SITTING at the back of the class and squinting at the blackboard at the tender age of nine, Gillian Monk burst into tears when she realised she couldn’t see properly.

But 30 years after opening her own town centre opticians, now in Havelock Street, the owner of GD Monk Eyecare saw the traumatic experience as the pivotal moment which inspired a conscientious pupil to help other children to see.

“I remember being so upset and wondering why I couldn’t see the same as my best friend," she said. "Needing glasses back then was quite traumatic because specs were hideous.

"Fortunately things have changed now and helping people through the process, especially children, is very fulfilling.”

On Thursday 60 pupils from two Year 6 classes at Robert Le Kyng Primary School, in Westcott Street, took a special tour of the premises and found out what is involved in sight tests before enjoying quizzes, competitions and activities to celebrate the business' 30th birthday.

During the day there was also a book and cake sale to help raise funds for Optometry Giving Sight, a charity which the practice has raised several hundreds of pounds for over the years.

A particularly special carrot cake was also basked for the occasion by Crunch café.

Gillian said: “Carrots are full of antioxidants for the back of the eye. So it’s true that they, along with other foods like greens, eggs, tomatoes and red peppers, are good for vision.

“My passion and focus has always been primary healthcare. People often underestimate the importance of looking after your vision and getting it checked regularly, not just during childhood but also adult life. Besides testing your eyes, it can also indicate other health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure or even tumours.

"I occasionally have to call eye emergency department at the hospital, which has saved people’s sight. As we’re living longer these days, macular degeneration is a common problem.”

Gillian, who now lives with her husband Mike in Shaw Ridge, first worked as a locum for Pritchards, Hardings and Remingtons before buying Hardings practice in 1989 and absorbing Harrisons six years later. Originally based in Regent Street, her practice has been located in Havelock Street for 17 years.

She said: “When I first became an optician, only a quarter were women and I was once mistaken for the receptionist. But these days half are women – I still do the testing and dispensing because I like helping people to choose the frames and find something which suits them.

"I’ve got people who have been coming to me since childhood, so it’s very much a long-term relationship. There’s also a strong community with the shops here.”