Boarding schools become next focus of Scottish Abuse Inquiry

Lady Smith

Lady Smith is calling for witnesses who experienced abuse at boarding schools including Keil School, Fettes College and Gordonstoun.

By Democrat reporter

BBC Scotland is reporting that the sixth phase of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry will highlight abuse at boarding schools.

Hearings in 2020 will focus on seven schools including Fettes College, Gordonstoun, Loretto School and Merchiston Castle School.

Lady Smith, who leads the inquiry, has urged people affected by abuse in these establishments to contribute evidence.

It will come after the current phase on care experiences involving male religious orders.

The 2020 hearings team is currently investigating seven boarding schools around Scotland.

‘Recent experiences’

As well as Fettes, Gordonstoun, Loretto and Merchiston Castle, Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, and the former Keil School, Dumbarton, are also under investigation as is Morrison’s Academy, Crieff, for the time it was a boarding school.

Lady Smith said: “In 2020, we plan to progress to case study hearings in relation to our investigations into abuse in boarding schools.

“We are interested in hearing from anyone about their experiences in boarding schools, particularly people who may have more recent experiences of having attended one of the schools currently under wider investigation from the 1980s up to December 2014.

“I would encourage anyone who has evidence to offer in relation to any of the investigations listed on our website to get in touch. We want to hear from you.

“I know that some people have already made a report to the police or to other agencies/persons and may have been involved in other investigations. That does not matter – please also talk to us.”

‘The inquiry needs to make sure it doesn’t happen again’

Donald MacLeod attended Fort Augustus boarding school on the banks of Loch Ness, from 1961.

He was groomed by Fr Aidan Duggan, an Australian monk who taught there.

He told BBC Scotland News he was raped in the school darkroom at the age of 14, but neither the headmaster or his parents believed him.

He said: “The acting headmaster Fr Green told me I shouldn’t lie and it was a mortal sin and I would be condemned to hell for telling lies about a priest.

“But strangely enough he didn’t cane me as was the normal penalty for telling lies.

“When I told my mother she said not to be stupid, priests don’t do that sort of thing.”

Mr Macleod suffered alcoholism in later years and only recently came forward to tell his story. He believes that if action had been taken when he complained about what happened to him, then Fr Duggan would not have gone on to abuse other children.

He hopes what victims coming forward to give evidence will lead to better protection of children in future.

He said: “l hope the inquiry will put together some concrete safeguarding so that it doesn’t happen to other young people coming along now.

“I feel that if no one talks about it, nothing will be done.”

Boarding schools

Boarding schools will be the sixth phase of the inquiry and is expected to start next summer.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said in a statement: “The inquiry team has confirmed what was announced in 2015, that boarding schools would be looked at as part of the overall examination of school care accommodation.

“The schools have already worked with the inquiry team since the first announcement and have provided them with a substantial amount of detail.

“That full co-operation will continue through the hearings in 2020 and beyond.

“The safety and welfare of children at school is of paramount importance, and schools have zero tolerance towards staff who fail to live up to these values.

“The independent sector is no different from any other part of the school system in continuing to champion the highest standards of child welfare.”

Keil School by Robert Beacon

Keil School in Dumbarton. Picture by Robert Beacon.

A further phase investigating foster care has also been announced for late 2020.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is examining historical allegations of the abuse of children in care and began taking statements from witnesses in the spring of 2016.

The current hearings, phase four, focus on childcare establishments run by male religious orders.

These hearings are expected to conclude by late this year and will be followed by an examination of the abuse of children who left Scotland through the child migration programme.

Details of how to contact the witness support team can be found at the inquiry’s website.


  1. Well I certainly hope you got your facts checked and not for some Political sacrifices. Was there class 1986 full time boarding at the time of Prof C.H. Tongue. These sorts of things were unheard of. We were Rugby boys. You think we’d succumb to this? More likely to receive kicks on the face if it happens.

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