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Another Story for the Birds

Roughly in the centre of the back yard, along the east line of fence near the present toilet block, there once stood an aviary. There were apparently some quite exotic birds in this aviary. On the floor of the cages were sheet metal trays filled with sand to catch the bird droppings.

One night as the nurses were locking up one of the less devious patients slyly hinted that he knew something that the nurses didn’t. He was insistent enough that after they finished getting the other patients to bed the nurses decided that they should try to find out what it was that he was hinting at. After a bit of kidding to and cajoling the patient finally let on that the ‘others’ had been flexing the sheet metal edges of the dirt trays until they had broken off long slivers. The intention was, next morning, after opening time to race out to the yard and recover these jagged pieces of metal and use handkerchiefs wrapped around the sharp metal as handles to turn it into daggers, kill the staff and escape.

The duty nurses said not a word, simply made sure everybody was in bed and when the place was settled for the night went out into the yard and released all the birds. The cages were smashed up and thrown outside the walls. In the morning the would be escapees raced out into the yard to arm themselves only to find their chance had flown.

In later years it was generally considered that if an incident of some sort occurred more than half of the patients would be on the side of the nurses; but of course if you have already been stabbed with a piece of jagged metal such support might not help much. Anyway which half?

From The J Ward Story, by Graeme Burgin