Tributes paid to Lowestoft author and historian John Holmes

Local historian John Holmes, who died in February, pictured with his book about sailor Victor Crisp.

Local historian John Holmes, who died in February, pictured with his book about sailor Victor Crisp. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

For nearly 30 years John Holmes dedicated his life to documenting the history of Lowestoft.

And now following his death, family, friends and the community have paid tribute to the much-loved husband, father and local historian.

Mr Holmes passed away aged 79 on Friday, February 17, at James Paget University Hospital.

A popular community figure the well-respected author told the tales of the past from Lowestoft, Oulton Broad and Southwold.

Born in Hampstead, London in 1937, he spent his early days in London before moving to Kessingland then Pakefield, Lowestoft.


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In his working life the prolific writer and history hunter worked as an engineer for the GPO and as a telecommunications manager for BT.

On May 9, 1960, at a dance on the Lowestoft South Pier he met his wife, Val.

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Val Holmes, 75, said: 'A caring husband, brilliant father and exceptional human being, John made time for everyone and was always happiest when helping others.

'John wished to document the rapidly changing character of Lowestoft and Waveney through world war, industry and economic fortunes with a charitable purpose. He wrote around 38 books with all proceeds going to charity.'

Mrs Holmes added: 'John's principal wish in the event of his passing was to thank the people of Lowestoft and Waveney who had supported him through attending slide shows, purchasing books and sharing memories and photographs.

'The family of John wishes to say thank you for all the cards, flowers and words of comfort - we have been overwhelmed with the support and kindness shown by all who knew John.'

The couple were married for 50 years and had twin boys – John and Rob, both aged 39, who said: 'Our father was - simply put - a brilliant dad. Always encouraging of our interests, and supportive during life's challenges, we could not have asked for a better dad.'

Rob Holmes explained: 'As a young teenager I often accompanied my father to his slideshows to assist with the event (laying out chairs, washing-up cups!) and saw firsthand the joy he created in both young and old by bringing the past to life.

'We are proud that our father played such an active role in the community and was well-known and respected for his work in combining documenting local history with charitable purpose.'

From publishing his first book, The Spirit of Lowestoft A Town at War 1939-45, to the publication of his most recent book, From Cabin Boy to Skipper, Mr Holmes sold 20,000 copies of his work.

He fell in love with local history after attending a slide-show in 1971 by Jack Rose of the Old Lowestoft Society.

Following this he became involved with the society and it was renamed the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society in 1990 after Mr Holmes helped to convince Mr Rose, who had become a close friend, not to disband his organisation.

A private cremation took place on March 6 at John's request.

Family and friends will celebrate John's life at an event in Southwold later this month.

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Tribute to a wonderful Pakefield Boy from Janet Ellis and Zoiyar Cole of The Paul Cole Cancer Fund:

'We are all so sorry to have lost John Holmes historian extraordinaire. He was a wonderful, kind, thoughtful, generous man who raised thousands of pounds for many charities, the smaller ones, for example boy scouts and the larger charities like The Louise Hamilton Centre at James Paget University Hospital.

'He always supported our cancer fundraising. Apart from all this marvellous work he dedicated a large part of his life doing slide shows, be it the Marina Theatre or Pakefield Church Hall they enticed large audiences and were very interesting and we all enjoyed his very comical wit!

'He had numerous books printed also. He always contacted us after an event that we had organised and said 'well done', likewise we would like to say well done John for all you did for our community.

'We and loads of people respected you and we will never forget you. We send our sincere condolences to John's family. We will miss you, love from Janet Ellis and Zoiyar Cole.'

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