Forgotten orphans of Smyllum laid to rest by nuns in umarked graves

By Frank Hurley
September 14, 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.

They are campaigning for the Catholic Church to fund a proper memorial and properly examine records so the dead can finally be given back their identities.

Frank Docherty, 59, survived two years of beating and humiliation at Smyllum after his alcoholic parents decided they could no longer look after him and his siblings and dumped them in the care of the Catholic Church in 1954.

Docherty told Scotland on Sunday that when children died from diseases none of the nuns would speak about it. He never recalls attending a requiem mass for any of the orphans.

In stark contrast, he recollects vividly having to kiss the forehead of a dead nun as she lay at the entrance to St Mary’s Church in Lanark at the start of a requiem mass before burial at St Mary’s Cemetery.

The part of the cemetery reserved for nuns and priests contained rows of crosses and headstones. Tiny mounds of earth are all that mark the existence of the dead orphans.

There are few, if any, clues to when the children died, how they died, and whether their deaths were investigated and recorded within the requirements of the law.

"The nuns were a law unto themselves at Smyllum," said Docherty. "I fear that years ago many of these children were buried without proper records being kept of who they were."

Docherty said that on his first day at the orphanage a nun reacted to his crying by beating him with a hairbrush and repeatedly kicking him. Worse was to follow, but his main preoccupation was with those who didn’t survive.

He said: "It’s nothing short of criminal to leave so many dead children abandoned in this way. What hope is there of any relative trying to find a loved one? What are they supposed to do? Pray beside any old mound in the ground? That’s truly unholy and an insult to the little ones’ memories."

At present, the only memorial to the children is a stone engraved with the words: "Sweet Jesus have mercy on the souls of the children of Smyllum."

Docherty and his fellow campaigners at In Care Abuse Survivors (INCAS) claim the Church has obstructed their efforts to identify and remember the children, by erecting a wall of red tape.

Church officials, according to Docherty, say it is now too difficult to research the identities.

INCAS secretary, Jim Kane, of Forth, Lanarkshire, said: "These children had names, had friends, and some had relatives. No one knows when they died or who they are because they’ve been completely forgotten.

"It’s a pitifully sad sight to see so many little humps and indentations in the grass that are the only indications of their last resting places.

"It’s bad enough that adults have come forward to tell of the cruel regime at Smyllum. But to leave these children’s graves unmarked is just as big a sin."

Kane says he is one of several orphans who were physically, psychologically and spiritually abused at the hands of the nuns at Smyllum.

He said he was facing an uphill struggle against Catholic Church officials who hold records of the names of the orphans who died between 1864 until Smyllum closed in the 1980s.

Kane said there was no suggestion that any of the children had died other than from natural causes.

He added: "I estimate there are up to 100 orphaned children’s graves in the cemetery. There are scores of indentations where burials have obviously taken place over many years.

"I contacted the Sisters of Charity for help and was very disappointed to be told by their principal archivist that they had absolutely no record of the dead children’s names.

"I was told to contact officials at St Mary’s Church in Lanark, but every time I’ve tried to make an appointment to discuss this I’ve been fobbed off. I was originally told I would have to provide names and dates of the children who died before parish records could be checked. That’s impossible because I don’t have their names.

"Now I’ve been told I’ll have to wait until someone at St Mary’s has time to provide a list of orphans buried in the cemetery then send those details to London where, hopefully, the information will be sent to me."

Smyllum was sold off in the 1990s and the building and grounds used to build flats and houses. The profits the Catholic Church made in the sell-off only exacerbate the sense of injustice among the Smyllum survivors.

Kane, 62, said: "INCAS and many local people want the Church to pay for a new memorial.

"The Church could use some of the wealth it gained in selling Smyllum itself for the development of flats, as well as selling off other land in the town for housing."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Glasgow denied that it had been "insensitive" about the children’s graveyard and requests for a new memorial.

The spokesman added: "I will speak to the Motherwell diocese to find out what can be done to speed up finding the children’s names, though I expect it will be a difficult task.

"It may be that if they were not originally from the Lanark parish their records may be elsewhere. I will also pass on the INCAS request for funding for any future memorial."

