GLASGOW (UNITED KINGDOM)
Irvine Times [Ardrossan, Scotland]
November 15, 2021
By Andy Hamilton
A CATHOLIC children’s home where one Irvine pupil claimed abuse was ‘just part of life’ has been slated at a national inquiry.
Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry Lady Smith published her findings last week on residential care by the Marist Brothers at St Columba’s College, Largs, and St Joseph’s College, Dumfries between 1950 and 1981 concluding that children were sexually abused at both boarding schools.
The Irvine victim told the inquiry how he was repeatedly sexually abused, beaten and shown pornography and horror movies from age eight.
Lady Smith said: “I heard about many aspects of St Columba’s that were shocking and distressing.
“Marist Brothers in positions of trust at both boarding schools violated their monastic vows and breached the trust of children and their families.
“Both schools had flawed systems that allowed abusers driven by sexual motives to have easy access to children in their care.
“At St Columba’s, two particular Brothers with easy access to children were serial sex abusers. They sexually abused children of tender years with impunity. Some children also suffered sadistic treatment associated with sexual abuse.
“Their presence at St Columba’s for a period over 20 years meant that the sexual abuse of children there was a chronic problem that destroyed childhoods and had lasting impact.
“A culture of obedience, fear of severe punishment and the authority of the Catholic Church served to empower abusers, and, conversely, rendered many victims powerless in the belief that their complaints of abuse would not be believed.”
We reported back in 2019, how the Irvine victim, who can only be described as John said: “Sexual abuse was something that was just part of life at school.”
Describing one occasion, where a man showed him a pornographic magazine, John said: “He said ‘do you know what this is – these are photos of naked women’. He said ‘it’s not weird’.”
He added, on another occasion the man showed the young children so called video nasties.
He added: “It was stuff like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre – it was really brutal stuff. Stuff you wouldn’t let kids watch. He was on a sofa and he had his arm around a boy. Looking back on it – it was very odd. We were scared. We used to huddle up together.”
John also said he was physically abused by the brother. He said that on one occasion he was play fighting with the brother and he hit him.
He said that his abuser lost his temper and pulled him into a place called the “punishment room.”
John added: “He was slapping me so hard I couldn’t breathe.”
John also said he was beaten by another brother because he refused to eat his cornflakes after spotting a daddy long legs sitting in them.
He added: “It was making me sick. He told me to eat it. I said I didn’t want to eat it. I got a clip on the head.”
John also told the inquiry how he boarded at St Columba’s. He said he awoke one evening to find the brother who sexually abused him sprinkling water on him.
He added: “I woke up to find something like cold water on my groin area. I could see the back of him running out back to his room.
“He had thrown water over me. I started making noise. The boys beside me woke up and said ‘you’ve wet the bed’.
“He came in to see what the commotion was all about. He said ‘what’s going on?’ I said to him ‘you’ve thrown water over me’.
“He said ‘no I didn’t’. He then took me back into his room and I had to sleep there – I had to take my clothes off.”
Lady Smith said “Systemic failures allowed sexual predators easy access to vulnerable children.”
She will take these findings into account in her report.