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