Former children’s home resident thought house mother ‘was going to kill her’

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A former resident of a children’s home told how she feared her house mother was going to kill her during a bathtime assault, putting soap in her mouth and then pushing her head under water.

The woman, who stayed at Quarrier’s Village in Renfrewshire, also recalled a time she and other youngsters were made to stand on a young girl – describing this as one of her “worst memories” from the home.

She lived there in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but she told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry she did not believe her house mother was “fit” to look after children.

Quarrier’s Village, developed in the late 19th century, consisted of dozens of homes for orphans and destitute children known as “cottages” which were run by “house parents”.

Between 1878 and the mid 1980s, more than 30,000 youngsters stayed there.

The woman, now in her late 60s, recalled on one occasion at bath time her house mother was very angry, and had put soap in her mouth before pushing her head beneath the water.

“I clearly remember thinking she was going to kill me,” she said.

She told the inquiry the attack only finished when her sister threw something towards the woman, saying: “She got a belting for that.”

She added: “I don’t recall the incident that led to it.”

The witness also told about another attack while she was queuing to leave for school.

It was heard she had been “upset” about having to go and was pulled out of the line by the house mother, before being knocked unconscious.

“She kicked me in my abdomen, I was lifted off the ground and there was a stone sink which I hit my head off,” she stated: “I came to and I was hysterical, I couldn’t stop screaming.”

Another incident, described as one of her “worst memories”, involved her and other children being made to stand on a young girl who was lying on the floor.

She said: “She was screaming. It’s probably one of the worst memories, it’s the guilt that we would do that.”

The witness said her house mother was not “fit” to look after children, but wanted to make it clear that others who had been staying with different adults at the estate would have had a “very different experience”.

She added: “It could have been a really nice place and I think it was for some children.”

Meanwhile, another former resident described racist abuse she suffered from helpers and other children when she stayed at the establishment during the mid-1950s and early 1960s.

The witness, now in her mid-60s, said: “I used to think I was dirty all the time (because of the names I was called).

“I used to try and clean myself – I used to get a scrubbing brush.”

Earlier a former resident had deliver a scathing attack on the Quarriers organisation, saying it needed to take “responsibility” for the impact such incidents had on people’s lives.

The witness said those who stayed at Quarrier’s Village had been left living as “charity cases”.

She also claimed records from her time at the establishment, where she lived from the late 1950s until the late 1960s, had been hidden from her by Quarrier’s.

The woman strongly condemned the organisation at the inquiry after chair Lady Smith said she could “be angry” if she wanted to when giving evidence.

Speaking on Friday, the witness said: “We are walking problems with illnesses, we are costing the government with benefits, using daft therapies.

“This is costing a lot of money, this shouldn’t be happening – they’re responsible, they need to take responsibility.

“They weren’t all wonderful – they were dishonest and they were cruel.

“They had a profound effect on people, we were kids.

“We weren’t even street-wise, we lived in their container, so even the big world outside scared the hell out of me. I never knew another fear.”

The witness, also now in her 60s, described being physically and mentally abused by the people in charge of her care.

She was also force-fed cold liver in what she described was an authoritative regime at the establishment in her time.

The witness also spoke of a man who worked in a nearby shop who would prey upon the children for his own sexual pleasure, saying she encountered it from the age of three.

During the opening statements to phase three of the inquiry, Quarrier’s apologised to those who had suffered abuse while in its care.

The inquiry in Edinburgh continues on Tuesday.

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