Decades of rumours confirmed as true

Smyllum Orphanage; a scene of prolonged child abuse according to Lady Smith
Smyllum Orphanage; a scene of prolonged child abuse according to Lady Smith

Decades of dark rumours of abuse of children at Lanark’s Smyllum Orphanage have finally been confirmed as being all too tragically true.

Lady Smith, conducting the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into the orphanage, has judged that Smyllum was “a place of fear, threat and excessive discipline”, adding there was also emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

She added that Smyllum orphans found “no love, no compassion, no dignity and no comfort” while in the care of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul order of nuns.

She said that the inquiry has established that youngsters were beaten with leather straps, hairbrushes and crucifixes at the orphanage, which closed in the 1980s after 120 years.

Her judgement came after she had heard 54 witnesses and considered 21 written submissions after the inquiry turned its spotlight on Smyllum and its ‘sister’ orphanage in Rutherglen last November.

Lady Scott found that orphans had been sexually abused by priests, a trainee priest, nuns, members of staff and a volunteer helper at the home.

In her interim report she names the late Charlie Forsyth, a former Smyllum orphan who went on to work there, as being guilty of emotionally and physically abusing youngsters.

She particularly mentioned the death of Sammy Carr, a six years-old orphan who died of E.coli after contact with a rat and shortly after a beating from a nun.

Also noted were the deaths of Francis McColl, 13, who was accidentally struck with a golf club, and Patricia Meenan, 12, knocked down by a car while fleeing from the orphanage.

On Monday, ten former orphanage residents said they intend to sue the Daughters of Charity.