An elderly main walking down a street. He is assisted by a walking frame.

Kenneth (Ken) Essex was an amazing fundraiser and a very special man. He had an illustrious career as a top-class violist and so much spirit and drive to help others. He completed an epic 10km fundraising walk on his 100th birthday for Moorfields Eye Charity. He was a true inspiration.

Ken passed away in October 2021.

He received treatment for macular degeneration at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and so inspired by Captain Tom he celebrated his 100th birthday with a fundraising challenge.

For Ken’s 100th birthday on 20 July 2020, he didn’t put his feet up - instead, he walked 10km over the course of ten days in the run up to his big day, to raise funds for Moorfields Eye Charity as a way to say thank you for all the fantastic treatment he received at Moorfields.

Thanks to our splendid NHS, the treatment I have received has been exceptional, especially at this difficult time. I would like to do something for Moorfields in return.

Ken Essex, speaking at the time

What is macular degeneration?

Learn more

Macular degeneration is a common eye condition where cells in the middle of the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of your eye) die or are damaged, causing sight loss and making it difficult to see fine details clearly.

Ken’s story

After serving in the Royal Marines during the second world war, Ken had a very successful music career. His viola can be heard on famous music recordings including The Beatles Yesterday”, and he was close with George Martin, frequently playing at Abbey Road Studios. 

Ken also played for famous TV shows including Last of The Summer Wine and Fawlty Towers, and has even played at Royal Variety performances. He was part of the Eurovision Song Contest orchestra which included playing the backing track for Abba, the year they won with Waterloo. He worked with plenty of other very familiar music stars too, providing music for the likes of Tom Jones, Cilla Black and the Bee Gees to name just a few!

Giving something back

We are so grateful to Ken who raised over £20,000 and thank him for taking on this challenge, raising funds that will help Moorfields to continue investing in sight-saving research, education and patient care

He lived a remarkable life and his fundraising will make a difference to countless others.

An interview with Kenneth about his musical career