Smyllum Park
Smyllum Park Orphanage, which shut down in 1981 and housed more than 11,000 children since it opened in 1864. Getty Images


  • The girl was told you're "lying to protect a man of God, so it's okay to lie".
  • Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry hears testimony from woman who waives her right to anonymity.

Nuns broke the arm of an eight-year-old girl and threatened to break the other one after they found the child being sexually abused by a priest, an inquiry has heard.

The incident was one of a number that occurred in 1970 at Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark, South Lanarkshire. The orphanage, which closed in the 1980s, was run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.

Theresa Tolmie-McGrane waived her right to anonymity to recount details of the horrific abuse she endured.

She told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry how she hoped the nun might stop the priest when she was told what he was doing. Instead, the nun threw her against a wall, breaking her arm.

"I thought 'Praise the Lord... she's going to be angry with him and protect me,'" said Tolmie-McGrane. "Her whole face became distorted. But she was angry with me.

"She called me a whore, she took my left arm and yanked me out of [the priest's] lap and flung me across to the wall [saying] 'Get the f**k out of here,'" the girl was reported saying in the Daily Record.

Another nun later gave the girl a "real hiding," threatening to break the other arm if she told anyone what had happened. The nun assured the girl that she would be "lying to protect a man of God, so it's okay to lie".

Twice, the girl reported her situation to the police, telling them: "The nuns are hurting me." The only action taken was her being "marched back in" and beaten by a nun.

Tolmie-McGrane said that the priest, who abused her for months, said to her: "I need you to be a soldier of God, a good little soldier."

The victim lived at Smyllum Park for 11 years, after arriving there 1968 when she was six. She is now a psychologist living in Norway.

Other abuses were detailed, including being slapped after waking up from a nightmare, being forced into freezing showers as punishment for wetting the bed, and numerous beatings with heavy crosses by nuns.

"I would say every child at some point would have been hit with a cross," she said.

Children were told to eat their own vomit, had their mouths rinsed out with soap and were force-fed inedible food, according to her testimony.

Among her own injuries, she described broken fingers, a broken tailbone, a broken tooth and a facial scar. "I have, unfortunately, physical scars, not just emotional ones," she said.

"I think it's important the Catholic Church figures out who the bad nuns and priests are and has them removed. The child should always be believed."

The inquiry informed her that a nun who formerly worked at the orphanage during the time of the abuse had refused to accept the allegations. "All I can say is I have no reason to lie, but she maybe has a lot to lose," Tolmie-McGrane said in response.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry continues, and is chaired by Lady Smith. The inquiry has also been investigating whether the bodies of at least 400 children connected to Smyllum Park were buried in an unmarked mass grave.