‘Exhume this monster from Lanark cemetery’

Smyllum memorial...to those who died there
Smyllum memorial...to those who died there

Acts of cruelty committed over half a century ago have led to a call for a body to be exhumed from a Lanark cemetery.

It comes from Tom Brannan, now 64 years old but once a child at the town’s former Smyllum Orphanage where he claims he was subjected to a regime of terror, one staff member in particular being, in his words, “a monster and a bully”.

Recently he discovered that his now long-dead tormentor is buried in Lanark’s St Mary’s Cemetery next to the estimated 100 Smyllum orphans resting there, some of them the male staff member’s “victims”, according to him.

He is now calling for that man’s body to at least be removed from the part of the graveyard where the orphans are buried, commenting: “Do you think Jimmy Savile’s victims would like to be buried next to him? I think not.”

The Gazette is not naming the man as he may have totally innocent relatives still living locally.

Tom told the Gazette about how he and his brother were at the orphanage - closed around 30 years ago - in the mid-1950’s and they became a particular target of the staff member.

He bitterly recalls: “He used to lift me up by the ears and kick me into next week. Whatever excuse he could get, he would tear into me. The guy was a bully and a monster and the thought of him being buried next to some of the kids whose lives he made a living hell just sickens me.”

He added that he endured or witnessed other acts of cruelty while at Smyllum, including what he claims was a fatal attack on one child with a golf club which was covered up at the time as a freak accident.

He further alleges that he personally was subjected to a savage beating with a cricket stump by one of the members of the order of nuns running the establishment.

Tom recalls how time didn’t seem to mellow the male staff member he wants exhumed; he visited the orphanage a few years after he’d left and the man’s greeting to him came in the form of an obscene sexual insult.

Somehow Tom Brannan not only survived the now notorious orphange system of the Fifties, but went on to a successful academic career; he lived and worked in the USA for several years before retuning to Britain and he now lives south of the border.

He says that some time ago he asked the police to investigate his claims against the staff member, but was told that, as the man was now dead, this would not be a worthwhile exercise.

It seems unlikely too that he will get his wish to see the man’s body removed from that part of the cemetery. Exhumations, the Gazette understands, can only be carried out at the wishes of the deceased’s relatives or as part of a criminal investigation.