Glasgow & West Scotland

'I was abused by nuns for a decade' at Smyllum Park

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTheresa Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she was sexually abused from the age of eight

A former resident of a Scottish orphanage run by Catholic nuns has described the sexual, physical and mental abuse she suffered at the home.

Theresa Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she was sexually abused from the age of eight at the Smyllum Park Orphanage, Lanark, in the 1970s.

The care home, run by the Daughters of Charity Order, closed in 1981.

A spokesperson said the order was "shocked and saddened" by the allegations.

Ms Tolmie-McGrane, who is now a psychologist working in Norway, arrived at the South Lanarkshire orphanage in 1968 when she was six years old.

She told BBC Stories: "Every child was beaten, punished, locked in a dark room, made to eat their own vomit and I would say that most of us had our mouths rinsed out with carbolic soap."

Ms Tolmie-McGrane said she was first sexually abused at the home by a priest when she was eight.

"I had a little part-time job cleaning the pews in the church and this particular priest would arrive early and he would ask me to go into a particular room with him and he would ask me to sit on his lap and fondle him.

"He tried to fondle me and I just pulled away."

Image caption Theresa Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she was systematically abused at the home for almost 10 years

She also recalled how in one "horrible incident" one of the nuns had walked in on the priest abusing her.

"Instead of being angry at him, she got really angry at me. She yanked me by the left arm so hard and flung me across the room and called me a whore and told me to get out of there.

"I didn't know my arm was broken at the time. It was only the day after that we realised."

She added: "I think in some ways it was worse than just sexual abuse because I was punished with the broken arm for doing something a priest had forced me to do."

Ms Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she had suffered years of "systematic abuse" at Smyllum Park, including being hit on the head with a wooden crucifix.

She said the psychological abuse started after she started at secondary school when one of the nuns had tried to "break" her down.

"She almost made it such that I didn't get to university. She did everything she could to sabotage," Ms Tolmie-McGrane said.

"I've never met someone who tried to destroy another person in such a systematic way. Thank God she didn't succeed."

Ms Tolmie-McGrane left the home when she was 17 and went on to study at the University of Glasgow.

A spokesperson for the Daughters of Charity Order said in a statement: "We are shocked and saddened by these accounts describing acts that are alleged to have happened at Smyllum Park nearly 50 years ago.

"We would urge anyone who believes they have been victim of a crime to contact the police, who will then work with our safeguarding team.

"We are also core participants in the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, and will continue to work with the inquiry, and any other inquiries or investigations, for as long as required.

"We would like to offer sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse while at our facilities."

Image caption Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark after it closed in the 1980s

Ms Tolmie-McGrane's account follows a recent BBC and Sunday Post investigation which found that the bodies of at least 400 children who died there may be buried in a mass grave at the home.

But prosecutors said on Tuesday there was no evidence of crimes being committed at the orphanage with regards to the mass grave.

The children were buried in the cemetery plot between 1864 and 1981.

The orphanage was home to more than 11,000 children over the 117 years before it closed.

Former residents of the orphanage uncovered the burial plot at nearby St Mary's cemetery in 2003.

Research into death records of children who lived there showed that most died of natural causes, from common diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and pleurisy.

File on 4: The Secrets of Smyllum Park is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 24 September 2017 at 17:00 BST.

More on this story