BBC news investigation: bodies of hundreds of children buried in Scottish mass grave

An investigation by BBC News uncovered a mass grave in Lanarkshire: the children were all residents of a care home run by Catholic nuns

11 September 2017, 2:12pm
 St Mary's Cemetery in Lanark where the bodies of more than 400 children are believed to be buried (Photo: BBC)
St Mary's Cemetery in Lanark where the bodies of more than 400 children are believed to be buried (Photo: BBC)
The bodies of hundreds of children are believed to be buried in a mass grave in Lanarkshire, southern Scotland, according to an investigation by BBC News.

The children were all residents of a care home run by Catholic nuns, the BBC News reports. It is believed that some 400 children have been buried in a section of St Mary’s Cemetery.

The research by the File on 4 programme, in conjunction with the Sunday Post newspaper, focused on Smyllum Park Orphanage which opened in 1864 and provided care for orphans or children from broken homes. It closed in 1981, having looked after 11,600 children.

The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, which ran the home, refused to comment on the findings, BBC News said.

The burial plot was first uncovered by two former residents of Smyllum in 2003: Frank Docherty and Jim Kane discovered an overgrown, unmarked section of St Mary's Cemetery during their efforts to reveal physical abuse which they said many former residents had suffered.

In 2004, the campaigners said the Daughters of Charity told them their records suggested that children had been buried in 158 compartments in the graveyard.

Frank and Jim, who both died earlier this year, believed however, that the numbers were far higher as the nuns had indicated their records were incomplete.

The investigation by File on 4 and the Sunday Post indicates they were right; at least 400 children are understood to be buried in the plot.

The death records indicate that most of the children died of natural causes, from diseases common at the time such as TB, pneumonia and pleurisy.

Analysis of the records show that a third of those who died were aged five or under. Very few of those who died, 24 in total, were aged over 15, and most of the deaths occurred between 1870 and 1930.

The investigation found that one of those believed to be buried there is Francis McColl. He died in 1961, aged 13 and his death certificate indicates he died from a brain haemorrhage.

His brother Eddie spent decades wondering what had happened to Francis. At one point, he heard he'd been struck on the head by a golf club, which now chimes with the evidence of the death certificate.

But Eddie could find no trace of where his brother had been buried. "It's ridiculous," he told the team. "I'm not happy about that. Whoever is behind this, I hope they can live with themselves."

Many allegations of abuse at the care home were also uncovered by File on 4 and the Sunday Post, including beatings, punches, public humiliations and psychological abuse.