Nazareth Lodge nun beat me with strap for wetting bed, says victim (89)
The oldest witness to appear before the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has recounted how he endured savage daily beatings with a leather strap from a nun in Nazareth Lodge - and how he was sexually abused by other boys at the Belfast home.
Speaking from his wheelchair, the 89-year old man shared harrowing memories of bed-wetting, physical and sexual abuse while in the care of the religious organisation his mother had trusted to look after him.
He told the inquiry session that his punishment for wetting his bed was to be stripped naked, placed in a freezing bath and be doused with buckets of water; he would then have to kneel, still naked, in front of one of the nuns, while she beat him with a leather strap.
Entering Nazareth Lodge in 1929 at the age of three, after his father had abandoned his family, from then on he only saw his mother for an hour each summer.
He was too ashamed of the abuse to tell his mother about what was happening to him.
Although the memories of what he went through at Nazareth Lodge would never leave him, he told the inquiry session that once he left the home, he had made a success of his life living abroad.
"I was free as a bird and I could do what I wanted to do."
The probe into Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge in Belfast opened this week, and follows earlier investigations into treatment of children at the De la Salle Boys Home at Rubane, Kircubbin, into a child migrant scheme which saw Northern Ireland children sent abroad, and into Nazareth Homes in Londonderry.
Yesterday's sitting of the inquiry also heard from two other former child residents of the Belfast home.
They said the nuns sent them to work on farms - but they were never paid for their work, nor did anyone ever come to make sure they were being properly looked after.
Asked if they would accept an apology from the nuns, one witness said: "Apologies are easily given - and don't go far enough."
Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge were homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
They, like the De la Salle Brothers, have admitted that abuse of children went on in homes for which they were responsible - and have apologised to the victims
The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was set up in 2013 to investigate child abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period, up to 1995. It is chaired by former judge Sir Anthony Hart.
Thirteen Northern Ireland institutions are being investigated, including homes run by church organisations, state-run institutions and homes run by Barnardo's.
More than 100 witnesses have come forward in relation to Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge. More than 90 witnesses are expected to give evidence about conditions and practices at the homes during the public hearings at Banbridge Courthouse. The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is the biggest public probe into child abuse ever held in the UK.