Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry: Children in charity homes ‘did suffer abuse’

The central building at Quarrier's village in the 1920s
Children living at Quarriers homes were among those abused.

By Bill Heaney

BBC Scotland is reporting that children in homes run by Quarriers, Aberlour Child Care Trust, and Barnardo’s suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has concluded.

Lady Smith, who is chairing the inquiry, found in the first phase of the inquiry that children at Smyllum Park orphanage were sexually abused and beaten with leather straps, hairbrushes and crucifixes,

And that the homes were places of fear, threat, and excessive discipline.said children who were at the institutions between 1921 and 1991 lived in “harsh, rigid regimes”.

She also said “scant regard was paid to their dignity”.

Quarriers, Aberlour and Barnardo’s have apologised for the abuse suffered.

In her second phase findings published today, Lady Smith said: “Many children did not find the warmth, care, and compassionate comfort they needed.

“The previous lives of the children who came into the care of the QAB (Quarriers, Aberlour and Barnardo’s) providers had all been blighted in some way, whether by being abused in the family home, the death of one or more parent, parental illness, families who could not cope with caring for them, abandonment, or by other similar circumstances.

“The QAB providers could have made a real and positive difference to every child, but that did not happen. For many, further damage was inflicted upon them.”

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The inquiry heard evidence from 110 witnesses during the third phase of the inquiry, which lasted 43 days from October 2018 to February 2019.

It considered evidence about the nature and extent of abuse of children in care at institutions run by the QAB providers at locations across Scotland.

The inquiry also examined any systems, policies and procedures in place and how they were applied.

Lady Smith added: “The QAB providers now recognise and accept that there was widespread abuse of children in their establishments. They have all apologised for it.

“A particularly frank and clear apology was offered on behalf of Quarriers by their current chief executive. Counsel for Barnardo’s and for Aberlour indicated that those providers, having heard evidence in this case study, also tendered their apologies.”

Previous inquiry findings

Smyllum Park

Children at the Smyllum Park Orphanage were sexually abused and beaten with leather straps, hairbrushes and crucifixes.

The first phase of the inquiry looked at children under the care of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul between 1917 and 1981, with a particular focus on Smyllum Park Orphanage, Lanark, and Bellevue Children’s Home in Rutherglen.

It found that children at Smyllum Park orphanage were sexually abused and beaten with leather straps, hairbrushes and crucifixes and that the homes were places of fear, threat, and excessive discipline.

Lady Smith said the children found “no love, no compassion, no dignity and no comfort”.

Lady Smith.jpg 2 

Lady Smith said Nazareth House orphanages were places of fear, hostility and confusion.

The second phase concentrated on homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Aberdeen, Cardonald, Lasswade and Kilmarnock between 1933 and 1984.

It concluded that some children at the Nazareth House orphanages in Scotland were subjected to sexual abuse of the “utmost depravity”.

Lady Smith said the children’s homes were places of fear, hostility and confusion where youngsters were physically abused and emotionally degraded “with impunity”.

The fourth phase findings have not yet been published.

David Whelan, spokesman for Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers (FBGA), said the findings “vindicate” its campaign for a public investigation.

He accepted that the organisation was now “very different” but added: “Lady Smith’s findings are unequivocal in their condemnation of the past Quarriers organisation and the effects of this abuse and its impact on those who suffered such abuse in Quarriers past care.

“The extent and nature of the abuse which Lady Smith has found to have occurred in Quarriers is truly shocking.”

Lady Smith will take the findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the inquiry and decides on her final recommendations.

The inquiry is now in its fifth phase and is examining the alleged abuse of children who were sent to other countries, mainly Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Alice Harper, chief executive of Quarriers, said: “We repeat our unreserved apology to those who suffered abuse while in our care and acknowledge that children were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.”

She added that Quarriers was committed to doing all it could to help survivors and families.

“We understand it may be difficult for former residents and survivors to make contact and our door remains open for anyone who wishes to speak to us and share their experiences, both good and bad,” she said.

Aberlour’s chief executive SallyAnn Kelly said: “We welcome today’s interim findings from Lady Smith and wish to again reiterate our unreserved apology to those who suffered abuse while in the care of Aberlour.

“Undoubtedly the report is difficult to read in many places and includes harrowing testimonies from people who suffered great harm as children. We would like to acknowledge the strength and courage of all of those who were able to come forward.

“Aberlour is committed to ensuring that we continue to learn lessons from our past and improve our support to children and their families.”

Those who continue to come forward to the inquiry with evidence about the care provided by Quarriers, Aberlour or Barnardo’s will still be considered by Lady Smith.


  1. It just goes to show how rotten the so called caring institutions were, and especially so the religious ones.

    But they were not alone lurking under the veneer of respectability.

    Indeed, as the enquiry into Sir James Saville showed after his death, abuse was much more widely spread, and to the extent, ipso facto, that it was sanctioned at the highest levels in the land.

    And that also, in the perceived threat of the exposure of a paedophile ring at the heart of the Thatcher government is why many bieve that the nationalist solicitor Willie MacRae was murdered by secret service security agents to keep the matter covered up.

    Would it happen again. Well maybe not to the same extent. But then again, just think about the under age sex allegations that have emerged about Prince Andrew, his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein and the daughter of the ex-press baron Robert Maxwell.

    Only through persistent court action in another country, and with great difficulty too, have these allegations about Prince Andrew emerged from under the cloak of cover up.

  2. These institutions and organisations are and were staffed by hypocrites, by unscrupulous deviants who took advantage of children and harmed them mentally and physically for life. To make matters worse, these “religious” were protected by their bishops and fellow priests. All these organisations should cut out the waffle and get on with making restitution to their victims. Their appalling behaviour has been unChristian to say the last. Where people were maltreated in lay institutions, they too should be compensated. To lay the blame for delays on lawyers and insurance companies is unscrupulous and disingenuous. None of these people should be labelled worse than any of the others or treated differently. They should all pay up. Now. The judge in the Abuse Inquiry, Lady Smith is a brave woman who has done a dirty, painstaking job for the Government. She should be recognised and rewarded accordingly.

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