Born into a family of generations of mariners, Albert John Emptage earnt his living by the sea, having begun to work with boats at the age of eight. Whilst he had a turbulent domestic life, his skill at sea was undisputed. Albert was a member of the Margate lifeboat service for 40 years, many of them as coxswain. It was not just his height which made him a ‘giant of a man’.
Today there are many powerful global companies but the largest and most powerful was the East India Company. It had its own army and navy to protect its interests. George Emptage served in the company’s Bombay Marine, rising to Commodore and seeing action in the Second Anglo-Mysore War in India.
Thomas was called upon to do his duty and hire out his cutter to the Navy Board, to help service the English fleet at war with France.
If you hire something out, you expect to be paid for your time and expenses especially when, during the period of the hire, you’ve not had any other form of income and have incurred debts on behalf of your country.
Thomas, like many other people at the time, found himself having to argue with the Navy Board in order to be paid.
The story of an encounter with a veteran boat man named Hemptage and of his meeting with Napoleon Bonaparte. Why was it so important?
The brigantine ‘Druide of Cardiff’ was driven ashore on rocks opposite Fore Point, Margate. Subsequent events led to the shaming of Edwin Robert Emptage, second coxswain of the lifeboat Quiver and the awarding of Sea Gallantry medals to Albert John Emptage and six others. Did Edwin deserve to be pilloried or were political forces at work, using him as scapegoat?
Those words are inscribed on the RNLI memorial in Poole Dorset.
The memorial contains a list of over 800 lifeboat crew and others who have lost their lives whilst endeavouring to save others at sea, together with the places and dates. The names include two members of the Emptage family.