Izzy the Dinosaur

Published: Wednesday 9 March 2016
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Izzy in a graduation gown. Taken from Isam magazine, 2 October 1969

Between 1960 and 1978 Brunel had a mascot called Isambardina, affectionately known as Izzy, a 6 foot tall, 10 foot long Brontosaurus. The initial suggestion was for an engine wheel in keeping with the college but then came the idea of ‘A prehistoric animal that was too big to go in the lifts’.  Izzy was thought of and designed by students Jim Johnstone and Mike Waterfield in 1960 and created by the joint efforts of Biology, Physics and Engineering students.

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A newly built Izzy with some Brunel students.  Taken from Isam, 1 January 1961 (full article below).

By 1963 Izzy appears to have become a part of the college life, being depicted in a satirical cartoon in Isam, the student magazine at the time, and placed in the Refectory.

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Izzy in a satirical cartoon featured in Isam, 15 March 1963

Izzy was created in a time when mascot raiding was popular amongst college students and already by early 1963 she had been abducted by eight students from Watford College of Technology. A peculiar club had grown up around her, initially called the Isambardina Club and later the Izzy Society. This was a student society that took up the maintenance of the mascot and the task of retrieving her when stolen along with attempting to abduct other colleges mascots.

She was abducted once again on Thursday 21st November 1963, by students from Northampton College in Clerkenwell. A ransom of one cubic weight of pennies or £20 was posted on a week later and then refused. One hour later there was an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve her by 26 Brunel students, 6 of whom were captured and ducked in a horse trough once the counter-raid was detected. The ensuing events involved paint being thrown around and a car chase around London resulted in the ransom being doubled. Subsequent diplomacy between the two unions reduced the ransom to just cover the cost of cleaning and custody of Isambardina was thereafter to be decided by a game of tiddlywinks. It is presumed that Brunel either won this game or retrieved the mascot by other means since there is a record of another unsuccessful raid on Northampton College but this time for the purpose of seizing their own mascot.

It appears that other mascots which had been seized by the Isambardina society were put up on display next to Izzy in the Refectory as was the fate of ‘Phred’ or Fred a wooden horse taken from Phillipa Fawcett Teachers Training College in 1965.

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Taken from Isam magazine, 17 November 1965

Izzy was abducted for the final time in 1976. She was usually filled with sand making her very difficult to take however at that time the sand had been removed for repairs which the raiding party was well aware of.  On Thursday 12th August the Students Union received a letter from Imperial College Students Union claiming credit for the abduction and stating that Izzy was obviously ‘pinning’ for her home due to her ‘chronic lack of weight’ . The ransom set was £50 to Imperial Colleges RAG account for the 1976/7 session and that 150 pints of blood be donated by Brunel Students to the National Blood Transfusion Service before the deadline of 1st November 1976. The then acting union president Steve St. John-Brown felt that her recovery was a task for the Isambardina Society, with a budget of only £15 for the year beginning September 1976 it was unlikely that they would have been able to pay.

Subsequent reconnaissance missions failed. Her absence from the union freshers fayre at the being of the year meant that a quarter of the students at Brunel had never seen Izzy. The Isambardina Society held an Annual General Meeting in November 1977 to plan a reconnaissance trip of a ‘certain upper class status university’. A certain irony was that by this point in time none of the members of the society had actually seen Izzy.

On Monday 16th January of 1978 two members of the Isambardina Society went on a reconnaissance trip to Oxford and confirmed the rumours that Izzy had been destroyed. Upon learning this, a raid was launched by 30 rather ‘merry’ Brunel students who then proceeded to raid the wrong college.  For it turned out that Lincoln College had won possession of her in a drinking contest. The reconnaissance team tracked Izzy down as far as Lincoln College where the secretary of Lincoln’s rugby club confirmed the rumour. It was the drinking contest that appears to have sealed her fate, ‘a fanatic teetotaller with a crowbar’, believed that it to be morally wrong to give prizes for a drinking contest and took steps accordingly. Her remains were carted off to an unknown location and the date of death give as 15th December 1977. With that ended this period of the University’s history and seemingly any knowledge of Izzy.

For a full version of this article written by student volunteer Jagveer Johal, which includes more detail on the various captures of Izzy, please click here.

If you would like to view any of the Brunel student magazines or for more information on our holdings, please contact us on archivesandrecords@brunel.ac.uk.

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Page last updated: Wednesday 09 March 2016