Sunday 9 May 2010

Beware Wikipedia! ARGGGHH – It’s NOT a Crest!

There is presently a discussion taking place between the moderators of wikipedia and the author of the page for Wesley College, Melbourne, which is of interest to me from both a genealogical and a heraldic view point; sadly it is yet another example of the blind leading the blind.

My interest in this entry lies in the fact that a kinsman of mine, one Frank Goldstraw (incorrectly referred to by the author of the piece as Sir Frank Goldstraw) played amateur herald whilst he was in post at the school.  Frank had some local renown as an artist, exhibiting a number of his paintings in Melbourne and Victoria, but I’m not altogether sure that he had a perfect grasp of heraldry. The design he left to posterity leads me to believe that he was aware of the Wesley armorial bearings but appears to have been entirely ignorant of the tincture rules (unless of course he chose to ignore them altogether). It is my belief that he designed the armorial bearings of the College around an image he had seen but had no in depth knowledge of heraldry.

I’ll return to the arms of Wesley College in a moment but first I’d like to address my concerns over the wikipedia conversation. 

My first point is perhaps a minor one but I know that my fellow heraldry addicts will forgive me for my pedantry as it is a concern which is … quite frankly … extremely annoying to us all. I quote the relevant part in the actual entry:

Crest and Motto
A Cigerette [sic] Card featuring the Wesley College's colours and crest (Circa 1920s). The Wesley College crest appeared in the first edition of the college Chronicle in October 1877. It was designed by Sir [sic] Frank Goldstraw, later headmaster from 1893 to 1895. The crest contains a pale blue cross, representing its Wesleyan Methodist Church origins; the Southern Cross; a lion, representing vigilance and constant progress associated with the motto; a book, signifying wisdom to be gained; the bible, recognising the school's Christian association; a lamp, signifying constant light necessary and ready to guide the student in the way of wisdom and a lion’s head, asserting that in struggle, royal courage is a ruling element. The motto Sapere Aude was adopted by the school's founders prior to its opening in 1866 and is translated from Latin as Dare To Be Wise. [End Quote]

Repeat after me:   IT IS NOT A CREST
It is a coat of arms. Yes, it does have a crest but the crest is the thing which is shown above the shield and is normally illustrated on top of the helmet.

OK – so it’s not the end of the world and we know that the vast majority of people who have no knowledge of heraldry think that an armorial achievement complete with all its elements is a crest. All we can do is plod on and do our best to point out what to us is obvious in such a way that we avoid loosing friends.

My second point is perhaps a little more worrying as it concerns the wikipedia watchdogs – the blind leading the blind.
Under a conversation entitled Crest, there is a discussion as to whether or not the coat of arms ought to feature in the page at all with one moderating contributor suggesting that, because he had never seen the “crest” used anywhere, the article should only refer to the College’s logo. His view takes no account of the history of the College or the fact that the “crest” is a part of that history regardless of whether it is used today or not; fortunately another contributor pointed out a number of contemporary usages of the “crest”.
As if it isn’t frustrating enough that a wikipedia moderator almost succeeded in snuffing out a sparse historical record, another contributor then appears on the scene to cast aspersions on the arms themselves on the grounds that there are two versions, a coloured version and a monotone version; which, he asks, is the correct one!  Good Grief.

Obviously too young to remember black and white television and cinema.


Wesley College armorial bearings

I would blazon the arms devised by Frank Goldstraw as:
Arms: Quarterly Argent and Gules, in the first quarter a lion passant guardant Or, in the 2nd and 3rd quarters an open book Argent and in the 4th quarter a hand lamp Or; overall upon a cross Azure four stars of six points Argent.
Crest: Upon a wreath Or and Azure a lion's head erased Or.

The arms of Wesley as recorded in Burke’s General Armory are:
Argent, a cross Sable in each quarter three escallops of the last.
Crest: A wyvern proper. 

The article:,_Melbourne

The moderator's discussion:,_Melbourne

More about Frank Goldstraw:

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