Girl ran away from Scottish Borders orphanage for being ‘taunted’

Barnardo's Balcary House was run in Hawick in the Scottish Borders
Barnardo's Balcary House was run in Hawick in the Scottish Borders
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An inquiry has heard a girl ran away from an orphanage in the Scottish Borders because she was “mercilessly taunted” by other children.

The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was at Barnardo’s Balcary House in Hawick during the 1960s and early 1970s.

She told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry today her carers were like parents to her and her life would have taken “a very different path” if she had grown up with her natural parents.

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The inquiry heard she was being picked on by three boys at the home who would taunt her and pull her hair, but was told to ignore them by her carers.

The situation became so bad she decided to run away during her early teens and the bullies shouted “good riddance” to her as she left.

A social work report about the incident said she had been “mercilessly taunted”, but she now said she believes she overreacted.

The witness, who was born in 1958, said: “It was just a stupid act of a child that was immature.

“It’s like being at school. You get taunted, you live with it, you get on with it.

“I think it’s because I’m older now and I can look at it in a different way.”

She ran away for around two months to stay with her mother in Newcastle before returning to the orphanage for a short period.

It was also heard there was little in the way of physical affection such as kisses and cuddles from the carers.

The witness claimed to have enjoyed her time at the home and did not hold it against them.

She added: “I don’t think it was staff in Banardo’s who should have been giving me kisses and cuddles.

“Mum and dad – they should have been there.”

It was heard her mother would regularly miss opportunities to see her daughter to go out drinking, while her father was in and out of prison.

Another witness meanwhile told of feeling there was a lack of communication and support from the organisation as she grew up in care while her mother suffered with mental health issues.

The witness, who cannot be named, was at the home in Hawick during the 1960s, but lived with her parent for brief periods throughout.

She told the inquiry of witnessing her mother try to take her own life and not being given emotional support when she could not visit due to poor health.

It was heard she would be crying on occasions, but could not remember anyone comforting her.

The witness, now in her 60s, described being looked after appropriately, but said she believed more emphasis should have been placed on explaining the problems with her mother and giving her affection.

She added: “Please just help the kids nowadays, because we have just got to talk to people.”

The inquiry before judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh continues tomorrow.