What was the world really like through John Lennon’s eyes?

Not only is today Global Beatles Day, but Friday is also the cinematic release of Danny Boyle’s latest film, Yesterday.


Yesterday explores what the world would have been like if people forgot that The Beatles existed. Thankfully we all know this didn’t happen – so St Paul’s Eye Unit at the Royal decided to take a look at what the world would have looked like through John Lennon’s eyes instead.

Recently the Trust was lucky enough to get a closer look at a pair of John’s spectacles that are currently on permanent display at the award-winning ‘The Beatles Story’, a visitor attraction based on the Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool. The musician was very short sighted and was embarrassed to wear glasses until later in his career, when the iconic pair of round glasses became his signature look.

Mike Briggs, clinical director at St Paul’s Eye Unit, Mary Chadwick, commercial manager at The Beatles Story, Julia Baird, Roger Baird, Professor Simon Harding, consultant at St Paul’s Eye Unit and St Paul’s patient and Commonwealth Games athlete, Erika Kelly.

MORE: Get all of the latest news on the Fab Four in our Beatles pages here

The glasses brought into the Trust were worn by the legend in 1971 whilst composing his classic song, ‘Imagine’. They were brought in by John’s younger sister, Julia Baird, who visited to launch St Paul’s latest campaign, View from the Stars. A fundraising campaign for people affected by sight loss, the goal is for stars to donate their glasses or sunglasses to be auctioned off to fund pioneering research that will transform the treatment and care of eye disease.

John’s glasses were passed through a machine that takes a measurement of the prescription called a focimeter, to see just how short sighted he was. The test revealed that aged 31, John would have been severely short sighted, or myopic, and also had astigmatism. His lenses read -8.25 from his right eye, and -7.50 from his left.

David Roberts and Julia Baird at the focimeter (KrysPolkinoPhotography)

MORE: New Beatles film ‘Yesterday’ forces viewers to imagine life without the Fab Four

“Without his glasses the world would have been blurred and distorted for John. He would have been able to see the end of the guitar and the frets, but anything else beyond that would have been difficult for him,” said Professor Simon Harding, a consultant at St Paul’s Eye Unit. “His short sightedness was at a level such that it’s likely it would have worsened later in life and may have become a threat to his vision.”

Poor vision seemed to run in the family, as Julia explained: “I’m thrilled to be involved in View from the Stars. John, our mother and I all wore glasses because we were all very short-sighted. It wasn’t cool to wear glasses when The Beatles played the Cavern, and when The Beatles became famous John wore contact lenses.

“However, that later changed and the style of John’s glasses is one that is still instantly recognisable today; so we think it’s a great idea to use something as symbolic as them to kick start this amazing campaign to support St Paul’s Eye Unit’s work in Liverpool and around the world.

“It was fascinating to be given lenses that replicated what John would have seen without his glasses, and it wasn’t much at all. We want as many donations of glasses from stars as possible to ensure the auction raises an incredible amount for an incredible cause. I will be contacting friends to try and get the word out there and hopefully they will also encourage as many famous faces to join the cause. All we need is love!”

From its humble beginning in 1871, St Paul’s Eye Unit has grown to become an international centre of excellence, working with many countries around the world including Malawi, India, the USA and China.

Almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss, a figure likely to rise to over four million by 2025. Many cases of blindness and impairment are preventable, and this is a driving factor for the St Paul’s teams to develop new diagnostic and pioneering treatments.

Julia Baird (KrysPolkinoPhotography)

The Trust wants you to be a part of helping us to fundraise toward our ground breaking work. So, if you are a star and want to help tackle world blindness, or you know of someone famous who would love to get involved, or even a famous pair of glasses within your family, please get in touch.

“We are very grateful to Julia and The Beatles Story for getting behind this fundraising event. We certainly hope other celebrities can lend their support and help us to generate a lot of awareness of our work and money to fund our cutting-edge projects to prevent blindness,” added Professor Harding.

“For us here, international recognition is fine but the smile on the face of a patient being able to see after treatment is the ultimate satisfaction.”

Alongside any glasses donated for auction, the team will be hosting a number of events to help raise awareness of the campaign – so keep an “eye out” for more details.

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