Nun at notorious Lanarkshire orphanage admits to slapping children

Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark
Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark
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A former resident of a notorious orphanage heard her alleged abuser deny ever having met her during an appearance at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

“Sister Mary” admitted slapping residents on the hands at Smyllum Park in Lanark in the 1960s but said she had never administered beatings, humiliated children for wetting the bed or carried out force-feedings.

A woman known only as “Fergie” sat listening as the 77-year-old nun said she had “no recollection whatsoever” of the former resident.

In her statement to the inquiry, Fergie described Sister Mary as “psychotic” and said the nun had beaten her and her sister, force-fed her and called her “devil’s child”.

Sister Mary, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she was “sad” to hear the allegations.

“I have never treated this individual like this,” she said. “I have never treated any individual like this; I just couldn’t do it.”

A number of former residents have made allegations of abuse against nuns and staff at Smyllum, which was run by Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul until it closed as a children’s home in 1981.

Sister Mary said she occasionally slapped children on the hands, but said it was never “aggressive”.

“I would give a slap to a child but not as corporal punishment,” she said.

“If a child would, say, hit another child, I would take that child aside and I would talk to that child. I might give a slap on the hand.”

The inquiry also heard from Sister Evelyn Warnock, who also worked at Smyllum in the 1960s but is not facing allegations of abuse.

Sister Warnock, 70, questioned the motivations of those who had come forward making allegations of abuse.

The inquiry heard she had raised the issue of finance in her written statement and suggested there may have been “collusion” by those making allegations.

She said: “All of these questions have gone through my mind but the only people who can answer are those making the allegations.”

Asked if she thought a desire for compensation was driving the allegations, she said: “I’m not stating that people are coming forward for money.

“Like many other people, these thoughts have gone through my mind but I can’t come up with an answer.”

Sister Warnock also told the inquiry that Brian Dailey, a person she described as a “scoutmaster”, had access to children at Smyllum during her time there.

Dailey was jailed for ten years in July after being found guilty of physical and sexual offences against children in the 1970s and 80s, including at the now-closed Ladymary residential school in Colinton, Edinburgh.

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”.

The inquiry continues.

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