Foster child demands government apology over abuse in care


A former soldier who was beaten almost every day as a child by a foster mum he was sent to live with says the Government should say sorry to all kids boarded out in Scotland’s Highlands and islands.

Seven years ago, the then prime minister Gordon Brown apologised for a programme that saw orphaned, poor and illegitimate children sent to Australia and other British colonies.

Stewart Wilson was one of thousands of vulnerable youngsters sent to live in remote Scottish communities as part of a similar child programme known as boarding out.

And he is angry that no apology has ever been offered to him or other children like him.

Stewart Wilson, security guard at Edinburgh Castle and is in a BBC documentary to be shown in March

He had been put into care at the age of two after the death of his grandmother, who adopted him from her 15-year-old daughter, who fell pregnant after being abused by her own adopted dad.

On arriving at a remote Tiree farmhouse, Stewart remembers his foster mum, Mary Ellen McLean, telling him she was his mother now.

He says over the next four years she regularly beat him. Stewart’s story and those of others like him feature in a BBC2 documentary called Growing Up in Scotland: A Century of Childhood.

He tells how he was regularly beaten and remembers one horrific attack where the woman being paid to care for him forced his head and hands on to the burning rings of her electric cooker.

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He said: “She came into the room and demanded to know who had stolen an orange. She dragged me into the kitchen and pushed my head down on to the hot rings. When I tried to use my hands to push myself off, she grabbed them and forced them on to the rings. I was badly burned. But there was no trip to the doctor. I just went away to greet.”

Stewart Wilson, security guard at Edinburgh Castle and is in a BBC documentary to be shown in March

He added: “A year to the day after I was taken to Tiree, a social worker came to visit and I begged him to take me back to Glasgow. I burst into tears and showed him marks and bruises on my body. He told Mary Ellen and, after he left, she beat me black and blue. I made sure never to complain to my social worker again – and lost trust totally in any adults.”

Stewart lived with Mary Ellen until the age of nine, when he was allowed to return to Glasgow.

But he didn’t settle in the city and, at the age of 12, was given a choice of living in a secure unit or returning to Mary Ellen in Tiree.

Growing Up in Scotland: A Century of Childhood is on BBC2 Scotland on Thursday at 9pm.


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