Tony Bligh was born in Lessingham, Lincolnshire, the son of Harry Bligh, an officer in the RAF. He was educated at Sevenoaks School and Guy’s Hospital, London University. As a boy he developed poliomyelitis but did not allow this to affect his life style. He became captain of swimming at school and an excellent tennis player. He graduated in medicine from Guy’s Hospital in 1948 - the year of the beginning of the National Health Service. A strong supporter of the concept of the health service he was at the same time critical of its many shortcomings, in particular, manipulation by politicians.
After qualifying he spent a period of two years in neurology and neurosurgery at Hurstwood Park Hospital and this experience was to have a fundamental influence on his future career. He appreciated the great importance of radiology in these disciplines and so he began training in radiology at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, where he demonstrated an unusual aptitude for neuroradiology.
At the time of his appointment as consultant neuroradiologist to the Cardiff Royal Infirmary in 1956 there were only four consultant radiologists and three registrars to serve both the Cardiff Royal Infirmary and Llandough Hospitals. Consequently, there was a very high workload but Tony not only carried out his duties as a neuroradiologist but participated in the general work of the department. He had an enormous influence on the development of the whole specialty in Cardiff and contributed significantly to the design of the new department at the University Hospital of Wales.
Totally committed to the improvement and to the standing of the discipline, he had at the same time a real concern for the welfare of the patients. In particular he was critical of a tendency to over-investigate patients. He therefore threw himself wholeheartedly into the work of a College working party looking at ways to make diagnostic radiology more effective by reducing unnecessary investigations.
He was one of the first in this country to recognize the part that nuclear medicine could make to the study of neurosurgical disorders. His contributions to the medical literature were of considerable importance and included an authoritative textbook on nuclear medicine: Radioisotopes in radiodiagnosis, A S Bligh, K Leach and E Rhys Davis, London; Boston, Butterworths, 1976.
Tony greatly enjoyed his specialty and was enthusiastically committed to it. Technically gifted, he demanded and achieved an extremely high standard in his department and was fully conversant with modern developments. He appreciated the enormous contribution that computed tomography had made but felt that ‘the fun’ had gone out of neuroradiology. He was a first-rate teacher who inspired a succession of able young trainees. He worked closely with clinical colleagues and spent much of his time on the wards with patients. This ensured that his radiological expertise was always related to clinical experience.
Administrative skill, an ability to see into the heart of a problem, integrity and a keen sense of humour made him the consultants’ natural choice to represent them on many important committees, including the board of governors of the United Cardiff Hospitals. At national level he was a strong supporter of the Royal College of Radiologists, serving on the faculty board and council. He became the diagnostic vice-president from 1979-81. It was not unexpected when he was also chosen to represent the specialty on the advisory committee to the Department of Health and Social Security (now DOH), and he was a founder member of the British Society of Neuroradiologists, in which he was a key figure.
His manual dexterity and a sense of proportion contributed to his development as a fine amateur silversmith with the distinction of having his own official hallmark. He delighted in passing on his knowledge to those less gifted than himself.
Tony married Jean, daughter of Frederic Warren Dillow, in 1952 and they had two sons, David and Christopher.
As a result of increasing disability, he retired some seven years ago to a small village in Herefordshire where, with characteristic vigour, he entered fully into all aspects of village life and continued with his hobbies of silversmith and gardening. He was a unique character, staunch in support of his friends and what he ‘believed in’ and unafraid to speak out against hypocrisy and a lowering of standards.
K T Evans