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Malcolm Polley RIP

Malcolm Polley RIP (25.5.34 – 10.2.24)


65 years in optics….

Malcolm started his working life making tortoiseshell frames for Baileys, a manufacturer in Hadleigh, Essex, and soon progressed to working as a dispenser and then manager of the prestigious Clifford Brown in Sloane Square where he stayed for eleven years.

Keen to further explore the manufacturing and marketing side of optics he joined Martin Wells and was soon snapped up by Norville in October 1974, moving his family from Essex to Gloucestershire.  His 32 years – first as sales manager and then as sales and marketing director at Norville – enabled Malcolm to develop his superb skills of team leadership, and bringing new products to market – with a constant flow of new innovations from Norville during those years: the Varilux lenses and launch of Laura Ashley Eyewear were highlights.  Sports eyewear was another area in which the company excelled. These products were a first in terms of marking new ground for optics with a move into fashion, premium lens design and safety with style.


Happy days in Gloucester, Malcom soon built a strong team around him.

“Malcolm was a key part of the wonderful world of optics and was a steadfast team player as optics grew through the closing years of the 20th century. He was always willing to go the extra mile and was respected by so many throughout manufacturing and retail industry. He will be greatly missed – friend of 50 years,” Frank Norville

Sue Graham, Secretary from 1986 for 20 years –

“Malcolm dedicated his life to Norville and to optics.  He led a superb sales team.  He always put optics first and was a very good boss.

I worked with Malcolm Polley from 1987 until he retired his directorship with Norville and joined the FMO.   He was an excellent Director, motivator and fun to work with.  Those who worked with Malcolm were inspired to form their own optical companies or take directorships within the optical industry.   All in all a stalwart in optics.”

Philip Richardson, Sales Manager at Norville –

“Malcolm was always so much more than a boss to us – he was like a father.  He was so supportive and encouraging – he just put a big arm around us all, and it is for those reasons that we worked for him.  He certainly led from the front.”

Peter Turner, Norville colleague –

“Malcolm, I have known for too many years to mention. We worked together growing Norville, mainly with our famous roadshows covering all points of England, Wales and Scotland even the Channel Islands, something many of our competitors then followed. We have been friends ever since.”

Retirement from Norville was certainly not retirement from optics, for as Chairman of The FMO, The Board realised they had something special in Malcolm and invited him to take on the role of Chief Exec in 2006. 


Apart from leading The FMO into sound financial waters, Malcolm took the helm of staging  Optrafair for years which saw great consolidation.  His commitment to ensuring that the Birmingham event was always an all-embracing show and educational forum – with sometimes less than harmonious optical partners drawn together – benefitted the world of optics.

Andrew Actman, Past FMO Chairman praised Malcolm’s leadership –

“Through our work together at The FMO I found Malcolm to be a highly skilful gentleman, always fair, always willing to listen and good to have on your side in negotiations.”

A very unassuming chap, Malcolm had more strings to his bow than just optics – he was Captain of the Boys Brigade in Essex during the 1970s and on moving to Gloucester he coached Gloucester and then the West of England Hockey team during the 1980s.

Graham Coates, a Norville colleague from the 1970s, added –

“You can be remembered for being a good business leader, or an ambassador of lenses but, Malcolm was, himself, a very good hockey player and played matches all over the country.  He was also great fun to be with.”

Bob Hutchinson (Editor) and FMO Committee Member and Optrafair Exhibitor

It’s easy to forget how difficult organising a major optical event  like Optrafair was before large exhibition companies filled the space.  Optrafair was supported and attended by the whole Optical Community but the leadership role was taken and controlled by one gentle giant, namely Malcolm Polley. His stoic determination to provide the very best experience to delegates and the brotherhood he created amongst exhibitors provided the Optical Community with an event that had International Kudos.

Malcolm leaves a wife Jean, two daughters, a son and their families.

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