‘My an­ces­tor was a pi­o­neer of the blood trans­fu­sion ser­vice’

Ber­tie Tib­ble was awarded an OBE and made the sub­ject of an episode of This Is Your Life af­ter a life­time of giv­ing blood

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - MY FAMILY HERO - Gail Dixon

On 25 Fe­bru­ary 1963, broad­caster Ea­monn An­drews greeted Sharon New­son’s grand­fa­ther with the words “Ber­tie Wal­lace Tib­ble OBE, this is your life”. He had just en­tered the au­di­to­rium of BBC Tele­vi­sion Theatre, Shep­herd’s Bush.

Ber­tie was ex­pect­ing to be part of the au­di­ence, but within min­utes of his ar­rival he had be­come the sub­ject of one of the most iconic pro­grammes ever broad­cast.

What was it about this mild-man­nered and unas­sum­ing 78-year-old that mer­ited the trib­ute? “Ber­tie’s story be­gan just be­fore the turn of 20th cen­tury,” Sharon ex­plains. “He was born in Is­ling­ton in 1884, the ninth child of car­pen­ter Al­fred Tib­ble and his wife El­iz­a­beth.

“Ber­tie at­tended St Matthew’s school, but as part of a large fam­ily it wasn’t long be­fore he had to go out to work. He be­came a guil­lo­tine op­er­a­tor at Lewis, Henry and Tib­ble, a North Lon­don card­board box fac­tory, part-owned by his brother, Al­fred.”

In 1906, an event took place that changed his life for­ever. Af­ter tak­ing a dip in Re­gent’s Canal, Ber­tie con­tracted en­teric fever, which was a form of typhoid. “Ly­ing se­ri­ously ill in hos­pi­tal there seemed lit­tle chance of re­cov­ery, but staff at the Royal North­ern Hos­pi­tal saved his life.”

Ber­tie re­turned to work and in due course mar­ried Florence Coshell, with whom he had four chil­dren, in­clud­ing Sharon’s father Ce­cil. Life went on as nor­mal un­til 1919. In Jan­uary that year, a lit­tle boy was knocked down by a taxi cab in Lon­don. Se­ri­ously hurt, he was taken to the Lon­don Hos­pi­tal and an ap­peal was is­sued for peo­ple to come for­ward to do­nate blood. Ber­tie al­ways re­mem­bered the ded­i­ca­tion of the med­i­cal team who nursed him back to health and saw a chance to re­pay their kind­ness. Un­for­tu­nately, on reach­ing the hos­pi­tal he dis­cov­ered that the child had passed away.

Un­daunted, Ber­tie re­sponded to a new ap­peal for blood to help an in­jured man. This time his blood was tested and found to be Group 4 (to­day’s type O), the blood that will mix with all other types. “We pay £5 for a trans­fu­sion,” the doc­tor com­mented. Al­though £5 was a sub­stan­tial sum, Ber­tie replied: “I can’t take any­thing for it.”

At the bed­side of the pa­tient, Ber­tie rolled up his sleeve and a tourni­quet was placed on his up­per arm. An in­ci­sion was made in the artery and blood filled a con­tainer via a hol­low nee­dle and rubber tube. A nee­dle was in­serted into the arm of the re­cip­i­ent and the trans­fu­sion was com­pleted. Hap­pily, on this oc­ca­sion, the pa­tient sur­vived.

Ber­tie placed him­self at the dis­posal of the Lon­don Hos­pi­tal, Tem­per­ance Hos­pi­tal and St Bart’s. He could be sum­moned at any time of the day or night to give blood. In 1921, he joined the St John’s Am­bu­lance Brigade. By 1925, he had be­come an Hon­orary Serv­ing Brother of the Or­der of St John in recog­ni­tion of his achieve­ments. In the same year, the Lon­don Hos­pi­tal made him a Life Gov­er­nor. “The great­est hon­our came in 1925 when

The Times an­nounced that Ber­tie was to be awarded the Bri­tish Em­pire Medal ‘for pub­lic ser­vices in sav­ing life’. In July 1925, he was pre­sented with the medal by the then Min­is­ter of Health, Neville Cham­ber­lain.”

From 1919 to 1927, Ber­tie was called upon more than 75 times, do­nat­ing 70 pints of

I re­mem­ber see­ing scars on his arm caused by doc­tors us­ing a scalpel to ac­cess the vein

Do you have a fam­ily hero you’d like to see fea­tured in

worth £ 99.50.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Ber­tie Wal­lace Tib­ble re­ceives ‘ The Big Red Book’ from Ea­monn An­drews

SHARON NEW­SON lives in Ick­en­ham, Mid­dle­sex, and has been re­search­ing her fam­ily his­tory since 1998.

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