High infant mortality rate and allegations of abuse raise suspicions of Smyllum Park in Lanark, once run by Catholic nuns
The Scottish child abuse inquiry is to investigate claims that the bodies of at least 400 children from a home once run by Catholic nuns are buried in an unmarked mass grave.
The high infant mortality rate has raised concerns about conditions at Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark, which was operated by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.
The institution, which looked after children from broken homes, opened in 1864 and closed in 1981. More than 11,000 children stayed at the orphanage over that period.
Records reveal that most of the deaths were due to natural causes, mainly from diseases such as TB, pneumonia and pleurisy. About a third of the victims were under the age of five, and the majority of the deaths occurred between 1870 and 1930.
Former residents of the orphanage uncovered a burial plot containing the remains of a number of children at nearby St Mary’s cemetery in 2003.
Frank Docherty and Jim Kane, who both died earlier this year, alleged that many of those who passed through Smyllum Park were subjected to physical abuse, including beatings, punches and public humiliations. Both men also believed that the number of deaths was far higher than the 120 previously acknowledged by the Catholic order.
An inquiry by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 and the Sunday Post newspaper examined death certificates in archives and found 402 children from Smyllum Park. Only two were found to have been buried elsewhere. The remainder are thought to have been laid to rest in St Mary’s cemetery, a mile away from the former home.
The recorded death rate, according to the reports, is calculated to have been, in some periods, around three times the average for children in Scotland.
The suggestion that children were put into an unmarked mass grave echoes the public outcry over the recent discovery of the remains of 800 babies and children at a former Catholic care home in Tuam, in the west of Ireland.
SOURCE: Owen Bowcott