Huge deal re­vealed as Poor Sis­ters urged to fund me­mo­rial for 400 or­phans buried in mass grave

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - Front Page - By GOR­DON BLACK­StOCK gblack­stock@sun­day­

NuNs who failed to mark the death of 400 chil­dren at their or­phan­age want to sell the land around it for £6m, we can re­veal.

They hope to sell off acres at Smyl­lum de­spite mount­ing calls for a me­mo­rial to the chil­dren buried in a mass grave. One cam­paigner said: “Surely, they must do the right thing.”

THU ORPUR of nunu who ran the or­phanale where more than 400 chil­dren died are tryinl to uell the land around it for £6m, we can re­veal.

Their plans to sell the acres around Smyl­lum Park for mil­lions can be dis­closed amid es­ca­lat­ing de­mands for a me­mo­rial re­mem­ber­ing the names and lives of the lost young­sters.

Our cam­paign to re­mem­ber the chil­dren won all-party sup­port af­ter we re­vealed how at least 402 babies, tod­dlers and teenagers died while be­ing looked af­ter by the nuns – who be­longed to an or­der called the Daugh­ters of Char­ity, worth nearly £60m – in La­nark.

Last week, for the first time, we named the chil­dren who died at Smyl­lum – some­thing the Daugh­ters of Char­ity re­fused to do for decades.

The chil­dren are be­lieved to have been buried in a mass un­marked grave in St Mary’s Ceme­tery near the for­mer chil­dren’s home.

Cam­paign­ers and for­mer res­i­dents yes­ter­day joined the calls for a me­mo­rial.

Josie Drage-Dawes, 73, who al­leged she was phys­i­cally abused at the home, said: “To think the nuns are se­cretly chas­ing a £6m sale while they’ve been un­able to re­mem­ber the lost chil­dren is un­for­give­able.”

Smyl­lum Park shut for good in 1981 with the Daugh­ters of Char­ity – who were pre­vi­ously called the Poor Sis­ters of Char­ity – sell­ing off the home to de­vel­op­ers who turned it into three-bed­room flats.

To­day, we can re­veal the or­der of nuns still own huge swathes of land around the La­nark­shire town and have set up a prop­erty de­vel­op­ment firm to han­dle its sale.

The com­pany – headed up by four di­rec­tors in­clud­ing two se­nior nuns – es­ti­mates the 40 hectares of land is worth £6m to de­vel­op­ers.

The land stretches over the north and south side of a ma­jor road that goes through the Royal Burgh of La­nark and in­cludes a derelict farm.

The or­der was gifted the land and Smyl­lum House by a bene­fac­tor in the 19th Cen­tury.

Ac­cord­ing to the char­ity’s ac­counts, which show it is worth nearly £60m, the prop­erty firm 1860 Lim­ited was set up in 2010. A year later it trans­ferred the land as well as a loan of £150,000 to ne­go­ti­ate the sale.

But that has stut­tered due to the hous­ing crash and the six­fig­ure sum was re­turned to the Daugh­ters of Char­ity in 2014.

Last night, a cam­paigner said the Daugh­ters of Char­ity’s wealth was at odds with their pre­vi­ous claims of poverty.

Janet Docherty’s late hus­band Frank, a for­mer Smyl­lum res­i­dent, fought for a head­stone to fi­nally be erected in 2004.

At the time, the nuns said they could not de­tail how many chil­dren were buried at

Frank was told ‘we are just a poor or­der of nuns, we can’t af­ford it’ Jatet Docherty.

St Mary’s and the stone did not name any of them.

Janet said: “Frank had to twist the Daugh­ters of Char­ity’s arm to fund a me­mo­rial at St Mary’s Ceme­tery for the dead chil­dren.

“He was asked to get a quote, which came in at around £6000.

“He thought it was rea­son­able and asked the Daugh­ters of Char­ity to pay for it.

“But he was told ‘we are just a poor or­der of nuns, Frank.

“We can’t af­ford to pay for things like that.’

