New investigation reports mass grave in Lanarkshire
A new BBC radio documentary has revealed that the bodies of hundreds of children, who were residents at a care home run by Catholic nuns, are believed to be buried in a mass grave.
The Secrets of Smyllum Park aired on BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme as part of a joint investigation with the Sunday Post newspaper. It focussed on reports of abuse at the hands of The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul who ran the orphanage home in Lanark, and reveal that over 400 children are thought to be buried in a section of St Mary’s Cemetery in the southern Scotland town.
“Over many generations the Catholic Church provided shelter and care for vulnerable children whose families had been broken by death or poverty,” says the programme blurb, where it is available to be listened to on the BBC’s website.
“But many of those who grew up in these orphanages claim the care they offered amounted to years of serious beatings and emotional abuse which scarred them for life.
“File on 4 investigates one such former institution, Smyllum Park in Lanark, uncovering new evidence of alleged abuse and raising serious questions about child deaths at the orphanage, before it was closed in 1981.
“File on 4 asks whether the inquiry is digging deep enough to uncover the truth about what happened at Smyllum Park and why it has taken more than 50 years for the truth to come out.”
The Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark opened in 1864 and provided care for 11,600 orphans or children from broken homes by the time it closed.
A burial plot, containing the bodies of a number of children, was uncovered by Frank Docherty and Jim Kane, two former residents of Smyllum, now deceased, in 2003. The pair wanted to uncover the secrets behind the place where they said many former residents had suffered.
The death records indicate that most of the children died of natural causes, such as TB, pneumonia and pleurisy, while analysis show a third of those who died were aged five or under.
Of the 400 plus, only 24 were aged over 15 and most deaths occurred between 1870 and 1930.
“Whoever is behind this, I hope they can live with themselves,” Eddie McColl told the BBC.
He has spent years trying to find out what happened to his brother Francis, who is thought to be buried in the unmarked grave. He says he was told once he had died after being struck on the head with a golf club, and his death certificate from 1961, when he was aged 13; indicates he died from a brain haemorrhage.
The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul did not comment to the BBC but in a statement said they were ‘cooperating fully’ with the Scottish Child Abuse investigation.
They said in a statement: “Our values are totally against any form of abuse and thus, we offer our most sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered abuse whilst in our care.”