Child died after violent beating at orphanage, says abuse victim

Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.' Picture: Nick Mailer
Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.' Picture: Nick Mailer

A former resident of a notorious orphanage has told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry that a child died after a teacher beat him with a belt.

“Scotty” told the inquiry that other boys pleaded with the teacher to stop during the incident within the grounds of Quarrier’s Village in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire.

The boy “died at home” of a heart condition following the assault, the inquiry heard. No further details were given on when the incident happened or how much time passed between the beating and the boy’s death.

Led by Lady Smith, the inquiry is currently hearing evidence relating to alleged historical abuse at institutions run by Quarriers, Aberlour and Barnardo’s.

Scotty, 74, told the inquiry he had suffered physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage and had never revealed to his wife or children the details of what happened to him.

Asked about the impact of the abuse on his life, he said: “I never got over it. This is something I have carried for 74 years...”

The inquiry heard how Scotty was admitted to the orphanage shortly after his birth in 1944 and stayed there until aged 15. He lived in a “cottage” with up to 20 other boys between the ages of 5 and 15 and spoke of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the married couple charged with looking after them.

On one occasion, he said he had to “piggyback” another boy to the on-site hospital after the child’s feet were burned when he fell through the lid of a large soup pot while cleaning the stove. The inquiry heard how the child’s socks were removed from the soup before it was served to the others.

Another boy was made to take his soiled bed sheets to school with him in his bag as punishment for wetting the bed, the inquiry heard.

Asked to recall the incident where the boy with the heart condition had died, he said: “I can’t recall exactly what he did, why he got into trouble with the teacher but the teacher was abusive to him. He took him and he was strapping him with a belt. This boy never hurt anyone, he didn’t play football – he was just so weak and frail.”

Scotty said it seemed as if the teacher had “lost it for a moment”, with the other boys shouting to leave the child alone. “We were quite upset,” he said. “There was a mini-revolt. We were just aghast that this was happening to him. He just didn’t deserve it.”

Scotty told the inquiry he was taken alone to Arran for a night by a man belonging to a church group when he was 12 or 13. He said he woke up in his bed with the man lying next to him naked, but when he returned to Quarriers he didn’t tell anyone and nobody asked him about the trip.

Scotty said another man, who worked as a Scout leader, touched his private parts on more than one occasion, while a third man made Scotty touch his penis.

Scotty said he had “never got over” the abuse he had suffered at the orphanage, but had never told his wife and sons. “This is something I have carried for 74 years and they will probably never know what happened to me.”

Earlier the inquiry heard from “Matt”, who said a contraption designed to stop him wetting the bed had taken “chunks” out of his flesh while a resident at Quarrier’s Village in the 1940s.

Earlier this week, legal counsel for Quarriers offered an “unreserved apology” to abuse survivors.