Honouring life and work of master surgeon from Bedlington

A master surgeon who spent time serving during the First World War with Marie Curie has been honoured in his home town.

By David Sedgwick
Friday, 20th August 2021, 9:00 am
A proud Michael Saint (back left) and family with the blue plaque honouring Charles Saint.
A proud Michael Saint (back left) and family with the blue plaque honouring Charles Saint.

A Blue Plaque, the first in East Bedlington, was unveiled last Saturday on Bedlington Station Library to commemorate Charles Frederick Morris Saint MD, MS, MRCS, FRCS, CBE.

Charles Saint was born in the library building, formerly the Colliery School, on August 14, 1886.

After graduating with first-class honours in 1908 from what was then the Durham University College of Medicine in Newcastle, he was House Surgeon to Rutherford Morison at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, then later Leading Surgeon at the Fleming Memorial Children’s Hospital, Newcastle.

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The Blue Plaque on Bedlington Station Library honouring Charles Saint.

In 1916, he was twice mentioned in dispatches, being awarded the French Médaille d’Honneur (Gold Medal) for services in a local civilian hospital, and in 1919 received the British military CBE.

He had shared his operating tent with a French surgeon who introduced him to Marie Curie, who used her “petite Curie” vans as mobile X-ray units on the front line. They became great friends and stayed in touch until her death in 1934.

Charles was an outstanding scholar and a gifted teacher; a superb clinician; a shrewd judge of a difficult situation and a master surgeon.

He is acclaimed as ‘the father of South African surgery’ after being appointed Chair of Surgery, University of Cape Town South Africa, in 1920 while the Chair of Paediatric Surgery at the Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Cape Town is named after him.

He retired to the Channel Island of Sark where, in his memory, the Charles FM Saint Trust continue to raise funds to serve the medical needs of the people of Sark.

The Blue Plaque was unveiled by Michael Saint, great nephew of Charles FM Saint, who spoke warmly of the man he knew.

Coun John Batey, who organised the ceremony, spoke of the sacrifices of medical people during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that medical practice attracts people of great skill and intellect, who devote themselves to the service of others.

"Charles Saint was one such person,” he said.

“The message of Charles Saint’s life is to be shared with the children of the parish: it doesn’t matter where you’re from – you can do anything with your talents!”