Matron of home 'ruled with fear'

A COUNCIL-RUN old people's home, where the former matron was said to have conducted a regime of fear, should be closed, according to a report yesterday.

Its author, Roger Kent, recommends that the 239-year-old Moorheads Home in Dumfries should continue until its 14 residents either leave or die.

Mr Kent, former director of social work in the Lothian region who led an inquiry into the home, criticised Dumfries and Galloway social work department, manager of the home in 1970-1990.

He said the former matron, Gladys Lambert, 66, had instilled fear in staff and residents. After she resigned her post in 1989 following an inquiry, she was charged with 31 counts of cruel and unnatural behaviour towards residents over 18 years.

The charges were dropped at Airdrie sheriff's court after she was found unfit to plead. She was ordered to be detained in Crichton Royal Mental Hospital in Dumfries.

Mr Kent said Ms Lambert had a remarkable capacity to instil fear. 'She did this both directly through humiliating verbal attacks on staff and indirectly by encouraging them to report on each other.'

In November 1989, a letter from the local government union Nalgo to the acting director of social work said she had told staff she was a witch. 'This is indicative of the myth that came to surround her,' Mr Kent said. 'Two months after she left, staff arranged to have part of the home exorcised.'

The 48-page report was presented to the council yesterday.

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