NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Orphanage helper hid bed-wetting from nuns to spare child ridicule

Nazareth House in Aberdeen Image copyright Bill Harrison/Geograph
Image caption The volunteer would hide soiled sheets from a nun at Nazareth House in Aberdeen

A woman who volunteered at an Aberdeen orphanage in the 1970s tried to hide a child's bed-wetting from nuns to spare him ridicule.

Margaret White was a teenage student at the University of Aberdeen and helped out at Nazareth House.

The 63-year-old told the Scottish Child Abuse inquiry she would clear away dirty sheets to stop a nine-year-old boy being verbally abused.

She said the child would be called "stupid" and "dirty".

The witness said she had never seen children being hit but she felt the way one boy was treated for bed-wetting was "wrong".

She said: "There was a young lad who did wet the bed and he was, probably, very harshly done by by the sister. He was never physically hurt.

"From what I know now, it was very wrong - a nine-year-old boy wetting the bed and being punished verbally.

"If he was dirty, we would clear away the sheets."


The witness said the nun would call him "stupid boy" and "dirty boy".

She added: "They would ridicule him. He was upset, that's why we wanted to protect him. He would cry, he was distressed."

Ms White said she never reported her concerns because it was "40 years ago" and that she would have been aged about 19 at the time and the nun was much older.

She described the Catholic-run orphanage as being "fun" and set up like it was a family environment.

Image copyright Scottish government
Image caption Lady Smith is leading the inquiry

The inquiry heard Ms White did not see why nuns would try to "cover things up" and still let volunteers into the orphanage and go on summer holidays with the children.

Two other witnesses, Marion and Neil Smillie, looked after one child who was staying at the care home in Aberdeen during the early 1980s.

Mrs Smillie, 62, told how she was employed as a language therapist at the time and was helping a child who had been separated from his mother by social services to go to Nazareth House.

Boiling water

The inquiry heard the child's father had poured boiling water over him as a baby and he developed behavioural issues, which took him out of school.

One instance involved him climbing on to a roof and throwing stones at staff and pupils.

The couple took him, when he was aged about five, into their home a couple of times at the weekend.

Neither of them had undergone an interview process before being allowed to take the boy away, the inquiry heard.

Mrs Smillie said: "(Nazareth House) was an institution, there's no doubting that.

Image caption One witness described the Catholic-run orphanage as being "fun" and set up like a family environment

"At that time, I felt it was as good as you might expect from an institution.

"He was always happy to go back. He was a little boy who was open to talking about his experiences."

She went on to describe the nun in charge of the child's group as "effervescent".

The inquiry heard neither had seen any abuse, verbal or physical, at the orphanage.

The inquiry in Edinburgh before Lady Smith continues.

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