Smyllum orphans will be nameless no more

Dedication of the current Smyllum memorial in November 2005.
Dedication of the current Smyllum memorial in November 2005.

Children who have lain in unmarked graves in Lanark’s St Mary’s Cemetery for up to 150 years are soon to be nameless no more.

Although the order of nuns that ran Lanark’s Smyllum Orphanage from the 1860s to the 1980s, the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul, bowed to pressure several years ago to erect a memorial stone to children who died in their care in the vicinity of their unmarked final resting places, that stone carried no individual names.

Now the order is reported to have committed to creating a new memorial, this time naming the youngsters buried at St Mary’s Cemetery.

How many names that memorial will carry is unknown, however.

There has been recent controversy over how many Smyllum orphans are buried at St Mary’s.

For many years, the order’s estimate was between 100 and 120, but recent research has indicated that the true figure is nearer 400.

That estimate is based, in part, on the relatively high child mortality rates in Scotland during the years leading up to the Second World War.

The order’s stewardship of the orphanage has come under scrutiny during the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, and it came under fire at the first session of the probe after a representative owned up to the relevant files having gone missing.

However, a spokesperson for the Order said it was aiming to compile a comprehensive list of those buried at St Mary’s, stating: “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.”

In the meantime, since the start of the inquiry, more allegations of maltreatment of children at Smyllum Orphanage have emerged.

The inquiry is due to resume taking evidence next month with further questions expected to be asked of the Order over its time running the Lanark institution.