Priest said orphans in Derry home were ‘the product of an evil relationship’

Former resident told to keep quiet about abuse allegations, inquiry hears

An image above a door at Nazareth House on Bishop Street in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride

An image above a door at Nazareth House on Bishop Street in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride


A priest told a former resident of a Derry residential home run by nuns that he must never repeat allegations of sex and other abuse.

A witness told the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry, which is investigating allegations of ill treatment of children at 13 care homes in Northern Ireland before 1995, the priest told him to stay silent about his claims concerning the home at Termonbacca in Derry, run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth.

The witness, who cannot be identified, said he approached a priest later in life and told him of physical and sexual abuse he suffered.

He said the priest replied: “You must never speak about this. You and the other orphans are bastards, you are the product of an evil and satanic relationship.”

The witness said: “When a priest tells you that, that sums up how an orphan was perceived. What chance did I have?”

Hours of testimony
On the third day of oral hearings the inquiry heard hours of harrowing testimony from two former residents of the Termonbacca home who wished to tell their stories publicly.

The first witness, who said he was known at the home by his ID number, told of habitual beatings, of terror, loneliness and abuse. Telling the inquiry of his time at the home was “a day of freedom” he said, adding that through the inquiry he had met one of his brothers for the first time in decades.

“Looking into the eyes of my eldest brother – he threw his arms around me and we cried. They killed our family.”

He said he had no idea his brothers were also at the same institution.

In later testimony, the witness confirmed that while still a young child at Termonbacca he deliberately wet the bed to protect himself from sexual abuse.

“What abuser would want to drop the hand on a child saturated in his own urine?” he said.

He referred to the institution being run by “the Taliban” such was the nuns’ cruelty, but also insisted some individual nuns were very kind, as were civilian workers there.

The witness recalled that at night, a boy would start crying for his mother then another boy would also start.

“Within 60 seconds we were all crying for our mammies even though we didn’t know what ‘mammy’ meant,” he said.

Another witness cited rough treatment and fear of the Christian Brothers for deliberately failing an exam that would have got him into the grammar school. “I deliberately failed my 11-plus as I didn’t want to go to the Christian Brothers,” he said. “I didn’t want to go there and ‘get more’.”

Deck scrubber
Baths at Termonbacca were “horrendous” he added, saying children were dipped like sheep in a bath filled with Jeyes Fluid.

“We were scrubbed with a deck scrubber, believe it or not. You were called a dirty whatever,” he said.

Like other witnesses, he said Saturdays were spent polishing floors. The boys linked up and polished as a team, citing a rhyme as they worked: “Rub her back, rub her back, before I put this broom across your back,” he said.

Junior counsel Joseph Aiken later presented to the inquiry biographical details of three nuns who had worked at Termonbacca. Testimony from nuns who lived and worked in Derry is due to be heard later.

He referred the chairman to a nun’s witness statement in which she talks of a happy time at the children’s home. She had no recollection of physical abuse or punishment being administered.

Evidence continues today.