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On 29 November 1925, at his home in Marine Avenue, Leigh, Reginald George Griffiths Blackall passed away at the young age of 44, leaving a widow, Jessie. 


Reginald's mother had died just after his birth and it would seem the loss of his wife was too much for their father and his 4 children were split up and sent to orphanages. So by the age of  9 Reginald and his older brother were in the Wanstead Orphan Asylum and their 2 sisters were in another orphanage in Bristol.


When Reginald married Jessie Danks, daughter of a dentist, he was living at the Anchorage, South Benfleet and was working at the London Hospital as a radiographer’s assistant.  His sister, Mildred,  was a nurse at the same hospital.


In 1910 Reginald had been living next door to Jessie and sharing a  house with another radiographer, Ernest Wilson.


Nowadays we take X Rays as a routine visit to the hospital and we are used to the radiographer staying out of range of the machinery in action. But at the outset the dangers were not known.


Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered the X-ray in 1895 and was awarded the first Nobel prize for physics in 1901. At the Royal Hospital in London, doctors were working on further developing this new imaging and in the late 1890s, three assistants - Reginald Blackall, Ernest Wilson and Harold Saggars - were employed to help.


At this time it was common for doctors and others working with X-rays to test the imaging by taking X-rays of their own hands. By 1903, all three assistants had radiation injuries.


Ernest Wilson died of his injuries, leaving a photographic record of  the bone deterioration in his hand, which had become bone cancer. Blackall and Saggars continued to work at the Royal Hospital, and  helped to found the College of Radiographers. Eventually the dangers were realized but for Reginald and the others it was too late. They were known as the X Ray Martyrs.


Reginald continued at the London Hospital until 1920. In 1924 the Carnegie Hero Fund trustees awarded him an Honorary Certificate and an annual award of £75. By this time he had carcinoma and had had to have both hands amputated. The London Hospital also gave him a grant of £285 a year  and provided insurance for his family. He died the following year.


A memorial to all X Ray Martyrs was unveiled on 4 April 1936 at St George’s Hospital, Hamburg.  There are 150 names on the memorial from all over the world, including Reginald Blackall of Leigh.









The Xray Martyrs' Memorial, Hamburg

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