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I was abused at mass grave orphanage, woman claims

By Lucinda Cameron

A woman has said she was abused at an orphanage run by nuns where the bodies of hundreds of children were buried in a mass grave.

Theresa Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse at Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark in the 1970s.

A BBC and Sunday Post investigation found that at least 400 children from the institution are thought to be buried in an unmarked grave at the town's St Mary's Cemetery.

The orphanage, run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, was home to more than 10,000 children between opening in 1864 and closing in 1981.

A spokesman said it was "shocked and saddened" by the abuse allegations.

Ms Tolmie-McGrane arrived at the orphanage at the age of six in 1968 and said she was first sexually abused by a priest when she was eight.

She told the BBC: "I had a little part-time job cleaning the pews in the church and this particular priest would arrive early and he would ask me to go into a particular room with him and he would ask me to sit on his lap and fondle him.

"He tried to fondle me and I just pulled away."

On one occasion she said that a nun walked in to find the priest abusing her.

She said: "Instead of being angry at him, she got really angry at me. She yanked me by the left arm so hard and flung me across the room and called me a whore and told me to get out of there. I didn't know my arm was broken at the time. It was only realised the next day.

"I think in some ways it was worse than just sexual abuse because I was punished with the broken arm for doing something a priest had forced me to do."

Ms Tolmie-McGrane, who now works in Norway as a psychologist, left the institution at the age of 17 and went on to study at Glasgow University.

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