A few days after the Gathering, I emailed the attendees:
Hello Folks, Well, what can I say?
No matter how much goes into organising an event, the end result depends on the attitude of the attendees.
And, I must say, every single one of you did us and yourselves proud. It seems to me that you came with the intention of enjoying yourself, of contributing to the success of the Gathering and you most emphatically did so.
I had a very carefully written welcome speech for St Peter’s but when I stood up in front and saw you all together, every word went straight out of my head and all I could think and say was WOW!
And that was because we had pulled it off, we had made it happen. From near and far, Emptage/Emtage descendants and their partners had taken to planes, trains and cars to travel to the small corner of Kent, England, known as the Isle of Thanet.
I’m not sure who it was who said that it didn’t seem like meeting strangers but meeting family. And I felt the same. We were kindred spirits. We are the Emptage/Emtage Clan and it is lovely to put faces to names.
The buzz, the knowledge that everyone was talking about their own or the wider history of the Emptages was so uplifting.
And to think we wrote crib sheets for each dinner table host, with a few notes about the attendees on their table, just in case there was a lull in conversation. They are still in my folder, unused. I think the only time there was a lull in conversation was when people were giving a talk at St Peter’s.
I have two regrets. The first, of course, that David and Jo couldn’t come. I’m not sure if I made it clear that David wrote the individual lineages before he became ill.
The second, that I didn’t get to talk with you individually as much as I would have liked. So many interesting people gathered together and no time for me to sit in a corner and chat with you over a cup of coffee.
Thank you to those who helped before or during the event. And a very special thank you to Pat for arranging such a wonderful buffet. Left to me, it would have been professional caterers but Pat volunteered to arrange it all and wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise.
We had talked of holding another Gathering next year but, as we now have a book to write – how did that happen? – we are planning to hold a Gathering in September 2020.
So, did I dream that we just had a wonderful weekend or was it a figment of my imagination?
The attendees replied:
What a simply lovely weekend.
Thank you Team Emptage for all the work that went into making it such a success.
It was so interesting to meet everyone and know that we share a common heritage.
I really enjoyed all of it and being able to attend the service at St Nicolas on Sunday morning was very special. Quite something to feel you’re walking the land they knew and worshipping where they worshipped.
Bring on the book and the next gathering!!!
I echo everything Andrea has just said. A very special weekend, thank you Susan and the rest of the team, especially Pat for my lunch.
Indeed, the church service at St Nicholas was very special – not only did I share it with my Emptage cousins but the lady in the choir with the wonderful voice turned out to be a friend in my year at secondary school who I hadn’t seen for 40 years!
I will be there in 2020. In the mean time if anyone is ever in North Yorkshire please let me know as I would love to show you where Jane Amelia Emptage (my great grandma) lived in York with her family.
I just wanted to add my thoughts about the weekend and say that it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to have been there and to have met you all. Being part of such a unique family is a joy and the friendship and love that was so apparent from the start was truly amazing.
Andrea’s comments about walking the land they knew just about sums it up.
Would I want to be part of this again 2020? Oh yes!
John Jefferys (JJ):
I was amazed to see the Emptages of Thanet came in so many different shapes and sizes. I mean considering we shared a common ancestor, albeit several generations ago, I would have thought we would have showed nowhere near so many variations on a theme. Yet there we all were, tall or short, thin and not so thin, and so on.
Looking at myself in the group photographs, I got the impression of being slightly taller than the average Emptage. Maybe my genes had been handed down to me from my fathers’ family, the Jefferys of Wiltshire, rather than from my mother, Eileen Emptage. [note from Ed: our mother was taller than our father when they first met, so I think you do get your height from the Emptages.]
Like our mix of appearances, our mix of personalities was incredible. No matter from which part of the world, or from whatever walks of life we all so readily got along together as if we had been friends for years rather than meeting each other for the first time.
Roll on 2020 when we can all get together again. In the meantime we have two years to try and encourage more of our kin to discover what an extended family is really all about.
The end result depends on the attitude of the attendees? (your words, Susan).
Well, the attitude of the attendees depended on their knowing right from the start that what they were entering into would be filled with love and friendship between every single person at the Gathering. Well Susan, WE certainly did know that. The result was a forgone conclusion.
