Call to mark graves of care home children – Consistent abuse
SURVIVORS of child abuse are demanding that headstones are placed on the unmarked graves of children who died in a care home which was run by Catholic nuns.
The graves of up to 158 children who died while living at Smyllum Park in Lanark lie in mounds at St Mary’s churchyard in the town.
Members of campaign group Incas – In Care Abuse Survivors – said those who had suffered physical beatings and psychological abuse at the hands of the nuns wanted justice for the children and added that they could not get “closure” until they had performed this last task.
They are being supported by relatives of some of the children who died from disease and accidents at the home over 117 years, from 1864-1981.
Frank Docherty, who spent two years in the home in the early 1950s, said he and many former Smyllum residents felt angry that marble headstones had been placed on the graves of nuns and priests in the graveyard, while the children’s last resting place could not be identified.
The house and grounds of Smyllum Park Orphanage
A previous campaign led to the order of nuns who ran the home, the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul (now the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul) erecting a memorial “in memory of the deceased children of Smyllum who died between 1864-1981”. An annual service in honour of the children is attended by hundreds of people from throughout Scotland and from overseas.
However, Docherty, founder and honorary president of the charity, said the collective memorial was not enough.
“The children from Smyllum were dumped in that graveyard and forgotten about,” he said. “The kids are in paupers’ graves. They were given little dignity in death and no record was kept of where each individual child was buried.
Boys’ School, Smyllum Orphanage, Lanark 1910
“As the years go by we’ve had more people joining our group, sometimes from as far away as Australia.
“Sometimes it takes years for people to talk about what happened and want to visit the graves to pay their respects to brothers, sisters, sons or daughters. But there is nowhere for them. When I go to the graveyard I see rosaries and flowers left on the memorial and it’s heartbreaking.
“It is a total disgrace that we have people from all over Scotland who can’t go to the graves of their brothers and sisters.
Girls’ Dining Hall, Smyllum Orphanage, Lanark 1910
“What I and other children endured at Smyllum Park was a living hell and it left us traumatised. This campaign is a way of getting the Catholic Church to face up to their responsibility for the terrible wrong they did to these children even in death.”
Eddie McColl, 68, and his brother William, 69, from Edinburgh, are desperate to have a headstone erected in the graveyard in memory of their younger brother Francis, who died in 1961, aged around five, following an accident at the home. He was buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary’s.
The three brothers, originally from Glasgow, were sent to Smyllum Park following a family breakdown. “I am very angry,” Eddie said. “There is nowhere we can go to visit Francis. There’s no closure. Francis died while we were in Smyllum in an accident. We have wee memories of him but I wish we had a set place for him. It would give us a name to visit.”