Shooting a rocket over the roof

Unusually, at St Andrews the students elect a rector to be the chairperson of the University Court. This happens every 3 years amid a great deal of hoopla and campaigning. Posters are used, banners put up, and stunts are performed to attract attention to, and promote the name of, the preferred candidate. 

We wanted to drape a banner bearing our candidate’s name down the sloping roof of one side of the buildings around the old quad of Salvator’s College. If we did it at night, it would be there for all to see next morning. The problem was that, lacking expert mountaineers, we couldn’t get up there. Someone suggested throwing a line over and hoisting up the banner from the other side, but it was too high. Someone else suggested using a firework rocket to carry a line over the roof, but it was impossible to aim them in the right direction.

I raised a laugh by suggesting we should tie a firework rocket to an arrow, and use a bow to aim it at the top of the roof. After the laughter died, one of the group said, “That might actually work.” So we tried it, tying the rocket to one end of the arrow and a thin line at the other from a spool that rotated around a pencil. It was somewhat dangerous, in that the archer had to wait until the rocket ignited before releasing the arrow. There were tense seconds as the blue touch-paper burned through. The rocket ignited with a “whoosh,” and the archer fired.

It worked at the second attempt. The arrow, trailing its thin line went over the roof. We collected it from the other side and used the thin line to pull up a thicker one, which in turn raised our banner. We tied the string to a drainpipe on the other side of the building to keep it in place. The next morning the name of our candidate was there for all to see as they went to their classes. Alas, rival supporters eventually worked out how we must have done it, found the string that held it, and cut it down. But it did have its moment of glory.