He later added:
I had no expectations of the gathering but if I had, what transpired would have surpassed them anyway. It was both an honour and immense pleasure being there.
I thought the idea of the [lineage] folder was a stroke of genius on somebody’s part, not only as an aid to the weekends activities but I like to think one of my Grandchildren will be keeping it safe one day.
If there was anything I would like to see added, it would be maybe a couple of basically blank pages, The gathering’s title at the top, for names/places or any thing the attendee did not trust their memory too, and it would all add to the sentimental value of the folder itself.
To me, the programme at St Peters WAS the gathering. So, much more of the same please.
I want to create an album to go with the folder to hand down to the family and I’m looking to do a deal with your “official” photographer for a copy of every shot he took at the gathering. Perhaps you could have a word? Oh, and my apologies to him. See what I mean about trying to commit names to memory?.
By the way, my daughters and son in-law are all determined to be at the next gathering.
[Ed’s note: Sometimes the best things come about by accident. David was meant to be creating some crib notes so that each table host at the dinner would have some idea of who the people on that table were but he got carried away and we found ourselves with what we called ‘Potted Histories’, the lineage for each direct descendant of the Emptages and Emtages who was present, starting at the top of their respective tree and working down.]
The Gathering was a wonderful weekend; the meeting of those who came from far and wide was fantastic. Susan must have worked very hard to bring such a fantastic weekend together as it did.
So a huge thank you to Susan for all her hard work. She can now have a break before she gets going on the next event. (I’m sure there will be more.)
We would just like to extend our thanks to Susan and the ‘Team’. It was wonderful to meet all of the Clan and as Saturday ended we wondered where the day had gone to. So interesting to meet so many like minded people from such different backgrounds and all with one thing in common.
Susan and Keith Aylwin:
Thank you for a fantastic weekend, we have so many happy memories, and appreciate all the hard work that went into it. What a lovely friendly family we Emptages/Emtages are all a part of! Roll on 2020!
The Ohio contingent did truly enjoy the Gathering and thought you did a wonderful job of pulling it together. The posters of the family trees was a nice touch.
[After the time at St Peters] we tended to go our own way because Ron and I wanted to show Tron and Tad their more immediate heritage of the locations that Thomas and Ann Homersham Emptage were part of (St. Nicholas, Birchington, Down Barton Manor, Ham). We got to the Margate Museum 10 minutes too late on Saturday.
I thought the program was well done. The one thing I would have liked to have added to the program would have been a guided tour by a local historian for a couple of the churches (especially St. John’s and St. Nicholas at Wade). I know you wanted to keep the talks short, but I would have liked to see a few more, maybe one each on some aspect of each of the four family trees.
[Ed’s note: It was hard to know quite how to programme the day. How much would people want to hear about the family history, how much would they want to be out and about? We’ve listened to what you and Colin have said and for the Gathering 2020 we’re extending the day by two hours so we can have more talks and longer talks. And yes, we’ll see if we can find local historians for the three main churches, St Peter-in-Thanet, St Nicholas at Wade and St John the Baptist.]
It was with some trepidation that I drove off to the community hall on the Saturday morning: would everyone turn up? Would people mingle and chat to each other? I need not have worried, everybody was keen to see how they fitted in to the family tree and to chat to cousins they had never heard of before let alone met.
The boards showing the family trees were a great success and it was wonderful to see people clustered around them to see how they were related to others.
The morning in the hall set the tone for the whole weekend with people keen to chat with everyone else and to share stories about their Emptage relatives. The visit to the Margate Lifeboat station was fascinating and it was good to see some artefacts belonging to an Emptage in Margate Museum.
Until I became involved with Team Emptage I was not aware of any Emptage relatives apart from my siblings and to see more than 30 cousins from not only all over England but also from the USA and Barbados in a room together was very emotional and is something I will never forget. I was particularly pleased to meet Andrew Emptage, my closest cousin.
[Ed’s note: Andrew, on the left, team photographer, and Tim’s great grandparents were John Emptage and Emily Haskell. The photo was taken at St Mary Magdalene Church, Monkton, where they went to see if there was any evidence of Emptages on the gravestones.]