Hundreds of former residents of children’s homes run by the Catholic Church in Scotland, including Smyllum, are involved in an ongoing legal case for compensation for the alleged abuse they suffered.

Last year, Scotland on Sunday revealed how a former resident of Nazareth House children’s home, Kilmarnock, claimed she was raped by a priest.

Forgotten orphans of Smyllum laid to rest by nuns in umarked gra

My father went to Smyllum House as an Orphan. He never told me about it until I was 40. We were driving through Lanark on our way to New Lanark when he suddenly said my brother is buried over there. The whole story then came out. He told me about being an orphan in the home and saying goodbye to his brother who was buried in an unmarked paupers grave. We drove into the graveyard but he could not remember the exact spot apart from it being along the wall. We then went up to the house, which at that time was derelict apart from a caretaker who said it was ok to look around and that people turned up everyday to look and remember. He then went on to tell me many stories about life in the home. I must have been a hard existance and one I think he kept hidden at the back of his mind.

This is not unique to

This is not unique to Scotland.

I don't know how much crap I am going to get myself in for posting this here but....

Here is a link to what was public and the apoligy by the government to the natives of residential schools  residential schools in Canada

But there was much left out and much of the truth hidden..... when we discovered what her mom was a part of,  we moved 900 KM away and she stopped talking to her mom for a year or more... until her mom quit working for them.. but most the binders that were to go to court for the Natives lawyer were doctored never really giving them anything they could do serious damage with.... The native still won their lawsuit... but the children in these unmarked graves were never given the credit they deserve for being the bravest Canadains to ever walk the earth....

During my time on house arrest 4 years ago for putting up my site and causing CPS some serious grief... I was released on house arrest to my better half place with her mom. We discovered a very disgusting secret that both the government and her mom were trying to cover up...

My better half's mom was one of the researchers who was doctoring these black binders and she worked from home. So we went threw everything... while she was sleeping or out.. every new binder we read it... it made my life in their care look humane.
Man... I am still very disturbed by it and all that I read...
Behind the "residential schools" after they were closed down.. unmarked graves were found... once the graves were dug up government officials and police found piles and piles of dead baby bones. A reporter did a story about it from the Globe and Mail and later was forced to recant the story and was fired. But the documents we were reading confirmed this as truth.
There were approximately 15-25 sets of bones per grave... C.A.S  (The Same people who now run foster care and the adoption systems was running it back then but almost all traces of their name was removed....

A night watchmen was investigated at one of the locations but suddenly it stopped. And he was just "let go of"  There were notes that they suspected that the night watchmen was the father of most of the children but there was no DNA technology back then so it was never proven.. but the graves were the result of Home abortions some of the younger girls claimed. My other half's mother destroyed that information but... we are both willing to testify that we watched her destroy it... that was her job as she was one of the lead researchers of those binders and was in charge of doctoring them and removing the the stuff they didn't want the public or native to know about. Northern Indians Affairs office in Ontario on Bank st was tasked with making sure the public did not know what the child protection system did to those children.

In these document I seen the natives refereed to as savages. And "Re-educating the savages" was a phrase that was strung all threw out the documents we read... over that 6 month span. My other half has enhanced security clearance so if she was needed in court she could not be deemed a a un-creditable witness. And we have notified some of the native groups of our information... they are still deciding how to proceed. As that means the apology from Mr Harper was a fraud, fake and blatant damage control method. Ment to stop the truth from being dug into deeper and ensuring the people will never know what a savage cold hearted killers CPS are...

I talked it over with my other half and we decided we should share this now... as we have delivered this info to the natives and now can say we have some insurance... we won't have a repeat of 4 years ago.. with 10 police busting into my house with out a warrant arresting me at gun point breaking my ribs.. then in jail denying me a doctor and trying to lock me up in the funny farm. Didn't work...'
I had a doctor with more letters infront of his name then in it confront the courts letting them know I was just fine and very sane... just deeply troubled by what happened to me... I was released on house arrest cause he decided to stand up to the courts...

The government/upper-class here are the lowest of the low life scum that walks our land... their secrets trail behind them with the ghosts of a thousand faces. They will do anything to protect their secrets... They will break the law, abuse their positions of power and even try to lock up innocent people for the rest of their lives. If my better halfs family and the doctor had not some to my aid.. I would never have seen the light of day again...

