Care home nun admits slapping children on the hand

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

A nun has admitted slapping children if they misbehaved at a care home several decades ago.

But the woman claimed she did not lose her temper and that the smacks on the hand were not "aggressive".

The sister also rejected claims she had beaten children and used derogatory language towards them at Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark.

Scotland's Child Abuse Inquiry, sitting in Edinburgh, is continuing to hear evidence about the institution.

A number of former residents have told of beatings and ill-treatment at the home, run by the nuns of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.

The 77-year-old nun, who cannot be named, was at Smyllum from the early 1960s until 1971, the inquiry heard.

The orphanage closed in the 1980s.

'I was gentle'

Asked whether she had ever hit a child during her time there, she said she was sure she had given a smack to a child but added: "I never hit a child."

She said any slap would be given to older children "for good reason" and did not happen terribly often.

The witness added: "I would give a slap to a child but not as corporal punishment.

"If a child would, say, hit another child, I would take that child aside and I would talk to that child.

"I might give a slap on the hand."

She said she would never slap a youngster on any other part of their body and told the hearing: "I did not lose my temper.

"I was gentle."

'Force fed fish'

Colin MacAulay QC, counsel to the inquiry, later put to the witness various allegations made by former residents about her own conduct.

They included claims from one witness that she had been slapped and forced to eat fish, which she hated.

The nun said the allegation made her "sad" and added: "I would never force a child to eat fish if she didn't like it."

On claims she had referred to the girl as the "devil's child" and "scum of the earth", the witness said: "That's language I would never use."

Asked about claims she would also "batter" the child, the sister told the hearing: "I never treated this individual like this.

"I never treated any individual like this. I just couldn't and I never did it."

The nun described food at the institution as "always good" and said every child's birthday would be celebrated.

She also denied suggestions that the children would be given scalding baths and be made to share the same water.

The hearing continues.