Captain Len Holder

Captain Len Holder

Captain Len Holder worked in the British Merchant Navy for ten years in the 1950s and 1960s. He travelled all over the world, principally in Asia and Australasia, as well as around the UK.

He subsequently studied and researched at Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University), where he also trained sailors from around the world. He was Head of Department there from 1977 to 1988 and then Director of the School of Engineering and Technology Management. He became an expert in maritime safety.

He was the Chairman of Videotel Marine International, a company which he helped to set up in the 1970s, and which provides training videos and other materials for shipping companies around the world.

From May 2000 to May 2001 Captain Holder was the Master of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, a London Livery Company. Their role is to provide education and training to mariners and maintain professional standards, all as a charity. Len joined the Honourable Company in 1953, and took an active part in the organisation. He set up their apprenticeship scheme, designed to help guide mariners through the process of becoming a Master Mariner.

He was President of the Nautical Institute from 1993 to 1996, having been a founder member in 1971. The aim of the organisation is similar to the Master Mariners in terms of training and education, but on an international scale. It also publishes research and journals, which Len regularly contributed to.

In addition, he was also a member of the Mersey Mission to Seafarers.

In November 2012, Captain Holder was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal in recognition for his services to the Nautical Institute and marine safety training.

Len Holder with his wife Ann, after receiving the Merchant Navy Medal, November 2012
Len Holder with his wife Ann, after receiving the Merchant Navy Medal, November 2012

Captain Holder was regularly asked to give lectures around the world. As he got older, he also gave talks on a wide variety of topics connected to his life, as well as on research into his family tree done with his wife, Ann. The British National Archives recorded one of these talks, entitled Three Generations of Master Mariners, about his ancestor, his uncle and himself.

He was a consummate storyteller, and it was rare for him to go for long without telling a story. He collected many, but by no means all, of his stories, all of them short and quick to tell, into two booksA Lighthearted Look at Seafaring and Other Stories and More of Len’s Stories. All of the profits are donated to seafarers’ charities and the National Association for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Over £5,000 had been raised by November 2012, and more has been donated since. If you’d like a copy of the books, please contact katemillin at gmail dot com.

Len was also a member of Lions International, and did a lot of fundraising for them, with money going to a lot of local charities. He also sang in choirs throughout his life and had a beautiful singing voice.

Len fundraising for Lions
Len fundraising for Lions

Above and beyond all of this, Len Holder was a family man, with a loving wife, five children, and eight grandchildren, of whom I am the oldest.

Len with my grandma and two of my cousins
Grandy with my grandma and two of my cousins

We are a close family, including my extended family (Grandy’s sister and brother and their children and grandchildren).

Grandma and grandy, with grandy's brother and his wife,  December 2012
Grandma and Grandy, with Grandy’s brother and his wife, December 2013

Grandy was supportive of all of us, and took a huge interest in everything we did. I am immensely proud to be his granddaughter, and I know that I owe a lot of who I am to him, not least my love of travel, my teaching genes and my enjoyment of giving presentations. Although he never learnt to speak another language fluently, I owe this gene to him too: he knew bits and pieces of many languages, and enjoyed testing them out.

Most of the family gathered together
Some of the family gathered together, including most of the grandchildren

When the end came, it was very quick. Having never really been ill in his life, Grandy started to get sick in February this year, and was taken into hospital in March, where he was diagnosed with cancer, which had already spread quite a lot. The ward he stayed in was one of the places which had benefitted from his fundraising efforts. He had started chemotherapy, and the doctors were impressed at how strong he was, but a combination of other infections, including pneumonia, meant that recovery was not to be. The last time I saw him, just before I went to the IATEFL conference, he was telling stories and being cheeky, just like always, despite being in a hospital bed. He passed away in his sleep last night.

Grandma, grandy and mum
Grandma, Grandy and mum

Goodbye, Grandy. You will be missed by the many hundreds of people whose lives you touched, and especially by your family. Things won’t be the same without you.

21 thoughts on “Captain Len Holder

  1. That’s a beautiful post, Sandy, and your storytelling and travelling mean Leonard’s influence will live on. I was honoured to be able to help with his second book and Matthew and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to you and your extended family – the ones we know and the ones we have met briefly and the ones we don’t know.


  2. A great tribute to a man who was obviously dear to you and a great many others. My thoughts are with you at what must be a difficult time.


