Never underestimate the powers wielded by a seven-foot long steel thermometer.

Past incarnations:

Theta I (1958), Theta II (1964), Theta III (1970)

Current version:

Theta IV (1975)


Royal College of Science Union





Details and dimensions:

Weighing in at over 100lbs (45kg), Theta MK IV is a seven-foot long solid stainless steel engraved metal bulb and six feet of steel hydraulic piping calibrated (logarithmically) from zero Kelvin to Infinity. Hot mama!

Made-for-telly history:

On the cold, dark night of 30 October 1958, Theta I appeared in a bath of flames on Imperial Institute Road… This proved a rather dramatic entrance for Theta I, born on 20 February, because she was then just a ballcock screwed on a four-foot-long broomstick and painted in RCS colours. Why a thermometer? Every student, save for the oddball mathematician, uses a thermometer at some point during their studies here. Theta I was christened at the Fresher’s Dinner that October night, where the following verse was recited:

“Freshers, into your guiltless hands we fling
Defence of this Thermometer, a thing
Handed down by generations, we recall
‘Twas made last year out of a cistern ball.”

It should be noted that Theta I was far more interesting than the drum previously used to announce RCS’s presence at RAG events, barnights, and Morphy Day. (No, the drum you see in the office is not the original. That was nicked from Southampton much later on.)

First violated:

November 1958 – ‘doh! Theta I was lost at Morphy Day that year. She was regained about two weeks later from the middle of the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, where Guilds had floated her. (No word if this tomfoolery was amid tomato and flour fights.) Theta suffered many violations her first six years during the turbulent 1950s and 60s.

Last violated:

1991 – Bearer Steve Dorman was hit by a van defending Theta during a scuffle with C&GCU raiders outside the Royal Albert Hall. Dorman suffered a broken leg. (Note to Steve Dorman: Theta wonders if you’ve forgiven her? Please write.) This incident changed a few rules at Imperial so that mascotry could be pursued without actual bloodspill.


Theta Mk II was never recovered, and rumours of her eventual location ran from Euston left luggage office to a hotel in Belgium — indicating to Scotland Yard investigators a welcome attitude toward baggage (emotional and otherwise), and taste for waffles.


If Theta is violated, the RCSU’s committee must throw her into the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens on her return, and commission a new Theta. Each version is a ‘virgin’.


RCS was without a mascot for the longest period ever — from mid-October 1969 to 10 October 1970 when Theta MK III began to take shape. Prior to Steve Dorman’s valiant attempt to protect her in 1991, Theta had not been violated since 1973.


The History of RCS Mascotry from 1958 to 1987
Felix, Issue 988, p2, 4 February 1994

Is Theta more popular than other other Imperial mascots? Share your comments below.



  1. Sorry to say the story under “last violated” is incorrect. I was part of the dynamic bearer duo with Bob Leman on the fateful evening in 1991, Steve Dorman was part of the team defending Theta and was unfortunately run over before Bob, Theta and I left the Union. Being a resourceful pair Bob and I took Theta on the next bus to Hammersmith and it remained inviolate! A lucky escape for all but Steve. Theta did visit him in hospital the next day, have a look through the Felix archive for a photo.

    The whole thing sparked a root and branch review of Mascorty chaired by Zoe the ICU President at the time and set me on the path to succeeding her in the role. Funny how things come about.

    • Poor Steve indeed! As you can tell, the tales of the mascots are indeed full of mystery and intrigue. We love hearing from the folks who were there on the ground, so thank you Chris for the update and first person account! We’d love to hear from Steve someday for his personal tale of danger.

      Felix, 14 Sept 1991 reports in an article (next to a rather fetching picture of a young Alex Baldwin for some odd reason) the following tale:

      A first year chemistry student, Stephen Dorman, was seriously injured last Thursday during a mascot kidnap attempt. He underwent two operations in hospital after having his leg run over by a car driven by another student involved in the mascotry attempt. The accident happened at approximately 9.45pm after the Royal College of Science Union (RCSU) fresher’s dinner. Members of the City and Guilds Union managed to capture the RCSU mascot ‘Theta’ and were about to make off from, behind the Union Building in a car when a group of RCSU students attempted to stop it by laying on the car’s roof and bonnet. The driver of the car told Felix that he ‘expected them not really to get on’ and that he was surprised by them ‘jumping on the car and covering the bonnet and roof. He said that he could not see clearly for the bodies on the windscreen and shouted for them to get off while driving forward slowly. He said that he stopped instantly when he felt a bump from under one of the wheels. A first aider and the St John’s Ambulance crew from the Albert Hall tended Mr Dorman until the ambulance came. He explained that the Mr Dorman had one side o f hi s lower leg run over, suffering a compound fracture which required two operations in hospital. The driver told Felix that the Police have reported him for ‘reckless driving’ and ‘driving without due care’ and that he expects to be ‘charged sometime in the future’. He said that Mr Dorman asked the police not to charge and that he was ‘very amenable’. He added that, in his view, ‘people were taking mascotry far too seriously.’ A meeting called to discuss mascotry has been convened for 5th November. It is expected that the use of motorised vehicles will be prohibited for mascotry events. All mascotry activities have been suspended until the meeting.”

  2. Theta was once stolen by RCS officers, as a joke. As the Trophy Officer in 1959/60 I had to report to a Union meeting that I could not produce under questioning at the opening of the meeting and pressure from the then RCS President, Pete Kassler. He knew I could not produce it as he, Ernie Warwicker (then Secretary) and Mike Amos (then Entertainments Chairman) had acquired it from its hiding place. They al had a great time!

  3. I still fondly remember being co-driver to Tim Clarke in his sooped up Metro as we chased a taxi containing theta, and hence with the door open, across Hyde Park. I think we would have been able to catch them if it hadn’t been for a resolute RCS member hanging onto our windscreen wipers 🙂

  4. RCS were relieved of Theta back in 1974 by C&G and kept for quite some time. A trail of clues was supplied over the weeks (indeed I still have one of them, sending RCS up the (then) Post Office Tower!)

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