4 MAY 2002, Page 32

Flying free

From Mr Peter Broxton Sir: The term 'bird' as denoting prison, mentioned by Theodore Dalrymple (Second opinion, 27 April), is an old one that derives from the cockney rhyming slang 'bird-lime' for time.

During the Sixties I worked as a field archaeologist when 'doing bird' was a common expression among prisoners from Birmingham brought in to help with a Midlands excavation. Taking it more literally, one day one of them flew the coop.

Peter Broxton

London, SW9