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Alleged child abuse victims plead for access to Fornethy House to trigger traumatic lost memories

Fornethy House in Kilry, Angus.
Fornethy House in Kilry, Angus.

Women who say they were subjected to horrific abuse at an Angus residential school have made a plea to a mystery owner to access the building decades later.

Former pupils of rural Fornethy House in Kilry say were regularly attacked, both violently and sexually, while attending the school between the 60s and 80s.

A police investigation into the claims is ongoing, with more than 100 alleged victims coming forward.

Fornethy House.

Memory triggers

Now members of a survivors group are appealing to the current owner, who was not involved at the time of the alleged abuse, to allow them inside to piece together missing pieces of the puzzle.

They say many former pupils have gaps in their memories, which they put down to blocking out traumatic experiences, and believe visiting Fornethy will trigger them to remember what they have forgotten, which could include details vital to the investigation.

Former Angus school pupils seek local witnesses to support historic abuse claims

Marion Reid, a former pupil who helped form the Fornethy House Residential School Survivors group, said: “Some of the girls, including myself, have blank spots in our memories.

“We feel that if we get inside it will trigger something and they will come back to us.

“We have been up there this year and even just being on the grounds brought back things we had blocked out, but we think being inside is really going to tell the story to us.

“Some girls were made to stand in front of the fire in the library for hours but nobody can remember why, maybe if they could go back in to that room it would trigger something.”

“If we remember more we can pass that on to the police and it will hopefully speed up the investigation.”

Marion Reid (right) and Carol Whyte, who say they were abused at Fornethy House in the 60s.

Marion, now 63, attended Fornethy for six weeks in 1964. She was told it was a holiday camp and she was to keep her underweight sister company.

They were among hundreds of youngsters from Glasgow, sent to the girls-only facility, run by the city’s local authority, for “convalescent” breaks, between 1961 and 1993.

Former pupils around the ages they attended Fornethy.

Marion said she was frequently assaulted by employees, almost from the moment she arrived, at the age of seven.

She said the abuse she suffered has caused her lifelong trauma and contributed to several suicide attempts, starting at just 14.

Lay ghosts to rest

But Marion and the rest of the group have been unable to track down the current owner to request access.

There is no information about the building’s owner on the Land Register of Scotland website and it has been added to the Buildings at Risk register due to its derelict condition.

Marion said: “From the minute the survivors group was formed everyone has been asking how we can get inside but we can’t track down the owner.

“We’re hopeful they will want to help us and will come forward.

“We think it will help give us some closure and lay some ghosts to rest. That won’t happen fully until justice is done but a lot of the girls think it will give them some peace.

“Some of the victims have said they don’t think they can cope with it because of the traumatic memories, and that’s totally up to them, but most of us want to for some closure.”

Marion and Carol visited Fornethy House earlier this year but could not get inside.

Marion admitted visiting the outside of the building earlier this year brought back difficult memories but believes going inside will be worth the pain if it helps the investigation.

“I’m not looking forward to going in, it will be really upsetting,” she said.

“I felt awful when I saw it from the outside and I know a lot of us are scared about how bad it will make us feel but we know it will be worth it.”

Marion Reid around the age she visited Fornethy.

Investigation continues

Police Scotland is continuing to investigate the claims and since The Courier appealed for information last month, more women have come forward to say they were victims.

Glasgow City Council, which ran the house under its former title of Glasgow Corporation, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on an ongoing police investigation.

Information relating to the investigation can be given to police by calling 101.

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