Denis Norden CBE 1922 - 2018

Macular Society patrons

Everyone at the Macular Society is saddened to hear of the death of our patron, the comedy writer and TV presenter Denis Norden, at the age of 96.

Denis joined the Macular Society as a member in 2004 and became a patron in 2009.  

Born in Hackney, east London, in 1922, Denis worked in showbusiness for almost his entire life: first working as a stagehand, and later managing a cinema. During World War II, he wrote sketches for RAF troop shows. It was while searching for lighting for one of these shows that he and the late Eric Sykes (who also became a Macular Society patron) stumbled across the recently liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 

After the war ended, he wrote extensively for TV, radio and films. He also presented 29 episodes of ITV clip show “It’ll Be Alright on the Night”, always with his trademark clipboard in hand. 

Although he stood down from TV work in 2008 at the age of 84, Denis kindly came out of retirement in 2010 to present the Macular Society’s annual awards. Speaking at the ceremony, Denis said: “I find that this awards ceremony supersedes all those rather frivolous showbusiness ones. Today, we are celebrating something much more important – real service to the community.”  

He also described his own struggles with macular degeneration: “It absolutely changes the lives of those of us who find themselves habitually bending down to pick up a scrap of white paper, which turns out to be a patch of sunlight!” 

He spoke generously of the support he’d had from the Macular Society, saying: “When I was diagnosed with macular disease I was given very little information. The Society answered the questions I had and let me know what may lie ahead. They have been of enormous use to me in all sorts of ways; they have been unfailingly helpful and deserve every type of praise.”  

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society said: "The Society was privileged to have Denis as a patron. Denis first joined the Society as a member in 2004 after he was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the biggest cause of blindness in the UK. We're pleased we were able to offer him the support he so needed at the time. 

"He was an inspiration to many of us as he coped with his deteriorating sight for many years, before it became public knowledge, devising ways to learn his lines and carry on working. 

"We will always be grateful for everything he did for the Society and everyone here would like to pass their condolences to his family and friends, he will be much missed.”

Denis’s family have kindly asked for donations in his memory to go to the Macular Society. If you would like to donate in Denis's memory, please use the button below.