“Frank was hav­ing none of it and per­suaded them by say­ing: ‘Come off it, you have mil­lions in the bank.’

“That worked


they handed over the money. But to learn they are worth so much is un­be­liev­able con­sid­er­ing they al­ways plead poverty.

“I just don’t un­der­stand why they were so re­luc­tant to hand over £6000 when they have land there worth 1000 times that.”

The char­ity – which is based in the Lon­don sub­urb of Mill Hill – made £8m last year in­clud­ing nearly £5m from care homes it runs.

It also has an in­vest­ment port­fo­lio worth more than £30m.

Some of its money is in­vested in Na­tional Grid, Trans­port for Lon­don, Net­work Rail and a Ger­man bank which is pro­vid­ing loans to build a coal-fired power sta­tion in Greece. Cam­paign­ers now say the re­li­gious or­der should in­stead use some of its wealth to fund a last­ing me­mo­rial that names the dead chil­dren we re­vealed last week af­ter a joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion with BBC Ra­dio’s File on Four.

Cather­ine Cor­less, who un­cov­ered a sim­i­lar mass chil­dren’s grave at a for­mer home run by nuns in Tuam, Ire­land, said: “We have made up plaques for the chil­dren in Tuam and I think the same should be done in La­nark.

“It cost us around £6000 and the nuns who ran the home in Tuam – Bon Se­cour Nuns – were even­tu­ally per­suaded to make a do­na­tion. I un­der­stand there is al­ready a me­mo­rial in La­nark but it is im­por­tant that the names of all the kids are re­mem­bered.”

The call has been echoed by abuse cam­paign­ers.

Dave Sharp of the Seek and Find Ev­ery­one group, who had a brother and sis­ter at Smyl­lum Park, said: “I’d like to see the Daugh­ters of Char­ity take full re­spon­si­bil­ity and take care of a me­mo­rial like this now.

“The fam­i­lies of these chil­dren do not de­serve to have this is­sue swept un­der the car­pet.”

Yes­ter­day, politicians from all the ma­jor par­ties backed the cam­paign for a me­mo­rial.

Mark McDon­ald, SNP Child­care Min­is­ter, said: “I was shocked and sad­dened to read about the Smyl­lum Park in­ves­ti­ga­tion in last week’s Sun­day Post, and I can only imag­ine how those who have a con­nec­tion ei­ther to these chil­dren, or to the for­mer or­phan­age it­self, felt when they read the story.

“Given the sheer scale of what has been un­cov­ered, a me­mo­rial record­ing the many young lives which ended here seems ap­pro­pri­ate and I hope that this is given full con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive leader Ruth David­son said: “It is hard to imag­ine any­thing more de­serv­ing of a last­ing me­mo­rial than this.

“This is some­thing that, if all par­ties work to­gether, could be ar­ranged very quickly.”

Alex Row­ley of Scot­tish Labour also backed the calls: “These chil­dren should not be for­got­ten and an ap­pro­pri­ate me­mo­rial, de­cided by the fam­i­lies and friends of those who died, is the right thing to do.”

Scot­tish Lib­eral Democrats leader Willie Ren­nie said: “The dis­cov­ery at Smyl­lum was shock­ing.

“A me­mo­rial would be a fit­ting trib­ute and would be the op­por­tu­nity to bring clo­sure to hose af­fected.”

Pa­trick Harvie, co-con­vener of the Scot­tish Green Party, said: “A me­mo­rial would be a fit­ting trib­ute to those chil­dren who were sadly not given a per­sonal burial.

“A me­mo­rial or plaque will go some way to give fam­i­lies a proper recog­ni­tion of their loss.”

Last night the Daugh­ters of Char­ity, who have en­listed a Lon­don PR firm to han­dle me­dia in­quiries since our story broke, re­fused to com­ment.

Smyl­lum Park, now flats, stands on edge of the land up for sale. The Daugh­ters of Char­ity – for­merly the Poor Sis­ters of Char­ity – own 40 hectares of land around Smyl­lum Park, out­lined in white, left. The for­mer or­phan­age has al­ready been sold and...

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