Priest mo­lested me at 8 but nun blamed me and broke my arm

Scottish Daily Mail - - TERROR ON THE TUBE - By Sam Walker

A WOMAN has claimed she was mo­lested by a priest and then beaten by the nun she thought had come to res­cue her while liv­ing at an or­phan­age at the cen­tre of a mass grave scan­dal.

Theresa Tolmie-McGrane said she was just eight years old when the priest tried to sex­u­ally abuse her at Smyl­lum Park in La­nark.

Now a 55-year-old aca­demic, she spent 11 years at the home through­out the 1970s and said chil­dren were reg­u­larly beaten, forced to eat their own vomit and told to sleep in soiled sheets.

Mrs Tolmie-McGrane is due to speak about her ex­pe­ri­ence to the Child Abuse In­quiry in Ed­in­burgh next month.

Her com­ments fol­low a BBC and Sun­day Post in­ves­ti­ga­tion which found 402 chil­dren from the in­sti­tu­tion, run by the Daugh­ters of Char­ity of St Vin­cent de Paul, may have been buried in an un­marked grave at the town’s St Mary’s Ceme­tery.

Speak­ing from her home in the Nor­we­gian city of Fredrik­stad, Mrs Tolmie-McGrane said: ‘The first sex­ual abuse was with a priest when I was eight.

‘I had a lit­tle part-time job clean­ing the pews in the church and this par­tic­u­lar priest would ar­rive early and he would ask me to go into a par­tic­u­lar room with him and he would ask me to sit on his lap and fon­dle him. He tried to fon­dle me and I just pulled away.’

Mrs Tolmie-McGrane said the as­sault was then in­ter­rupted by a nun who walked in on the vile act but, in­stead of res­cu­ing her, as­saulted her with such vi­o­lence that she suf­fered a bro­ken arm.

She added: ‘I thought: “Yes, fi­nally some­one is re­al­is­ing what’s go­ing on here”.

‘But in­stead of be­ing an­gry at him, she got re­ally an­gry at me. She yanked me by the left arm so hard and flung me across the room and called me a whore and told me to get out of there. I didn’t know my arm was bro­ken at the time. It was only the day af­ter that we re­alised.

‘Every child was beaten, pun­ished, locked in a dark room, made to eat their own vomit and I would say that most of us had our mouths rinsed out with car­bolic soap.’

Mrs Tolmie-McGrane ar­rived at the La­nark­shire or­phan­age in 1968 along with her older sis­ters when she was six years old. She said: ‘I re­mem­ber lik­ing it ini­tially. I thought, “Wow, loads of places to play”. But as soon as I walked into the play­room, I vom­ited.

‘A cou­ple of chil­dren came to clean it up but, as soon as the so­cial worker left, that was my first beat­ing.

‘One of the nuns came in and lit­er­ally pulled me by the ear, which was re­ally painful, and kind of flung my across the room and re­ally tore into me and said, “You clean that up young lady or I’ll make you eat it”.’

As the years went by, the beat­ings be­came more se­vere, said Mrs Tolmie-McGrane. She added: ‘When you wet the bed you were stripped in the morn­ing and you had to take your sheets along a cor­ri­dor to a cold shower. If they were re­ally nasty, some­times they would make you sleep in the sheets for sev­eral days.’

She said that by the time she left the or­phan­age at the age of 17, she was an emo­tional wreck. De­spite be­ing the first child to leave the home with Higher qual­i­fi­ca­tions, she strug­gled to cope dur­ing her first year of a de­gree in mod­ern lan­guages at Glas­gow Univer­sity. She had to de­lay her grad­u­a­tion and at­tend ther­apy, be­fore meet­ing her hus­band and mov­ing to Nor­way.

She said: ‘Ev­ery­one who went to Smyl­lum had ei­ther been aban­doned, abused, ne­glected or had lost their fam­ily, so the im­pact of what I went through, on top of that, had a ma­jor ef­fect on my life. I had a lot of prob­lems af­ter I left.’

Now a doc­tor in psy­chol­ogy, work­ing with vic­tims of abuse and rape, she re­flects: ‘Your past is part of you, you’ll never get away from it, but it doesn’t have to de­fine you. All of the stuff I went through I now use on a daily ba­sis to help other peo­ple.’

It was only when Mrs TolmieMcGrane was ap­proached to ap­pear in a BBC doc­u­men­tary that she be­came aware of the on­go­ing child abuse in­quiry.

A Daugh­ters of Char­ity spokesman who gave ev­i­dence to the in­quiry in June told the BBC: ‘We are shocked and sad­dened by these ac­counts de­scrib­ing acts that are al­leged to have hap­pened at Smyl­lum Park nearly 50 years ago. We would like to of­fer a sin­cere and heart­felt apol­ogy to any­one who suf­fered any form of abuse while at our fa­cil­i­ties.’

File on 4: The Se­crets of Smyl­lum Park, BBC Ra­dio 4, Septem­ber 24, 5pm.

‘She flung me across the room’

Young vic­tim: Theresa, aged 6

To­day: Mrs Tolmie-McGrane

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