Blair-Bell 3: Letters of a very personal nature….

While in these early stages of the project almost all the files seem to have something of an interesting or unexpected nature, I am beginning to suspect that Blair-Bell’s material will produce nuggets of gold right to the end! This week, with eight more files catalogued and repackaged, it is Blair-Bell as the esteemed doctor and professional gynaecologist who comes to the fore.

Half of this batch of files contain personal and professional correspondence written between 1919 and 1929 – letters, and copies of replies, to Blair-Bell from patients and medics, mostly from the Liverpool area. The letters from the medics are in the main dealing with patients referred to Blair-Bell by them for gynaecological or cancer treatment, and Blair-Bell’s replies contain some good and detailed surgical and symptomatic notes.

Other letters with patients are semi-personal in the familiar tone of friendliness and gratitude with which they are written: women emotionally thanking Blair-Bell for curing them of their medical conditions, gynaecological or otherwise. The question of fees is raised quite often, and Blair-Bell’s sympathy for the ability of patients to pay is shown in letters where he has obviously offered to overlook a certain payments.

These files are so important for the study of medical services pre-1948 and the establishment of the National Health Service. This correspondence shows the relationship between specialists, general practitioners and their patients, and vitally gives a good indication of the extent of Blair-Bell’s practice and the demands on his time.

Archive Reference: S1/9
Copyright of the RCOG

There are two contenders for ‘prize find’ this week! A letter to Blair-Bell from a fellow medic in 1920 contains the curious mistype ‘Will you please see the beare…who has a very badly misplaced womb’! However, my vote goes to the statement found in a letter from a gentleman in Birkenhead in 1920, who had apparently been unlucky in love previously – ‘My little wife is all the world to me – which you would appreciate if you knew my previous terrible trials with the First…’


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