Glasgow & West Scotland

Smyllum Park nun 'witnessed no cruelty' at orphanage

Smyllum Park orphanage
Image caption Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark after it closed in the 1980s

A 92-year-old nun has denied abusing children at Smyllum Park orphanage.

The sister, who cannot be named, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry she had not witnessed any cruelty or struck any youngsters at the Lanark home.

She said it was a "happy place" and abuse allegations came as "a shock".

Asked why so many witnesses had given evidence against her, she said the nuns were the obvious people they could blame for being taken from their parents.

The retired nun told the inquiry she was based at Smyllum from 1957 to 1964 and insisted it was not a place where physical and emotional abuse happened.

The witness said she "wouldn't dream" of abusing children in her care.

"If I did, I would have it on my conscience to the end of my days," she told the hearing.

'Adequate food'

The public inquiry sitting in Edinburgh is continuing to hear evidence about life at the Lanark orphanage, which closed in the 1980s.

Former residents of the home have previously testified about receiving beatings and ill-treatment at the home, run by the nuns of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.

The retired sister gave evidence from behind a screen on Tuesday as the inquiry moved into hearing from those who worked at the institution.

Image caption Lady Smith is chairing the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

Colin MacAulay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked the witness about evidence that children who wet the bed would be humiliated and punished.

"No, that didn't happen and I didn't see it in any group either," she said.

"I never saw anybody doing that to a child."

She described the food as "adequate", if not varied, and said the children were never hungry.

Asked about claims the residents would be force-fed food, she replied: "No, that never happened. I never heard about that at all."

She also denied the children would have to queue up to have a bath in the same water, saying a "marvellous" showering system was used during her time there.

Asked about claims from former residents that Smyllum was an unhappy place where children lived in fear, the sister told the hearing: "No, I never experienced that and I can't understand why they said that because it was a happy place.

"They really had everything, they had lots of games and people coming to see them and all that kind of thing. This was a very happy place."

'They had to blame somebody'

The nun also told the inquiry she did not see any child being hit or slapped by way of a punishment at the home.

"Did you witness any cruelty during your time at Smyllum?" asked Mr MacAulay.

"No, no," the sister replied.

Allegations made by previous witnesses about the nun herself were also put to her, including a claim she would carry out "beatings when she just lost the rag".

She replied: "No none of that, I did none of that. Nothing like that happened."

She denied there was a regime of fear at the institution and agreed she would have considered actions, like force-feeding as abuse, had it happened.

She went on to tell the hearing why she believes allegations of mistreatment have emerged.

"I think the reason is that they [the residents] were all very hurt by things that happened to them in their childhood and being taken from their parents and as they got older they had to blame somebody for this," she said.

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