Scottish nuns promise memorial to 400 children in mass grave

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Nuns who ran the orphanage where up to 400 children were secretly buried in a mass grave have finally promised a memorial to mark their lives.

The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul pledged to build a memorial naming all the lost children of Smyllum.

At least 402 babies, toddlers and older children died while being looked after by the nuns at Smyllum Park in Lanarkshire and were believed to be buried at a nearby cemetery. That was nearly three times the number of children the religious order had claimed were buried in an unmarked mass grave.

The Daughters of Charity, a Roman Catholic organisation worth £60 million in the UK alone, has now agreed to build a memorial to mark the short lives of the dead children.

It is understood the order, which is due to face the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in November to answer allegations that it carried out physical and sexual abuse at Smyllum Park, is investigating exactly who is buried at the Lanarkshire cemetery.

When its internal probe is complete, the charity has vowed to build a monument to the dead children. The nuns had previously said 150 children might be buried there and erected a headstone in 2004 under pressure from campaigners but included no names.

The Daughters of Charity
said: “Once the full list of names of those buried in the plots without headstones in St Mary’s Cemetery has been verified, we will work with the families and their representatives on a new memorial stone naming and honouring all the children buried there.”

Yesterday, the decision was welcomed by politicians, campaigners and relatives of children who died at the home, which closed in 1981.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “A memorial recording the many young lives which ended there seems appropriate. I am pleased to hear that the Daughters of Charity have agreed to build a memorial.”

Jack McConnell, who, when First Minister, apologised to victims of care home abuse in 2004, welcomed the memorial pledge but said too many organisations which ran homes had refused to be 
honest about what had happened there.

He said: “The culture of secrecy has to end and the truth has to be recognised.

“This memorial will mean a lot to the families who have suffered too long, so this is a welcome decision.”