8 February 2024

Frank Ernest Barraclough FCOptom: 1929-2024

We are saddened to report the death of Frank Barraclough FCOptom on 31 January 2024.

Frank was brought up in a poor area of Battersea, South London. He was awarded a scholarship at Christs Hospital School in Sussex, where he formed a connection to the area that lasted a lifetime. His professional training was in the Department of Ophthalmic Optics, at what was then called the Northampton Polytechnic (now City, University of London). He was a member of the first cohort to sit an extended three-year optometry course. That year’s student intake formed a particularly strong social bond. They called themselves the ‘first of the thirds’ and would meet up for years to come. Frank had been inspired to enter the profession by stories of rich pickings to be had at the beginning of the National Health Service. However, by the time he qualified as both an FSMC and FBOA, in the early 1950s, this golden era had ended due to the Gaitskell reforms.

In 1957 Frank purchased his own practice from John Tierney at 21 Norman Road, St. Leonards. Later, in 1968, he bought a practice and premises at St Leonards Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. He entered into a formal business partnership with Peter Stiles in 1971. In 1974, Barraclough & Stiles bought the former practice of Sydney Carter at 16 Pevensey Road, Eastbourne. This grew the practice into a small independent chain spread along the south coast. 

These events took place in the middle of personal tragedy. In 1970, Frank lost his first wife Sylvia in a car crash, leaving him with a young family to raise. Two of his sons, Tony and Nigel, would eventually join the partnership, in 1983 and 1986 respectively, by which time more practices had opened in Polegate and Battle. An additional partner, Suriander Puri, joined in 1983. Despite this expansion Frank never lost his calling as a family practitioner and took delight in attending to the eye care of successive generations in the local area. In this era Frank was also very active with his branch of the AOP. He retired from full-time practice in 1994 but continued on a part-time basis for several more years. The business rebranded as Barracloughs Optometrists in the 2010s.

In May 1982, Frank answered a letter in Optician from the dispensing optician Derek Davidson, asking anyone interested in establishing an Ophthalmic Antiques Collectors’ Club. The Club was so successful that it became “International”. Frank succeeded Derek as Chairman in 1995. His private collection of antique spectacles was one of the finest in the country and lovingly displayed at his home in a room behind a door deliberately labelled ‘Broom Cupboard’. 

Frank was invited to join The College of Optometrists' Heritage Committee in 1997 which led to the reopening of the museum in Craven Street. He mentored the new curator for several years, passing on his knowledge and providing practical assistance. He was appointed a Life Fellow of the College in 2002 for these services to the heritage. When he stood down as Chairman of the OAICC, in 2014, he was appointed as the Club’s Honorary Life President, but he continued to be active in the antiques field until the start of the current decade.

Frank’s wife Joan died in 2010 and he lost his son, David, in 2018. He also lost a niece in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Despite these personal tragedies, Frank retained good health himself, swimming daily in the sea until well into his eighties. He will be remembered as a most relaxed and generous soul, always giving of his time and a charming gentleman who will be much missed.