Friday, 12 May 2017

Smyllum Orphans and the Sisters of Charity

The reports below detail developments following suspicion that up to 100 orphaned children, in the care of the Sisters of Charity who died in circumstances unknown, were buried in unmarked graves in Scotland.  That was 2003. A memorial followed in 2004.  Those whose memories of the former Orphanage, were prevented from seeking redress or providing testimonies due to being statute barred.
A change of heart, in 2017, as survivors are invited to give testimonies to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry headed by Lady Smith, with report expected in 2019.  However it is envisaged no prosecutions will follow as it is thought the abusers are most likely, deceased.

See newspaper articles below:

From the Scotsman Publication dated 2003

SCORES of tiny mounds and indentations punctuate the grass of a forlorn corner of St Mary’s cemetery in Lanark.

They are the evidence of a dark episode in recent Scottish history that saw children who had already been robbed of their lives then robbed of their identities.
It is estimated that the bodies of as many as 100 children lie unmarked and unmourned in St Mary’s - all of them former residents of the town’s notorious Smyllum orphanage.
The Catholic nuns who ran the institution until it shut in the 1980s already stand accused of terrorising the living in their care.
Now it has been revealed how children who died during Smyllum’s century in existence were placed without ceremony in paupers’ graves at nearby St Mary’s and no record kept of their final resting place.
Survivors of the home, many of them still struggling with their own horrific experiences of abuse, are now determined to honour the children who never left.
Update from The Herald in Scotland, 2004.

Their bodies lie unmarked and unmourned in a forgotten corner of St Mary's cemetery in Lanark. They are the orphans of Smyllum - babies and children who died over the course of a hundred painful years and were buried beneath the grass without ceremony, without headstones, and without dignity.
Now, thanks to a year-long campaign by surviving orphans, a fitting memorial is to be erected to the estimated 150 forgotten children.
Until now, only a simple stone cross marked the mass grave of the infants who died at the home. All it said was ''Sweet Jesus have mercy on the souls of the children of Smyllum''.

They died between 1864 and 1964, the year the notorious orphanage closed. In recent months, a group of surviving orphans have alleged that the nuns who ran the home were guilty of unholy cruelty towards their charges.
They demanded that the religious order, the Sisters of Charity, pay for a fitting memorial to the ''lost children''. Campaigner Jim Kane, from Forth in Lanarkshire, yesterday confirmed that the Sisters have finally agreed to foot the bill.
''This brings to a conclusion a very unhappy chapter in the life of Smyllum orphanage,'' he said.
Now aged 62, Mr Kane was resident in the orphanage as a child. He regards the nuns' decision as finally righting a long-standing wrong.
He added: ''We had to drop our original plan to list the names of all 151 children because it was impossible to find all the names.
''So many youngsters passed away during a time of high infant mortality, we didn't want to include only some of the names that we could find.''
He said his campaign group, the In-Care Abuse Society (INCAS), was satisfied that a large impressive stone monument bearing the words of an appropriate prayer will soon stand over the graves. The original stone cross will be relocated to another part of the cemetery.
The new memorial will carry the words: ''Life so short, no world to roam, they were taken so young, they never went home. So, spare a thought for them as you pass this way - a prayer if you remember day by day. Our lives so short in need of love but found in the arms of God above. Jesus said: Suffer little children come unto me.''

The inscription will end with the words: ''Proposed by the Sisters of Charity and INCAS.''
Mr Frank Docherty, 59, from East Kilbride, another Smyllum orphan who claims to have survived two years of beating and humiliation at the home during the 1950s, said: ''This will go some way to easing the pain of surviving former Smyllum orphanage people. It's the least anyone can do for these lost children who never made it in life.''
The nuns of Smyllum, many of whom are buried in graves with proper crosses and headstones in another corner of St Mary's cemetery, interred the babies and children in paupers' graves because they did not have the financial resources to give them decent burials. They kept no records of names and details.
Years later, there are few clues to when the children died, how they died, and whether their deaths were investigated and recorded within the requirements of the law. However, there has been no suggestion that any death was other than natural.
The Smyllum home is now demolished and a housing estate stands in its place.


Update Carluke Gazette 2017  - Smyllum Orphanage is an institution listed as one of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry’s current investigations. “The inquiry will cover evidence within living memory of any person who suffered such abuse.

The inquiry into historical child abuse in Scotland has confirmed that events at Lanark’s former Smyllum Orphanage will be investigated as part of the probe. And fears that now elderly former residents of the home will be prevented from giving evidence because their allegations are ‘time-barred’ have been swept away. Over the years the Gazette has published harrowing accounts of the treatment of the orphans of the insitution that finally closed 30 years ago. These allegations have ranged from regular bullying by staff to even an alleged cover-up of a murder at the orphanage. However, a few have also come forward to testify that they were treated well and were happy during their time at the orphange, run by the Sisters of Charity Order for a century before being handed over to council control in the ’60s. Now these ageing ‘Smyllum Kids’ are to be invited to tell their stories to the official Scottish Government inquiry into child abuse at 60 Scottish insitutions, ranging from religious order-run orphanages like Smyllum to top private schools such as the ones attended by Tony Blair, Prince Philip and the Prince of Wales. Almost all the allegations of maltreatment at Smyllum which have come to the Gazette’s attention relate to the time when it was still run by the Sisters of Charity. This means that most of the surviving orphans are now in their 60s or older and were alarmed when, intially, it seemed the inquiry would only consider evidence of abuse after the year 1963.

Almost all claims of maltreatment at Smyllum allegedly happened in the years between World War Two and the early ’60s and so many thought they would be ‘gagged’ and their distressing tales never told to the official investigation being conducted by Lady Smith. She and her inquiry team are expected to produce a report in 2019 with recommendations for future action. It is thought that few if any of the alleged Smyllum abusers are still alive and so legal proceedings against individuals resulting from the inquiry are thought unlikely. Confirming all former Smyllum orphans will have their say, a statement from Lady Smith’s inquiry team said this week: “Smyllum Orphanage is an institution listed as one of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry’s current investigations. “The inquiry will cover evidence within living memory of any person who suffered such abuse.

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1 comment:

  1. helenmorrison1@sky.com2 March 2019 at 03:50

    These nuns are probably dead now but why should they get away with the things they have done we will never forget how cruel they were