The Society's minutes begin with the following paragraph:
"A desire having been expressed that an Ophthalmology Society should be formed for the North of England, steps were taken in July 1914 to ascertain the general feeling among the men engaged in ophthalmic practice in Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and neighbouring towns and districts. The idea was so well received that the promoters felt justified in calling the following meeting whch was held on October 15th 1914 at the Royal Infirmary, Manchester....It was resolved, that those present form themselves into a society and that the society be called the "North of England Ophthalmological Society."
The first world war (1914-18) disrupted the Society - there were only four meetings between the first meeting and October 1919, although by a card vote in 1918 it was agreed that the Society should affiliate with the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom (OSUK). The minutes in the 1920's contain a considerable amount of medico-political debate, particularly about the mechanism of referral of insured patients and recommended fees. In 1923 a minimum of £1.1.0 (one guinea) was recommended - for refractions. Medical politics continued to form an important part of the Society's work during the 1940's, with much discussion of the proposed rules and regulations for ophthalmology (particularly sight-testing) under the new National Health Service which came into being in 1948. Sixty years later it may seem to many members that we are going over the same ground in reverse.
Between 1950 and 1985 the meetings gradually changed with less emphasis on "case presentations" (which could be as high as fifty in one meeting) and an increasing place for papers and guest lectures, culminating in October 1985 with a discussion and vote on the format of meetings. Thes were reduced from five to three per year and there was to be greater emphasis on single theme meetings, with limited use of relevant case presentations where appropriate.
Percival John Hay was one of the founder members of the Society and for many years was its Secretary. No one individual has made a greater contribution to the development of the Society than Percival Hay. He inaugurated a "January Lecture" in 1930, and following his death in 1943 the Society changed the name to the "Percival J. Hay Memorial Lecture." The Lecture is a major highlight of the year. In general, Lecturers are chosen from the UK and abroad alternately. The list of past Lecturers includes many famous names, notably Van der Hoeve (1930), Traquair (1931), Castroviejo (1950), Sorsby (1955) and Cogan (1971).
For the past few decades medical politics have no longer been a concern of the Society, which is now focussed purely on promoting best practice in ophthalmology through education and interactive debate.
In the year 2000 the Society took the final steps to convert itself into a registered charity and a new constitution was approved.