C and a rather gorgeous and fairly famous actress but it’s nothing really spectacular. Oh, and Michael Redgrave taught English.

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