Up to 400 children who died at a Scottish orphanage are believed to have been dumped in a mass grave, research has revealed.
The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul ran the Smyllum Park orphanage in Lanark from 1864 until it closed in 1981.
The nuns previously acknowledged that children had been buried in 158 compartments in the town’s St Mary’s Cemetery.
But a joint investigation by the BBC’s File on Four programme and the Sunday Post newspaper has shown 402 children died at the orphanage.
It is thought that most were buried in an unmarked section at St Mary’s.
Former First Minister Jack McConnell, who apologised on behalf of the Scottish Government to victims of care home abuse in 2004, said: ‘After so many years of silence, we must now know the truth of what happened.’
This is the unmarked grave where hundreds of the orphans are believed to be buried in Lanark
The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul ran the Smyllum Park orphanage, pictured, in Lanark from 1864 until it closed in 1981
Analysis of 15,000 records has found that an average of one child died at the home, pictured, every three months. It is not suggested that any people pictured here were involved
Analysis of 15,000 records has found that an average of one child died at the home every three months.
It is believed most, without families able to pay for funerals, were buried at St Mary’s.
As the youngsters were from places across Scotland, spot checks with other authorities found only two were laid to rest elsewhere.
A total of 11,601 residents passed through Smyllum Park during its decades in operation, according to evidence given at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.
Records show names and dates of birth and death. Descriptions of causes of death include accidents and diseases of the time such as TB, flu and scarlet fever. Some died of malnutrition.
Eddie McColl, 73, pictured, a former resident at Smyllum along with four of his siblings, lost his brother Francis, 13, in August 1961
It means the death rate among residents, aged one to 14, was at least 30 deaths per 1,000.
According to National Records of Scotland figures, the highest mortality rate among this age group was in 1901 when 10.4 deaths per 1,000 were recorded.
Janice Carberry, whose brother David passed away in 1952 at the age of four, said there were no records showing where he was buried.
But she claimed one of her brothers had been told the boy was put in St Mary’s cemetery ‘in a wee corner of grass’.
Eddie McColl, 73, a former resident at Smyllum along with four of his siblings, lost his brother Francis, 13, in August 1961.
The death rate among residents at the home, pictured, was at least 30 deaths per 1,000
Mr McColl, who had left the orphanage by that time, was only told by the nuns that his brother had died after an accident.
But the pensioner said: ‘I’ve heard from kids who were at Smyllum that someone was showing them how to use a golf club and asked them to step back. But Francis didn’t hear it and got struck on the head, that’s what killed him.
‘Smyllum was a hell. I have no idea where he is buried and have asked the Daughters of Charity repeatedly.’
In a statement, the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul said: ‘We are core participants in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and are co-operating fully with that inquiry.
‘We remain of the view that this inquiry is the most appropriate forum for such investigations.
A total of 11,601 residents passed through Smyllum Park during its decades in operation, according to evidence given at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Eddie’s brother Francis is pictured playing with cars on the floor of the home’s nursery
This photograph was taken in 1944 shortly before the death of 21 year old Louise Langlois, fifth from the left in the back row
‘Given the ongoing work of the inquiry, we do not wish to provide any interviews.
‘We wish to again make clear that our values are totally against any form of abuse and thus we offer our most sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone who suffered any form of abuse while in our care.’
The charity has previously appeared at the inquiry in Edinburgh where it claimed there was no evidence of abuse or mistreatment. But it has been called back to give further evidence in November.
The hearing will also consider four other residential care establishments run by the Daughters of Charity.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Clearly these are serious allegations and our thoughts are with the families of those affected.
‘We recognise the great hurt and damage caused to those who were abused in childhood by the very individuals and institutions who should have cared for them.
‘That is why we established an independent inquiry into the abuse of children in care.’