  3. Dear Sandy, I’m very sorry. Thanks for sharing your feelings.  I’m happy to know what a great person your Grandy was. Best wishes Olga

    Tue, 22 Apr 2014 17:20:56 +0000 от Sandy Millin : >Sandy Millin posted: ”

    Captain Len Holder worked in the British Merchant Navy for ten years in the 1950s and 1960s. He travelled all over the world, principally in Asia and Australasia, as well as around the UK.

    He subsequently studied and researched at Liverpool Polytec” >


  4. Sandy

    Loved the way you took me for a journey with your illustrious grand dad. He sure didn’t do different things; but, did things differently and set the bars high for all of you and the world at large. Thanks for sharing his inspiring story.

    Prayers for all of you in mourning.



  5. I had the privilege of knowing Len for some 50 years. He was always supportive and a source of great inspiration and motivation towards we Nautical Studies students. Seafaring being as it was and, to a certain extent remains today, our paths crossed mostly during my studies for Second Mates, Mates etc. Therefore, irregularly and nowhere near often enough. Nevertheless, when I swallowed the anchor and founded MRM in 1986, we stayed in touch and his advice and criticism (always constructive) proved invaluable and certainly contributed to our success.
    I could eulogise for many pages on the influence this gentle man, and gentleman, has had on my life but I won’t. I’ll simply remember him as the man I would always aspire to be, but never quite good enough to cut it.
    Len – thank you for everything. God Bless. And whilst my thoughts and sympathies are with your family who surely mourn your passing, I see you as a guiding beacon to all who “go down to the sea in ships”.
    May God be with you and yours for ever.


  6. Thank you to everyone who has commented on this post. It is lovely to read such great tributes to our much lived dad and grandad. If any of you would like a copy if his book please do not hesitate to contact me. We are continuing his fund raising activities in his name.


  7. As a retired Liverpool Pilot,I remember Len from the Radar Courses which we attended from time to time at Byrom Street Technical Colledge.Whilst learning quite a lot,I’m afraid a couple of us tested his famous sense of humour almost to the limit,by manageing to engineer one or two spectacular “collisions”A lovely man.


  8. I love this post, and thanks to everybody who has commented with such lovely messages and memories. Len was a wonderful father as well as a truely international influence to many. I have received so many e-mails, about how well Len was respected, from all around the globe.

    A great gentleman, and inspiration, andsuch a sad loss to so many.

    Nick Holder (an extremely proud son). Rest in Peace dad. xxx


    1. There are a few teachers and lecturers (and I have had more than most) who make a particular mark on you, who you remember with particular admiration and affection. Len was one these few. I first met him when I was studying for my First Mate’s certificate Liverpool about 1971, when he taught us Electricial Science for 6 months. He was a brilliant and inspirational lecturer and a warm human being. After that, I met him from time as fellow members of the HCMM and also in my field of shipping law. He contributed enormously to our industry, and above all was a delightful person. He will be missed my many members of the shipping community worldwide, far more than his family can ever imagine His is a sad loss and my comiserations to his friends and family. Mike Mallin, shipping solicitor, Hong Kong


  9. Thank you Mike. Much appreciated. I am starting to learn how much of an influence he was to others other than myself, and my family. He was a great man, more than I ever knew personally, which makes me so much prouder to have been his son.


  10. Unfortunately I have no address for your Grandma, so perhaps you could e-mail it to me as I should like to write to her. I too am a retired Liverpool Pilot. Your Grandfather and I met, as Barrie Hodgson did, through our attendances for Radar Courses at Byrom Street. I also had the privilege of presenting a joint paper with him at Warsash many years ago. And then my late wife, present wife, and I had the pleasure of meeting on many happy occasions with both your grandfather and grandmother at various Merseyside maritime social events even as recently as last year.

    As Liverpool pilots we were a very different group to the usual students, we spanned the age range from thirties to sixty and did indeed try his patience on occasions, but his quiet sense of humour shone through always. His contribution to our effective and safe pilotage was immense and the radar courses which he organised, along with legal briefings and lectures covering aspects of the changing maritime technological world were an essential part of our career in the modern world. Others will no doubt have also commented on his extensive involvement with the maritime community on Merseyside, through the Nautical institute and the Mission to Seafarers, where he was both well respected and extremely well liked. He was a real gentleman seafarer dedicated to it professionally and I suspect spiritually too, he will be greatly missed by us all. His memory will live on through all who he taught I am sure.

    Thank you for posting his life in words and pictures it was good to read and see it all.


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