The unfortunate orphans who were sent to live at Smyllum Park were often never seen from again. But no one suspected the Catholic nuns who ran the Scottish orphanage of foul play until later. Now it is believed that the nuns dumped hundreds of children into a mass grave. The nuns had told authorities that a few children died and were buried in the cemetery. But they lied. Now up to 400 children who died at the orphanage were found in a mass grave. And the Catholic orphanage’s reputation is now falling to a new low.
The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul were the “trusty” nuns who operated the Smyllum Park orphanage. They were in charge of the place in Lanark, Scotland when it opened in 1864 until its doors were finally shut once and for all in 1981.
The nuns had claimed that children that died were buried in 158 tiny compartments in the St Mary’s Cemetery.
However, the nuns’ story had a lot of flaws in it. That’s why BBC’s File on Four and the Sunday Post newspaper launched a joint investigation into the deadly orphanage. And they revealed that 402 children died while under the Catholic nuns’ care.
But what did these caretakers of orphaned children do with their small bodies? They dumped them in a mass grave.
The crime was so terrible, the Former First Minister Jack McConnell, apologized for Scottish Government to the orphanage’s victims. In 2004, he said, “After so many years of silence, we must now know the truth of what happened.”
The news agencies analyzed 15,000 records and found that one child died every three months. Because the children didn’t have families, the nuns dumped them in an unmarked grave.
11,601 orphans went through Smyllum Park. For children age 1 to 14, at least 30 died per 1,000. This was more than three times the highest mortality rate of the age group in Scotland.
Janice Carberry lost her brother David in 1952 at the orphanage. The nuns had no records showing where his body was laid to rest – he was one tossed in the mass grave.
73-year-old Eddie McColl lived at Smyllum with four of his siblings. His brother Francis, 13, died there in August 1961.
McColl said, “I’ve heard from kids who were at Smyllum that someone was showing them how to use a golf club and asked them to step back. But Francis didn’t hear it and got struck on the head, that’s what killed him. Smyllum was a hell. I have no idea where he is buried and have asked the Daughters of Charity repeatedly.”
Now that the truth is out, the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul released a statement:
“We are core participants in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and are co-operating fully with that inquiry. We remain of the view that this inquiry is the most appropriate forum for such investigations. Given the ongoing work of the inquiry, we do not wish to provide any interviews. We wish to again make clear that our values are totally against any form of abuse and thus we offer our most sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse while in our care.”