Nun 'not aware' of beating boy unconscious at Smyllum Park

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

A nun has told an inquiry she "slapped" children in her care at an orphanage but said she was "not aware" of beating a boy unconscious.

The 73-year-old was giving evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry about her time at Smyllum Park in Lanark.

She was questioned over evidence from a resident who said he was given a "proper hiding" after he saw her and another nun embrace.

Asked about the incident she said: " I can't remember it happening."

The inquiry, sitting in Edinburgh, is continuing to hear evidence about the Lanarkshire 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 nun, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave evidence about her time at the care home between 1969 and 1976.

The boy, who was aged around six or seven, had said he was hit and kicked, had his hair singed by being held over an open flame on the boiler and passed out before waking to find himself black and blue.

'Serious attack'

Colin MacAulay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked the nun if this happened and she replied: "I'm not aware of it happening. I can only say what I remember.

"That incident has shocked me but I can't remember it happening."

Mr MacAulay said: "Is it at all feasible that you would have forgotten an event where you were involved in what seems would have been a serious attack on a young child?"

She replied "I don't think I would have done", adding she was not leaving open the possibility she has blacked the memory out.

The resident told the inquiry he was later "persecuted" by the nun who would "hit us and slap us when were least expecting it" and also hit him with a cricket bat.

She denied the cricket bat incident and said she had "no recollection" of the other allegations.

Physical punishment

Questioned if she used corporal punishment on the children at the home, which closed in the 1980s, she said: "I did administer a slap on the legs or slap on the hand but I wouldn't have done any corporal punishment."

She said it was "hard to know how to discipline the children" and nuns were encouraged to talk things through with them, but on occasions this was a "waste of time".

She said she saw her staff carrying out physical punishment, adding: "It wouldn't have been just willy nilly, there would have been some reason for it."

Questioned on force-feeding and evidence that children were punished for bed-wetting, the nun said some children who did not eat their food at one meal would have it heated up for the next to encourage self-discipline but said she was "not aware" of children being force-fed.

She also told the inquiry there was an alarm system fitted to wake children up in the night when they wet the bed which was activated by urine but was aimed at "helping the child get up to the toilet".

The inquiry, before Lady Smith, continues.