For generations of Catholics, an Ampleforth education was seen not just as the best money could buy, but also a priceless gift to their children that would set them up for their future life. That is why the parents of award-winning radio phone-in host and sometime Newsnight presenter James O’Brien sent him there at 13. His dad, Jim, a journalist with The Daily Telegraph, had left school at 15 and, O’Brien suggests, saw making sacrifices to send his boy to Ampleforth “as a way of giving me the golden ticket he never had”.
And, in many ways, he was proved right. At 46, O’Brien has risen to the top, starting out with shifts at the Daily Express and then becoming a “showbiz” editor on what we used to call Fleet Street before switching to broadcasting. He has been presenting a live phone-in show since 2003 on LBC, where – since the station went nationwide four years ago – his weekday morning slot now attracts an audience of one million.