17 November 2022

Ronald James Shanks MacGregor FCOptom DOrth: 1934-2022

We are sorry to report the death of Ronald James Shanks MacGregor FCOptom, who died at the age of 87.

Ronald MacGregor was the son of a pharmacist from Ardrossan, North Ayrshire. Unsure about his own career ambitions, he was a month late joining the ophthalmic optics course at Stow College and had to catch up quickly. His training required him to commute daily to Glasgow and he continued a connection with that city during his pre-registration period under the supervision of Mr Gerrie in George Square. 

Called to do two years’ National Service, he joined the Royal Air Force in 1957 for three years on the understanding that he could serve as an optician. This resulted in him spending two years at Akrotiri, Cyprus where he rose to the position of Instructor and also developed a lifelong love of country music and folk songs. In 1960, he returned to Scotland, bought premises in Saltcoats and established an independent optometry practice from scratch. He ran this successfully for thirty five years, retiring from practice in 1995, when he was succeeded by his surviving son.

A founding member of the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors’ Club (OAICC) in 1982, he was a regular Club auctioneer from 1984 and the editor of the Club’s journal Ophthalmic Antiques from 1990-2009. He originally wrote for this publication under the pseudonym ‘Ascot’ and continued to contribute regular articles, often on the theme of ‘Something Different’, right up until his death. Recognised as an expert on both the collection and restoration of old spectacles, he was an honorary specialist adviser on historic vision aids to Christie’s the auctioneers and, from 1998, fulfilled a similar function on behalf of the College’s British Optical Association Museum, for whom he also repaired a number of exhibits including the very rare Scarlett-type spectacles and a mid-18th century jealousy glass by Thomas Ribright. It was a mark of his reputation in the field that he was approved by the College’s insurance brokers to produce a full valuation of the collection in the year 2000. Ronald was the author of two specialist books Restoring Ophthalmic Antiques (1990) and Collecting Ophthalmic Antiques (1992). He also fully revised Derek Davidson’s publication on Spectacles, Lorgnettes and Monocles in the popular ‘Shire’ series (2002), illustrating it with new colour photographs drawn largely from his own collection. In 2009 he was approached by the Disney Corporation for advice on the design of Scrooge and Jacob Marley’s spectacles for the animated film version of A Christmas Carol.

Ronald married Carol in 1960. Together they had sons Brian and Gordon (deceased) and daughters Hazel and Brenda. They lived in West Kilbride from 1975, enjoying superb views of the Isle of Arran from a large picture window. A motoring enthusiast, Ronald was fortunate to have purchased the now highly-desirable registration plate OO1 (the OO standing for ‘Ophthalmic Optician’). Having otherwise resisted modern technology for much of his life, Ronald took up email on his 80th birthday and enjoyed corresponding with ophthalmic collectors across the world.