Witness alleges ‘cruel’ abuse by Nazareth nuns

The Nazareth House in Bishop Street. 1501JM20
The Nazareth House in Bishop Street. 1501JM20
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A public inquiry has heard that a young girl was cruelly treated by nuns and beaten “black and blue” during her time at Nazareth House Children’s Home in Derry.

Yesterday, the inquiry, sitting in Banbridge, Co. Down, heard from a 58-year-old witness who was a resident at the Bishop Street home for girls from 1957 to 1969.

She recalled that, during her time there, some of the nuns were cruel and one nun would often beat her, hitting her with a belt she wore round her neck.

She told the inquiry that she was also beaten black and blue with a stick.

The witness said that, at bath time, 100 girls were forced to queue up with no privacy and the bath water was never changed.

She said that, when she was 12 years old, she was sent out to what was described as a placement at two farms in the summer and was forced to do manual work.

The witness told the inquiry she was sexually abused on both occasions. During one incident, she was sleeping with another girl in bed, when a man came into the bedroom and got into bed beside them.

She said a woman, believed to be the man’s wife, then came in and told them to get out.

She said that, when she had tried to tell the Sisters at Nazareth House, she was told “go away, you’re talking nonsense”.

She said the nuns had been “cruel”, “never gave an inch” and had ruined her life.

She also revealed that she did not know she had a sibling in the home until one day, when she was six, another of the residents said to her: “I’m your big sister.”

Her sister left the home aged 16, the witness claimed, and wanted to take her with her, but that she was too young to go.

She told the inquiry: “I’ve been trying to search for my sister for a long time since I left the convent but I just can’t find her.”

The woman said she also searched for her mother but has never found her either.