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One witness, Hannah,6 resident in Newtownforbes from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, also recalled getting ‘unmerciful beatings for wetting the bed’. The residents would have to display their wet sheets to the nuns and then they would be beaten.
Hannah recalled that she was beaten for not knowing her lessons, or not getting them right in school, or not being able to read. She alleged that a cane or a strap was used to beat them with. She alleged that they were beaten on the hands with the cane, a ruler or the leather strap.
Hannah, who was there from early 1940s to the mid-1950s, stated that she ‘didn’t get much schooling’, adding that she ‘was a very slow child’. Her lack of schooling resulted in her not being able to read and write to the present day. She explained her illiteracy as follows: I wasn’t taught to read and write because, as I said, perhaps I was a slow child and I didn’t get that care like the other children did. The other children got more care than me, I do not know why. Is it because I was abandoned or I didn’t have anybody, I do not know? My education was non-existent.
Hannah gave detailed evidence of the daily routine, involving the various chores which she was required to do. From the age of 11 or 12 years, her job was to make the bread in the bakery, early in the morning before going to school: A particular day, would be you would be up fairly early and you would have to get up to make the bread in the bakery. We were quite young at that time, I am not quite sure of the age but we used to have to make bread at quite an early age. Some of the girls were quite small. They had to stand on stools to go in to make the bread, like troughs, to make the bread.
Hannah described the chores they had to carry out as ‘hard labour’. She alleged that they had to wash the nuns’ clothes and do the ironing.