A Glasgow woman has told of the horrific abuse she endured at a residential school she was sent to as a child.
Lynn Sheerin was one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds sent from Glasgow to Fornethy House in Kilry, Angus, for short-term respite care.
Instead, the children were subjected to mental, physical, and sexual abuse by the adults entrusted to look after them.
Opened in August 1960, after being gifted to Glasgow City Council (known then as Glasgow Corporation) by the Coats family, Fornethy House was to be used to support disadvantaged girls.
Hundreds of girls were taken from schools across Glasgow every year, with many facing unimaginable abuse that would haunt the rest of their lives.
It would take 15 years after Fornethy House finally closed for the abuse to come to light with the majority of victims too traumatised to tell anyone, even their parents, what they had endured.
Lynn, 55, hid her trauma from her family and husband until a news story appeared on the television while she was at home.
She told Glasgow Live: “I was taking a cup through to the kitchen when I heard the words Fornethy House and abuse on a news report. I stopped in my tracks. My whole world collapsed.”
She explained: “I was sent to Fornethy House when I was seven or eight years old in around 1975. My mum didn’t keep well and I can only assume that is why we got to go. It was the school that would organise for girls to go – we were told it was going to be like a holiday.
“I remember getting off the bus. I was alone and didn’t know a single soul and was crying and asking for my mum. I was told to stop crying and that my mum didn’t exist for the next six weeks. I knew then that this wasn’t going to be a holiday.
“I was subjected to physical and mental abuse but I’m not 100% sure about sexual abuse – I haven’t got any memory of that. The teachers used to throw parties and there would be men around.
“Girls would be taken from their beds in the middle of the night while the parties were on. Some of the survivors believe they were drugged because they passed out after drinking milk.
“I was a bed-wetter so they would come round and put a hand up my skirt throughout the day to check if my underwear was wet. I was shoved, pushed, and force-fed. If you were force-fed and threw up, they would force-feed you the vomit.
“They would take the sheets from my bed and shove them in my face and scrub between my legs with a brush.”
While at Fornethy House the children had no way to contact their families. They were instructed to copy from a blackboard when writing their letters home to not give away any sign of the abuse.
The kitchen staff were not to be spoken to or even looked at by the girls.
For the younger victims, the only form of protection came from older girls who Lynn says tried to shield them from the abuse and “keep them to the side” when they knew what awful fate awaited them.
The mum from Glasgow decided to weave her right to anonymity to ensure that what she and so many other girls endured doesn’t go unreported.
“I previously wanted to remain anonymous but now I know what happened to me”, she added.
“I couldn’t face my family but I eventually told one of my brothers. Hearing him say that he believed me was massive for me. I had always feared that I wouldn’t be believed. My other brother couldn’t believe that I had been carrying it around with me my whole life.
“No one in my family knew. My mum had always questioned why I came back as a bed wetter but that was it.
“The experience stayed with me my whole life. I struggled in school being around adults and taking orders. I also had problems with eating after it.
“I couldn’t speak about it for a very long time. There was a period of time when I was really down and couldn’t tell anyone why but I’m finally stronger now. I’ll come back however many times it takes.
“We need our story out there.”
So far, over 200 women have come forward to claim they were attacked both physically and sexually at Fornethy House, with some passing away before seeing justice.
Many of them have joined the Fornethy House Survivors group, co-founded by Marion Reid, who was sent to Fornethy when she was just eight years old in 1965.
Since launching the group, they have held protests outside the Scottish Government building and Glasgow City Chambers. They have demanded answers on why records that could be vital in helping the survivors finally get the justice they deserve have been lost.
Glasgow City Council has said that as the records were for education, they would have only been retained for five years.
Marion, who now lives in Carluke, told Glasgow Live: “I never put this behind me. I searched everywhere trying to find this place and I never gave up.
“It has affected my whole life. I went through mental health services and trauma counselling. I’ve been speaking about it my whole life.
“I knew my older sister was there but I thought it was just us and maybe I was a bit too sensitive.
Source: GlasgowliveCategories: News