CPS is evil..... they know nuthing but the suffering they have caused others and the money they have made doing in.... I seriously doubt that Canada and Scotland are alone in these dark secrets the upper-class/governments/churches are trying to hide...

And if all of a sudden I disappear after you read this then you know why.... but I doubt they would want to go for round 2 since I kicked their ass in round one and am still free....

Residential Care

Within our History of Child Placement section, you can see just how rampant abuse-in-care has always been... especially for those who were sent away from home, to get better than what was first given.

From what I understand, some groups in Canada were given their formal apology; some groups in Australia were given their formal apology;  some groups touched by  the Catholic Church were given something that resembles a formal apology.  Former residents of children's homes, (current friends of mine), in Britain tell me they are still waiting for their formal apology.... whatever a formal government apology really means in this day and age.

Written within Bizzi's response, something caught my eye:

A night watchmen was investigated at one of the locations but suddenly it stopped. And he was just "let go of"  There were notes that they suspected that the night watchmen was the father of most of the children but there was no DNA technology back then so it was never proven.. but the graves were the result of Home abortions some of the younger girls claimed.

I've had some horrific stories shared privately by adults who lived in "residences", telling me about mass-graves found on home-grounds, like mentioned in this video about a workhouse in Ireland.  I've been told by one person, even to this day, police are not all too eager to investigate claims made by former residents who suffered tremendously in so-called "care homes" in the UK.   Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how one sees things, we were able to find information about the early days of child trafficking/international adoption, and how a home, operated by the Youngs, was closed because of what was being hidden buried by those looking to make money through the sale of healthy women/children.

For sums as steep as $10,000, couples chose their infant from the rows of bassinets, arranged like produce bins at a supermarket. Twins were separated, or arbitrarily "matched," depending on what the unwitting customers wanted.

Those were the lucky ones.

Hundreds of others were left to die, either because the medical care at the home was lacking, or because the children appeared "unmarketable," according to witnesses.

Infants who were sick, deformed or disabled, or of mixed race were fed molasses and water until they starved to death. A caretaker years later admitted to Canadian journalist Bette Cahill that he was paid to bury the babies in open graves, or in butter boxes from the local LaHave Dairy.  [From: Survivors of dark episode in Canada's history trace their past ]

I think apologies are great.... IF measures to assist victims AND the promise to never to repeat the offense(s) goes with them.

An apology means that

An apology means that someone is sorry. Which means they take responsibility for their actions or the action of those they are in charge of. if you cover up the worst of what you did and just say your sorry for what you got caught for is as empty as my bank account. I had a judge tell me something along those lines once.

He said not taking responsibility for all your actions is breaking the spirit of the law and that is just as bad as breaking the law and will always be treated the same. I love how these rich people couldn't practice what they preach if their very lives depended on it.

The government was responsible for far worst then they got busted for... They didn't apologize... they lied and broke the law and then abused their positions of power to cover up for child abusing scum bags...

I just wish I could understand how people like this are allowed to run our country and everyone just stands by and does nuthing... and just keeps letting things get worse... and keeps letting the government/upper-class break every law known to man when it suits them.

my understanding is the average person is too selfish and cowardly to stand up for what is right.. and would rather turn a blind eye... as they don't have the dignity self respect to stand up and say "Hey that is wrong you work for us!"

Sadly they don't work for us./ The government here rules with fear and violence. That is a dictatorship, especilly when children have to live in the streets and sell their bodies and worse just to stay out of government "care"...

Man.... I gotta be having a never ending nightmare that I can't wake up As everything is messed up the good guys are the bad guys and the bad guys (myself) are the good guys... but unlike the movies... very seldom is their a happy ending...

The government is nuthing more then a organized mob. Who use the law and police officers to enforce their fucked up sense of "order"... and control over others..

if it was a democracy of any kind someone like me would have some kinda say... instead when I voiced my experience in their care they tried to lock me up. Those are the actions of a dictatorship... not a democracy.

An apology from the government/upper-class means nuthing when it is as hollow as a rotted stump!

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