A FAMILY who claim they were abused by nuns at a former children's refuge more than 40 years ago are taking legal action against the Roman Catholic Church order which ran the home.

The family, two brothers and two sisters, are set to sue the order, run by Sisters of Charity nuns, for damages, alleging they were physically abused and systematically humiliated by staff at the Bellview children's refuge in the Rutherglen area of Glasgow in the 1950s.

The move, which their solicitors believe could lead to other former residents coming forward, follows similar allegations of brutality made earlier this year against another order of Roman Catholic nuns, the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, at a home in Aberdeen.

The four, who were young children at the time and are now in their late 40s and early 50s, claim they suffered ''pain and anguish'' for about seven years at Bellview and ''deep psychological trauma'' since then.

One of them described the regime as being ''like a Nazi concentration camp'' and the other three blamed the alleged abuse for the break-up of their marriages.

All four said their experiences at the refuge, which was pulled down many years ago, turned them against the Roman Catholic Church and one said she is still suspicious of nuns.

They allege that they lived in constant fear of abuse from the staff, and three nuns in particular, who they claim beat them with sticks and canes and pulled them by the hair along the floor and down stairs.

They also claim they were: made to eat inedible food and to eat their own vomit if they were sick as a result; had their fingernails cut down to the quick until they were bleeding; were forced to take baths which were either scalding hot or cold and dirty; were made to wrap their bed-sheets around their heads and walk around the dining room repeating the words ''I have wet the bed'' if they had done so.

Other alleged abuses were: having a blister poisoned by a nun, and suffering a bleeding head after their hair had been combed ''visciously'' for lice. The four, all but one of whom declined to be named, attended the refuge for about seven years in the early 1950s when their mother left their home in Parkhead, Glasgow and their father found he could not cope.

One of them, Mrs Betty Thomas, 54, who now lives in Prestatyn in north Wales, told The Herald: ''I remember being repeatedly struck across the legs with a cane and being dragged by the hair down stairs with my head bleeding.

''I was also wrongly accused of having sex and the punishment and the way I was made to feel by the nuns has stayed with me to this day. I'm sure that what happened at Bellview is what led to the break-up of my three marriages. It made me very insecure and I've suffered from depression.''

Her sister added: ''Bellview was like some kind of Nazi concentration camp. We lived in constant fear but at the time we thought the way we were treated was normal. The nuns told us that they were the children of God and what they did was right and we knew no different.

''We have always wanted to do something about this. We talk about it a lot together, but have been frightened to speak out until now.''

The family's solicitor, Mr Cameron Fyfe, said yesterday: ''There is a distinct similarity between the allegations of abuse made by clients who were in Nazareth House and those made by clients who were in the Bellview refuge. Who knows how many other orphanages and refuges run by the Catholic Church had a similar regime of abuse and humiliation?

''I'm sure a lot more will come forward and the more the better because they all corroborate the others.

''I can't see any problem with us proving these allegations, but I suspect the church would want to settle out of court because they would have a problem winning this on the grounds that these people were telling lies and they would want to avoid a court action.''

Mr Fyfe, who is planning to have the four seen by psychologists to enhance their claims, said the amount of damages sought would depend how strong the psychologists' reports were, but could be as high as #100,000 each if the psychologist said their childhood experiences had ruined their personal relationships.

He said it was also possible that he would be making claims on behalf of two others sisters in the family, who had since died. A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said it was not his function to comment on matters outwith the bishops' conference and no-one from the Sisters of Charity could be contacted yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Crown Office has requested that further enquiries by the procurator-fiscal via the police be made into allegations of brutality by nuns at Nazareth House in Aberdeen in the 1970s. Crown counsel have decided not to take proceedings in relation to allegations by various people of abuse at Nazareth House in Cardonald, Glasgow between 1936 and 1960.