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Charles Frederick Morris Saint

Charles Frederick Morris Saint   1886 - 1973

James Saint was a clever boy. Born in 1854 to Robert Robson Saint, a mariner, and son of a mariner, and Margaret (née Dunbar) in the Parish of All Saints close to the Newcastle quayside. In 1871 the family was living just off Byker Bank and James, at 17 years of age, was a Pupil Teacher. His mother had died when James was 10 and his father married Elizabeth Cook 3 years later. Robert Robson Saint died in 1872 and by 1881, Elizabeth and her 4 step-children were in Choppington, where James was a Teacher in the local Elementary School. Of his 3 brothers, Thomas was a Commercial Clerk, Robert a Coal Miner and John a Tailor.

Mary Ann Downey Morris was the daughter of Thomas Morris, a Butcher, and Sidney (née Pringle, a Farmer’s daughter from Scotland) and grand-daughter of Thomas Morris, a Publican from Percy Main and his wife Thomasin, from Cramlington. At 16, Thomas Morris Jnr. was apprenticed to a Butcher in Longbenton, and ten years later, was a Master Butcher, first in Earsdon, then for the rest of his life, in Guidepost.

On July 18th, 1881, James Saint and Mary Ann Downey Morris were married at St Paul’s, Choppington.

On 31st August, 1885, James took charge of Bedlington Station Colliery School, now Bedlington Station Library, and the family moved into the school house, where their first son, Charles Frederick Morris Saint was born on 14th August, 1886. He was baptised at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Bedlington on 12th September, 1886.

In 1901 Head Teacher James Saint proudly recorded in the school log-book :

“Charles F M Saint has passed the Oxford Local Examination for Juniors with First Class Honours and gained a distinction in Mathematics.”

And then in 1903 (as Charles Saint enrolled in the Durham University College of Medicine, Newcastle) :

 “The County Council Major Scholarship of the value of £40 per annum for two or three years, with tuition at a university, has been won by a former pupil of this school, Charles F M Saint at 16 years of age. He was first in the list in order of merit of all the candidates in Northumberland.”

(From the Morpeth Herald, Wednesday 7th October, 1903) :

“The Durham University Medical Scholarship, of the value of £100, has been awarded to Charles Frederick Morris Saint, of Bedlington Colliery.”

James Saint died, aged 48, in 1904. He was afforded a massive Masonic funeral in Bedlington. With the death of James, the family had to leave the school house and moved to rental accommodation in Choppington.

(From the Morpeth Herald, Saturday, 27th May, 1905) :

Mr. Charles F. M. Saint, son of the late Mr. James Saint of Bedlington Colliery, who is a holder of one of the County Council Major Scholarships, and who subsequently gained the Medical Scholarship of one hundred pounds, has now gained the Tullock Scholarship at Durham University College, in the subjects of anatomy and physics.

After graduating with first-class honours in 1908, he was House Surgeon to Rutherford Morison at the Royal Victoria Infirmary from 1910 – 1912, then from 1912 to 1914 he was Leading Surgeon at the Fleming Memorial Children’s Hospital, Newcastle.

On Wednesday, 2nd September, 1914, Charles F.M. Saint, M.D., MJS, F.R.C.S. married Hilda Ann Armstrong of Saltburn, and they moved into 28 Claremont Place, Newcastle.

Soon after his marriage, he enlisted in the RAMC and was sent to France. He was awarded the Médaille d’Honneur (en Or) in 1916 and the military CBE in 1919. The Médaille d’Honneur (Gold Medal) was awarded as an outstanding testimony to a person having distinguished himself through exceptional acts towards his fellow citizens.

He had responded to a civilian request to help in a local hospital. The French newspaper report of the awarding ceremony ends :

“A platform had been erected, decorated with the colours of the Allies, on which Dr. Saint, the hero of the fête, was seated. On a table, covered with green baize with flowers in profusion, was the work of art in bronze presented to M. Saint - a magnificent work by Barye, a leopard devouring a hare. (* I believe this is now in the Louvre, Paris.*).  Then, Monsieur Delerue spoke :

“Dr. Saint, I owe you unstinted praise, the expression of which, however, is a difficult task when addressing a man whose modesty equals his skill. So near the front, your professional task must have been a very heavy one. Since your arrival last October, we have followed you with emotion to the bedsides of the wounded, a practitioner as skilful as devoted, knowing how to comfort the wounded with an unchanging gentleness. Then you have widened the circle of your kind actions by extending them to the civil population. What a debt of gratitude we owe you. Already you have performed more than 400 operations.”

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.

In 1920 he was appointed Chair of Surgery, University of Cape Town South Africa. The Chair of Paediatric Surgery at the Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Cape Town is named in his honour and each successive holder of that Chair of Surgery recognises the role of Professor Saint in his acceptance speech.

In 2008, Professor Alastair J.W. Millar, on taking the Chair of the Charles F.M. Saint Chair in Paediatric Surgery said :

“It is appropriate to say a few words about Charles Saint whose name was immortalised in the endowment of this Chair in 1975. All those who have had the privilege of training at this Medical School will know the name of ‘Charlie Saint’ as he left an indelible imprint on those whom he taught and mentored. Born and schooled in the North of England he graduated in 1908 from the University of

Durham (then King’s College, Durham, now the Medical School of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne) with the remarkable distinction of winning 15 of the 18 available undergraduate prizes. He became a registrar/assistant to one of the great men of British Surgery of the time, Rutherford Morrison and was sponsored by Lord Moynihan in his appointment to the Chair of Surgery in this University. He was appointed Professor of Surgery in 1920 and retired in 1947. He inspired many and has left an extraordinary legacy of having trained 7 Professors of Surgery. He was a man of principle and taught an approach to surgery where principles had pride of place. His aphorisms used as guidance for trainees are legendary : ‘the brain is like a muscle, it atrophies with disuse; the simpler the procedure the better the outcome; early to bed and early to rise, work like hell and organise!’ to quote a few but the one that strikes a chord with me is ‘always attempt what you are afraid to do – it will be easier next time’.”

The citation for his Honorary Fellowship of the College of Medicine of South Africa in 1968 reads “He was a great man as well as a great surgeon; he handed on the spirit as well as the letter of his creed and became one of the great disseminators of surgical thought and maker of surgeons”. He was an outstanding scholar and a gifted teacher; a superb clinician; a shrewd judge of a difficult situation and a master surgeon.

‘Saint's triad’, the concurrence of hiatus hernia, gallstones and colonic diverticulosis is named after him. He demonstrated that more than one condition might be responsible for a patient's clinical signs and symptoms.

He retired in 1947 after a distinguished career and moved to the Channel Island of Sark, where he died in 1973. In his memory, the Charles FM Saint Trust raises funds to serve the medical needs of the people of Sark. The Guernsey Press reported in 2012 that the annual carnival had that year raised more than £40,000.

His younger brother, James Harold Saint, was also a professor of surgery in the USA and worked at the Mayo clinic in Minnesota. He invented Saint’s retractor, still used to move the liver in gastric surgery.

Their Mother’s younger brother, Robert Alexander Morris, was also a General Practitioner, as was his son, Robert Shiell Morris. Both were born in Choppington.

So, not only were there brains, passion and drive in the families of both of Charles FM Saint’s parents, but sporting prowess too - he also won medals for university football. His teacher and mentor, the great Rutherford Morison referred to him as “one of the most, if not the most distinguished that has ever been in Newcastle.”

The people of Sark remember him as a man of humanity and humility with a jovial sense of humour; a true and loyal friend.