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Survivor Story -in their own words Print E-mail

 Survivor Stories -in their own words.

This Story is in two parts, each are large files so unfortuately not suitable for dial-up download.

Please click here for part one.

Please click here for part two. 


John’s Story

I am now in my 60s but the bad memories of my time in care still come to mind.

Even though I was only in the orphanage for a year the effects have had a long term impact on me that some people might not understand.

I was placed in care due to my father being killed in action during the second world war which left my mother to care for me on her own.  Sadly she contracted Tuberculosis in 1954 and had to go into hospital for a year. Mum thought that I would get proper care and attention there whilst she was being treated for her illness.  I don’t blame my mother for what happened as she was taking expert advice from social work and she thought what she was doing was for the best.

The orphanage I was placed in was split into various age groups and I was sent to the group for those who were 8 to 15 years old.  We were also split into different dormitories, where a nun (Sister), was in charge of about 40 of the big boys.  We all were given numbers, mine was 73.

The Sister who was in charge of the boys is the most evil woman that I have ever met - she ruled with fear and used a stick to beat us for the slightest thing.  I remember one occasion when I asked to go to the toilet (the word toilet was classed as a dirty word) she ridiculed me in front of the other boys and beat me about the face and head until I wet myself.  

This abuse took place almost every night with her targeting us all at different times. It was hard to see and hear another boy being abused by someone who was meant to be a holy person and represent Jesus Christ.  She made me feel degraded and very low with her nasty words and crude names. 

There were countless other abuses and beatings, all for no reason other than we didn’t stand in line properly, eat our food quietly. There was no logic to why we were beaten -  it was just the nun’s whims that dictated it.

I was sent to work in the kitchen and life became a lot better as the Sister in charge would talk to me and showed me respect.   I was lucky I only spent one year at the orphanage, what about the others who had to spend years in such a place?

What we had to go through wasn’t the sort of punishment given out for being unruly or misbehaving -  the slaps or smacking that was more accepted in those days -  it was sheer brutality and mental cruelty from people who were in a position of trust and to innocent children.

I want to stress that not all of the nuns were evil, but there were many who were, and they give good nuns a bad name.  Someday those who inflicted cruelty on defenceless children will have to answer to the proper authorities and God.

I left the orphanage in 1955 and went back to stay with my mother who was out of hospital by then.  I went to school till I was 15 and then drifted from job to job until at aged 17 I decided to join the army and enlisted in the 1st Battalion Cameronians, Scottish Rifles.  I was stationed in Germany for almost four years then moved to Redford Barracks in Edinburgh until I was demobbed after serving 6 years for Queen and Country.

In all the time since 1955 when I left the orphanage I never did I let the memories of abuse get to me.  Luckily I have been happily married for over forty years and have two daughters and two lovely grandchildren.

The climate of change that has enabled abuse survivors being able to disclose their experiences gave me the chance to meet with other survivors. These meetings have opened my eyes to the amount of abuse that happened in other children’s homes and institutions.  I was astounded to say the least -  their stories of physical, mental and spiritual abuse are horrific.

There have been champions amongst those survivors who have given their time and energy for us to be heard, recognised, and given justice.  This campaigning has led to a public apology to all in care survivors by Jack McConnell on behalf of the people of Scotland.

This was good at the time, but in hindsight it’s not the people of Scotland who are due to apologise to us - they didn’t commit any crime - it’s the institutions like the Catholic church that need to apologise and atone for the abuse they committed on innocent children.