SCOTLAND: A vigil for childhood abuse victims will be held later this month in Glasgow. It comes as survivors and their families have reached out to True Crime News Weekly to explain how Scotland’s history of institutional abuse is closely linked to that of Australia. Gary Johnston reports.
Just a fortnight ago, True Crime News Weekly published a piece about Glasgow Celtic, a Scottish football club, and its response – make that lack of – to incidences of child sex abuse perpetrated over many years, by Celtic Boys Club, an unofficial feeder organisation that was though closely linked to the world-famous professional side.
As it so happens, just this week, another senior member associated with the club, Frank Cairney, the former manager of the Boys Club, was jailed for four years after being convicted of nine charges of sexually abusing young footballers. According to the BBC, the judge in the case referred to Cairney as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
Despite the fact that Celtic is a club with a massive supporter base here in Australia, and that the current team contains two prominent Socceroos in Tom Rogic and Daniel Arzani, we nevertheless attracted a certain amount of criticism for the article. Largely on the basis that it was a Scottish problem and therefore “nothing to do with us”.
These accusations seemed to suggest that the essential nub of the story – historical sex abuse within an organisation, adults with both power and opportunity preying on vulnerable young people – had little or no connection to Australia and Australians. It wasn’t happening here.
Leaving aside the ludicrous nature of this response, given that The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has only recently concluded its findings after five long years of investigation, more significant feedback on the relevance of the article was received from a group in Scotland called S.A.F.E. (Seek And Find Everyone). Its spokesperson is an incredibly brave and tenacious man named Dave Sharp.
Dave Sharp’s personal journey is a harrowing one but to his everlasting credit, he has utilised personal pain and trauma to, along with other survivors, form S.A.F.E. The group’s mission is to encourage other abuse victims to come forward and add their voice to the many who, through absolutely no fault of their own, were violated as children by adults in positions of power.
Furthermore, aside from the plain fact that everyone in the world, regardless of geographical location should have compassion and interest for such a venture, there is, in fact, a more tangible Australian connection.
As Dave explained, thousands of Scottish children, some of them orphaned but many simply taken from their families in a form of governmental kidnapping, were ‘deported’ to Australia in the 1950’s under the so-called Child Migrant Scheme.
The subsequent conditions endured by a significant proportion of the children, slavery and terror, removal of identities and widespread sexual and physical abuse amounts, in Dave’s words, to “a human rights scandal no one is prepared to acknowledge”.
He then went on to say:
“How many of these children died without ever seeing Scotland again? How many of them are now adults who still cannot come to terms with the trauma and hurt caused by the abuse they suffered? How many of these children are still suffering the irreparable damage caused to them and their families and the wider communities?”
To acknowledge, support and remember the children who were removed and who suffered such atrocities as well as other survivors of abuse, Dave Sharp’s group S.A.F.E. have organised an event called ‘The Vigil of Hope’ to be held on 23rd February, in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
Outside St Andrew’s Cathedral at 1pm, a minute’s silence will be observed to honour all of the children of Scotland – and worldwide – whose lives were taken, lost or affected due to child abuse. Candles will be lit and a bagpiper will play a lament.
The purpose of the vigil is to apply pressure to organisations such as the churches, the Government and the Scottish Football Association, most of who have been exceptionally slow to accept any form of responsibility for the levels of historical abuse.
To ramp up that pressure, Dave Sharp and S.A.F.E. are keen to extend the Australian connection.
“I have bought a huge Australian flag,” he says, “as well as the flag of St Andrews and we shall be playing the Scottish national anthem and the Australian national anthem to remember ALL the children who were shipped out to Australia.
“These are our brothers and sisters and we cannot forget them. We are asking everyone who comes to bring flowers with them so that we can lay them down and build a mountain of hope and peace for all survivors worldwide.
“We would love to welcome an Australian currently residing or visiting Scotland to participate in the vigil as the link between our two countries is so strong. This would be a fitting way to honour and acknowledge their plight.”
Child sex abuse is a worldwide issue. It cannot be defined on a geographical basis. True Crime News Weekly is pleased and privileged to be involved in the campaign.