Witness tells abuse inquiry how he confronted nun during alleged beating

Counsel told why he had written to local paper thanking those who ‘helped light up our lives’

St Joseph’s Home,Termonbacca, in Derry: Witness said many people also did their best for those at the home.

St Joseph’s Home,Termonbacca, in Derry: Witness said many people also did their best for those at the home.


A witness at the North’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has told how he “had enough of the torture” from a named nun at a Derry boys’ home run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

However, he also insisted many people did their best for those at St Joseph’s, Termonbacca, and this was why he wrote a letter to the Derry Journal in 2004 praising those who “helped light up our lives”.

Struggling with his emotions, the anonymous witness told the inquiry’s senior counsel Christine Smith he could take no more beatings with an electric flex from a named nun and physically confronted her.

“I just couldn’t take it any more, I was beaten so severely with that flex,” he said.

‘Put up resistance’

“I put up resistance, stopped her, disarmed her, restrained her, let her break free. She came back at me with a dustpan brush.”

He continued: “At the end of it, she came at me with a pair of scissors, I was able to disarm her and restrain her. I told her, ‘you are not going to beat me again – ever’. She realised she could not get the better of me. I never got beaten again.”

He believed that when he was aged about seven, he was sedated by nuns because he and some other boys were hyper-active. “I don’t know to this day what that medication was. Within a short period I had to go and lie down. It was that potent.”

The inquiry was shown a statement from one of the nuns which contradicted many of the claims of force-feeding, humiliation and physical abuse.

The witness said she was a “congenital liar”.

“I can confirm that I never struck a child across the face,” she said, or used an implement to strike a child.

The witness said “She is turning into Sister Amnesia now.”

Shown the letter to the Derry Journal in which he thanked the Sister of Nazareth, the witness was asked about its tone.


He said it mentioned only those who were kind to him but not the named nuns. He said he thanked the nuns who gave up their lives to help others.

“It wasn’t all a nightmare either,” he said. “What you’ve heard me say is generally about one woman who was very cruel to me and she gets no recognition in that letter. But there were other people in that letter who I wanted to name who were good to me.”

“What you’ve heard from me today is the truth.”

Earlier, another witness broke down as she recalled a conversation she had with another person who had been in care at the Derry home and who later took his own life.

She cried openly as she recalled that the man whom she knew from her time at the home told her he had been anally raped after he had been transferred to another care home in Kircubben, Co Down.

“He came to see me the day before he hung himself,” she told the inquiry. “[He] told me the day before he committed suicide that he had been anally raped in Rubane House.”