It appears that the remains of at least 400 forgotten children have been found in a secret mass grave on the grounds of a Scottish orphanage that ran from 1864-1981. The orphanage, Smyllum Park, was operated by the Catholic Church, and was staffed by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Smyllum Park had more than 11,000 children in its care over its 120 plus years of operation. Official records state that only 120 children died while under the care of the orphanage, most of which were buried in unmarked plots at St. Mary's Cemetery. But it is the unoffical deaths have that people up in arms. An investigation undertaken by survivors of the institution uncovered a mass grave filled with the remains of roughly 402 babies, toddlers, and older children.
Though records of the deaths seems to imply that the majority of the children died from natural causes such as tuberculosis and pneumonia, there are still many wild accusations of neglect, indifference, and abuse. Two survivors of Smyllum Park stated that the abuse would include beatings and public humiliation.
The lives of children are supposed to be cherished as they are truly innocent in the eyes of the majority of the world, but it appears that at least one-third of the deaths that happened at Smyllum Park were that of children under the age of five, who by no fault of their own ended up under the care of the institution. Most of the deaths appear to have happened during a 60 year span between 1870-1930, a period of time that also included World War One, a war that created a generation of orphans. The death rate would have been roughly three times the national average for children in Scotland.
There are also accusations of murder at the hands of the staff. Francis McColl died there in 1961 at the tender age of 13. His "official" death certificate states that he died from a brain hemorrhage, which could be attributed to any number of different accidents. By Francis' brother, Eddie, had heard many rumors that his brother had been hit over the head with a golf club. To make matters even murkier on the subject, no trace of where his brother may have been buried has even been found, so there is no way to exhume the body to see just how depraved the conditions at the institution were, meaning no one will ever be held accountable.
There was inquiry into the child abuse allegations this past summer, and two representatives of the order of nuns who ran the school testified that they were unable to find any records of abuse happening under their orders care. Let's be realistic here, the Catholic church isn't exactly known for keeping detailed records of the abuse that happened at the hands of those acting on its behalf. The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul released this statement;
“As Daughters of Charity 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 whilst in our care.”
This is second time in recent memory that an institution from by the Catholic church in the Celtic countries took part in rampant child abuse. In Taum, in the western part of Ireland, the remains of 800 babies and children were recently discovered, bringing into question the tactics and morals that were applied in the home.
No one will ever know the true death toll that these orphanages wracked up, but we hope the victims are now resting in peace.