Edward Shannon

Friends and colleagues are invited to celebrate the life of the optometrist and optical group director at an event on 24 November

Edward Shannon

OT is sad to report the death of optometrist Edward Shannon, director of Shannon & Carton Optometrists, London, following a four-week battle with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Mr Shannon’s son David Shannon, a former AOP chairman, and family are inviting people who knew him to a celebration of his life on 24 November. The event will be at noon for 12.30pm at Clandon Wood Natural Burial Ground, Guildford, Surrey and afterwards at The Queens Head, East Clandon, Guildford.

Mr Shannon senior was a Holocaust survivor. He was born Edek Szajnzicht, in Deblin-Irena, Poland in 1936. At the outbreak of the Second World War, his father had planned to escape with Edek and his two siblings, Cesia and Moniek, to Switzerland, but they were betrayed by the family maid.

Edek’s brother, Moniek, was sent to a concentration camp. Edek escaped and hid with his sister in a cellar. In the chaos surrounding the burning of the Warsaw ghetto after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, Edek was separated from his sister but escaped to the countryside where he worked on a farm. 

After the war was over, Edek spent two years in an orphanage. The British Red Cross traced his brother and sister to a Jewish refugee school in Surrey, called Stoatley Rough. Edek was granted permission to join them and came over to England on the last ‘Kindertransport.’

He arrived in England in May 1947 aged 10 and this “marked the beginning of his long love for his adopted country and the opportunities it afforded him,” explained David Shannon.

Leaving school without a job, Edek, now known as Edward Shannon, applied to be a tea boy at Batemans Opticians. While there, he thought “I could do this,” and applied for a place at Northampton Engineering College in 1955 to become an ophthalmic optician, putting himself through night school while working in the day. 

He excelled, winning the prize for the highest marks in the qualifying examinations. After he qualified, he worked at Batemans Opticians in Wimbledon where he met his future wife, Susan. They had two children, David, an optometrist who worked with him in the family business, and Cecile. 

Edward acquired his own business in 1961 and moved into tiny premises at Ladbroke Grove, then a run-down area in West London. In the early 1970s, he formed a partnership with Patrick Carton, and the optical company Shannon & Carton was born. At its height, the business had 18 practices, some in the most deprived areas of London.

Edward continued to be innovative throughout his career. He championed contact lenses in the early 1960s and started an optical laboratory to provide spectacles in 24 hours or less when many opticians were taking two weeks to provide them. He also brought in all-inclusive pricing in the late 1980s when the profession was under public criticism.

The reason for Edward’s success was not difficult to see, his son, David, told OT: “The patients loved Dad. Not only was he an excellent optometrist, he was charming and a gentleman. He never pre-judged anyone and always had time for everyone.”

Following his untimely death, the family has been overwhelmed with messages of sympathy, including some from patients who considered Mr Shannon a friend after he treated them for over 50 years.

A pair of patients wrote: “We were both very fond of him and apart from appreciating his professionalism, we enjoyed his great sense of humour and twinkling smile.”

A colleague also wrote that “Mr Shannon is so charming he could sell me a plane, no questions asked.”

Edward is survived by his wife of 54 years, Susan, his son David, daughter Cecile and his three grandchildren, Zachary, Cameron and Imogen. His brother Moniek, and his sister, Cesia, live in Canada.