Boy at children’s home told ‘your family doesn’t want you’ before forced migration

A nun told a boy “your family doesn’t want you, your country doesn’t want you” as she informed him he was to be sent from Scotland to Australia, an inquiry has heard.

A witness told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry he was 11 when he was forced to migrate overseas in the 1950s.

He was then sexually abused by priests at the care home he was moved to in Tasmania, the inquiry was told.

The man accused the British government at the time of robbing him of a family, a country and an education.

The evidence was heard as the probe in Edinburgh continues examining children’s homes, no longer operating, which were run by the Catholic congregation the Sisters of Nazareth in Scotland.

Christopher Booth, 77, who waived his right to anonymity, said he was admitted to Nazareth House in Aberdeen at the age of 10 in 1951 – a place where he described the regime as “brutal”.

He said he was there for around seven months before he was sent to Australia as a child migrant in 1952.

He told how a nun informed him of the move, telling him: “Your family doesn’t want you, your country doesn’t want you, you’re just garbage”.

Mr Booth said he was given a “thrashing” after a relative went to the home to complain about him being moved overseas and said his mother later told him she had “not agreed to send me to Australia”.

He described how he was sent with a group of children from elsewhere in the UK to Australia and he was then taken out to Tasmania. Nobody showed him where Australia was on a map, he said.

The witness said he was sexually abused by priests in Australia, saying the abuse was “constant” and made him feel ashamed.

Mr Booth also told of receiving a “thrashing” from a priest, saying they “all had their choice of weapon” such as a cane or leather strap.

He said of the British authorities at the time: “I was born a Scotsman.

When I was sent to Australia I was robbed of a family, I was robbed of a country, I was robbed of an education.”

Asked about his earlier time at Nazareth House in Aberdeen, Mr Booth told of regular thrashings at the hands of nuns using canes.

Children would be hit “until you cried”, he said.

“They were very happy to see if they could break you,” he told the probe.

Asked why the thrashings were dished out, he replied: “Looking back with hindsight now, I think they enjoyed it. I think they looked forward to some of the boys breaking the rules.”

Mr Booth told chair Lady Smith “there was no affection shown to any of the boys” at Nazareth House.

Another witness, who cannot be named, told how he was at Nazareth House in Aberdeen for a few weeks in the 1960s.

Asked about the regime there, he said: “The word that comes to mind was cold, brutal.

“It was like the regime was designed for the convenience of the staff rather than considering the needs of the children.

“You were tolerated as long as you did what you were told and if you weren’t, you were punished.

“It was on an industrial scale, it was almost warehousing people. They were doing the minimal to get you through but not really enough to see people as individuals and to support them.”

The inquiry continues on Thursday.

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