Abusive nuns from notorious Lanarkshire orphanage must ‘answer to God’

Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark
Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark
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A former resident of a notorious orphanage has said the nuns who abused him will have to “answer to God” for what they did.

William Whicher told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry his hearing was left permanently impaired by a beating he received from a caretaker during his time at Smyllum Park in Lanark in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The 69-year-old, who went to Smyllum after the death of his parents, said he was routinely beaten by a “cruel” nun, on one occasion losing part of a tooth.

He broke down when he spoke of his friend Francis McColl who died aged 13 after accidentally being struck on the head by a golf club during their time at the orphanage.

The witness told the inquiry he saw his friend go down after being hit on the temple during a game – supervised by the caretaker – in which one boy would hit golf balls while the others waited to retrieve them.

The inquiry heard from Mr Whicher’s witness statement that the school’s caretaker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was “vicious”.

Waiving his anonymity to give evidence under his real name, Mr Whicher said his hearing was left permanently damaged after being struck by the man while out picking potatoes.

Mr Whicher was told by Colin MacAulay QC, counsel to the inquiry, that the nun alleged to have beaten him is still alive and denies abuse took place.

Asked what he made of that, he responded: “It’s complete lies.”

Speaking to the media after the hearing, he said: “When you’re young you believe nuns have been chosen by God, but that’s not the case.”

He said there were some good nuns at Smyllum, but others who were “cruel” and who he wished “best of luck” when they faced God for what they had done.

Asked if he would like to see criminal charges brought, he said: “It’s too late. How old must they be? If they do believe in God, they’ll have to answer for that.”

Led by Lady Smith, the inquiry has been taking evidence on Smyllum which was run by Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul and closed as a children’s home in 1981.

Yesterday it also heard from Anne Marie Carr, who waived her right to anonymity to give evidence about the death of her brother, Sammy, who was buried without a headstone despite promises from staff they would pay for one.

Last month the inquiry heard the six-year-old died of a brain haemorrhage following an E.coli infection, which he could have caught by touching a dead rat.

Ms Carr told how her grandfather and uncle attended his funeral and were to pay for a headstone, but were told not to because the Catholic-run home would foot the bill.

She said: “We were told that they would get a headstone for him as a worker was fond of him, but there was never a headstone.”

It has previously been claimed that Sammy died after being beaten by a nun, but a 2015 police review of the case found “no causal link” between his death and an assault.

The inquiry, which is due to report next year, also heard evidence from “Mary” whose mother was in Smyllum for 12 years from 1917.

Mary told the inquiry she believed her mother’s sister had died at Smyllum and was buried in a “mass grave”.

Lawyers for the Daughters of Charity last year offered a “most sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse while in our care”.

More than 60 institutions including leading boarding schools and residential homes run by religious groups are being investigated by the inquiry.

The inquiry continues.

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