The North of England Ophthalmological Society was founded in 1914, with its primary objectives being to cultivate and promote Clinical and Practical Ophthalmology. This first meeting was attended by 18 members, including founding members Dr A Hill Griffith (President), Dr J Gray Clegg and Dr Percival J Hay (Secretary). By the second meeting, attendance had rose to 57, hinting at the success the society would receive in the years to come.
The growth of the Society was halted temporarily by the outbreak of the First World War. No regular meetings were held until 10th October 1919. Despite this, a postal vote in 1918 allowed change to continue, with members voting to join with the Ophthalmological Society of the UK. Post World War One, the society held regular meetings for its members, at least 3 a year, and as many as 6 during peace time.
The content of these meetings remained similar for the initial decades of the Society. Members would discuss cases, debate ophthalmological issues, exhibit instruments and interesting specimens. A major part of the meetings was the case presentations, where patients were brought in to be examined and discussed. Many of these were victims of Tuberculosis.
From 1985, change began to occur. As opposed to 6 half day meetings a year, the Society held 3 full day meetings, which would include food and refreshments. There was also a development in content of such meetings, with the removal of live patients as case studies, due to the ‘zoo-like’ nature of such presentations. As a result, meetings transformed into a small number of talks, followed by discussion sessions. The Society also funded up to 2 poster presentations per meeting, usually undertaken by younger members, with guidance from experienced Ophthalmologists.
The ‘January Lectures’ are discussed in the archive. These events, which were not religiously held in the month of January, involved speakers given lectures in up to 3 northern cities. Such lecturers, whom were highly experienced and respected members of their field, were chosen from the UK and abroad on an alternate basis. In 1978, these lectures were renamed ‘The Percival J Hay Memorial Lecture’ in memory of the founding member and Society Secretary. ‘The Percival J Hay Memorial Prize’ was also awarded in Hay’s honour, to competition winners who submitted exemplary work of ophthalmological nature. Not only did foreign speakers visit the North of England, but the Society planned trips abroad for members, meant to introduce them to new techniques and experiences.