Having written her initial thoughts above, Pat then took time to think more about the Gathering.
It is very difficult to know where to begin putting an amazing long weekend into just a few words. When it was first suggested that we meet up on the 5th Anniversary of the unveiling of the Margate Memorial to those who lost their lives when the lugger Victory was lost, I thought that it would be possibly the Team Emptage members only. Then our lovely David and Jo said they would come over [from Australia] and combine it with a holiday too so then I knew it was going to be somewhat special. Nor did I think that even in any of our wildest dreams it would snowball to 35 people and for some coming as far as the USA.
What sadness we all felt when David had to cancel due to his ongoing illness but I think it made us all even more determined to make the weekend successful.
The Gathering, as it became known, excelled in all ways and even the warm dry weather played its part. Susan put together a fabulous agenda which covered so much of the family history in Thanet and I know by the response that it was all very much appreciated.
It was so interesting watching people poring over their family trees and possibly finding information that was totally new to them.
Although I do not come down from the St Nicholas at Wade family I always enjoy visiting the church because of the wonderful Emptage memorial stones. DNA testing says that at some point the families do connect way back in the annals of time. Proving it is going to be nigh on impossible but I never give up hope.
So what was my most memorable moment? There are so many but I think it just boils down to one thing and that was just how welcoming everyone was. Myself, Susan, Tim, Alida, and JJ met our Ohio relatives in the foyer area of the hotel just by chance and you would never have thought that it was the first time by the greeting that was given.
When people arrived on the Saturday morning at St. Peters Hall they were there to meet and enjoy the company of new family members. I met Jenny Sanderson who is my Great Uncle George’s great granddaughter – Great Uncle George being my grandmothers’ brother. He has such an abiding place in my childhood memory and to meet Jenny was a joy. I took her down Byron Avenue on the Sunday morning so that she could see for the first time where he lived and where her family would have visited.
Obviously on a very personal note the news 17 days later that David had lost his battle with pneumonia was devastating to all of us who had worked so closely with him over the years since Team Emptage was first formed. I cannot explain to anyone the phenomenal amount of work that he had put in to building the Emptage Family Tree and combining it with not only just dates but little scraps of information gleaned over the years to make up a deeper picture of our ancestors’ lives. It was at his insistence that I went to Margate for the unveiling of the memorial stone and there met Tim, Alida and Susan for the first time. Who would have thought that it would lead to The Gathering?
Even though David is no longer with us his work will continue and new facts and relatives will be discovered and hopefully connections made. The planned Emptage book will be dedicated to his memory.
In 2020 we hope to be able to do it again and, in the meantime, I hope you all stay well and I look forward to seeing you then.
And final words on the Gathering from me:
I’m writing this nearly sixteen weeks after the Gathering. Under normal circumstances the articles about the Gathering would have been written soon after the event but the last few months have been anything but normal as we have struggled to come to terms with David Lindsey Emptage’s very sad death and loss to us all.
When David and I, independently and on opposite sides of the world but at the same time in January 2018, first thought of holding a Gathering, we had little idea of how many would attend or where they would come from. It is clear that the event surpassed anything which either he or I envisaged.
Immersing myself in the memories of the Gathering as I’ve been writing the articles and working my way through Andrew Emptage’s very evocative photographs I’ve been reminded of the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.
I think the photos fully encompass the whole Gathering: the coming together of members of the Emptage and Emtage Clan, the engagement in proceedings by everybody present and the interest which everybody showed, whether a descendant or a partner of a descendant.
It was the director of the Orangery, where we held the dinner, who first referred to us as a clan, a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. I think it is a pretty apt description.
My very sincere thanks to all the attendees for making the Gathering such a success.
As Ray Emptage, David’s nephew put it: “This year has been both a triumph and a tragedy!”
The Gathering was only going to be a one off but it seems 2018 was just the inaugural one. The next Gathering will be held over the weekend of 12/13 September 2020, in Thanet. Please enter the date in your diaries as we are looking forward to meeting you there.
If you’d like to add your name to those who would like receive information about the next Gathering, in due course, you can .
Photographs by team member Andrew Emptage. Click on each photo to see it in full size.