Whilst some of us stayed over until Monday morning, most attendees had to leave at various times on the Sunday to make their way home and so there was no set programme but a number of suggestions for people to visit depending on the time they had available.
Whilst some people went to St Nicholas at Wade church for the morning service, thirteen of us went to see the Viking Ship before joining the others at the church.
I first saw the ship many many years ago, in my childhood, when we spent a holiday in a caravan on top of the cliffs above Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate but, of course, I didn’t appreciate its significance then.
As the DNA Study shows, our ancestors were probably Jutes, maybe those led by the warriors, Hengist and Horsa, who arrived on the Isle of Thanet in the year 449, by invitation from Vortigern, King of the Britons, who was under attack from other tribes. Horsa was killed in battle but Hengist became the first Saxon King of Kent.
So we paid homage to our ancestors by visiting the Viking Ship, a Danish replica of a preserved ship dating from 450 years after Hengist and Horsa arrived on Thanet. Named The Hugin, it had been sailed from Denmark in the same way that the original Jutes and Vikings would have done.
The ship overlooks Pegwell Bay, close to the shore where it is believed that the Vikings landed, which in turn was close to where the Romans had landed hundreds of years before.
More than a thousand years after the Vikings arrived, Pegwell Bay was the site of a hovercraft port. I can’t help but wonder what the ghosts of the Vikings roaming the cliffs thought about this new form of craft which didn’t need oars or sails but appeared to hover above the waves.
It was a bit breezy on top of the cliffs but it was a lovely day. Andrew set the camera and then ran around the back of the group so he’d be in the photo as well.
From left to right: Tessa, Roger, Tim, Ray, Yolanda, Andrew (Emtage without the p), Judy, Alida, Andrew (Emptage with the p, photographer), Anna, Susan, Pat, Jenny and John (JJ).
As JJ and I were walking back to the car something felt peculiar. I glanced down to see that the sole of one shoe was half detached from the upper. Oh dear. What to do? It would be dangerous to drive with my shoe like that.
I still had all the paraphernalia in the car from the day before at St Peters. I delved around and found the sticky tape, which I proceeded to wind around and around the shoe to make a temporary repair. And so JJ and I arrived at St Nicholas at Wade somewhat later than the others and with a taped up shoe. I abandoned the shoes later at the hotel.
Photos by Andrew Emptage.
The Next Gathering
When JJ and I left the church, we decided it was time for some lunch and stopped at a pub in St Nicholas at Wade. As we were at the bar, ordering some rather nice crab sandwiches, Michele, having heard our voices, came out of the dining room and so we joined her, Doris and Ian.
They had been to Preston-next-Wingham, on the trail of Emptages who may have been the ancestors of John Emptage who started the Barbadian branch of the family.
We talked about the next Gathering and Michele suggested that places outside of but still close to Thanet, such as Preston-next-Wingham could be included on the trail.
And then Michele and I, two Team Emptage members, took the decision that, because the book is next year’s project, the next Gathering would be in 2020.
Whilst Michele and her family started their journey home, JJ and I drove back to Margate for the next stage in the weekend. As we passed the church of All Saints at Birchington, we saw the members of the Ohio contingent in the church yard. Their ancestors, Thomas and Ann Emptage had lived in Birchington before emigrating to the USA in 1835.
The church of St John the Baptist
The church in Margate, where so many Emptages trod the path between gate and door over hundreds of years, in happy times and sad, was open for visitors between 2 and 4pm. There is a wall plaque in the church commemorating Elijah Emptage as a bell ringer in 1824 when he was 54 years old.
I know some attendees visited it but JJ and I (after changing my shoes at the hotel!) choose to go straight to the Margate Museum, where the last admission was 4pm. I think the Ohio contingent did go to the church and consequently arrived too late to visit the Museum.
As JJ and I went around the museum, we kept coming across other Gathering attendees, which is not surprising as we’d listed it as one of the places to see.
Not only is the museum housed in the old court house and police station but the court room is still set up – I avoided treading on the hatch where prisoners were brought up from the cells. The police cells are used for exhibits. In fact, every corner of the old building is packed with artefacts and photographs.
It is a small museum but has an excellent reputation with very friendly and knowledgeable volunteer guides. They are happy to answer questions and often tell anecdotes about the exhibits. I can’t remember now what it was but I was quite pleased to be able to add an anecdote about the Emptages whilst we were looking at the marine exhibits and photos of lifeboat men.
From my visit five years ago, I remembered that there is a model of an ocean going sailing ship. I didn’t know then that my ancestors included a Master Mariner and several people in the Royal Navy who may have sailed on similar ships, so I wanted to take a closer look at it.
Amongst the exhibits are medals which were awarded to Albert John Emptage during his time as coxswain of the lifeboat. Included in the marine related exhibits were aspects about Dunkirk in WW2.
For a small place, there is a lot to see and I don’t feel as though I did it justice. I want to go back again, to allow more time to absorb all that Margate Museum has to offer.
Photo by Andrew Emptage.
Memorial to the crew of the lugger Victory
During the weekend, several attendees took the opportunity to visit the Memorial, which is set into the wall at the beginning of the Harbour Arm.
It commemorates the nine crew of the lugger Victory, who were drowned when the boat was swamped by terrible seas during their attempt to rescue the crew of the American sailing ship, Northern Belle on 5 January 1857. Two of the drowned men were William Emptage and his nephew John Emptage.
A memorial stone had previously been erected but it had fallen into disrepair. And so, at the beginning of 2013 a public appeal was launched, which raised £6,000 to replace the stone. Marble was imported from Italy and it was engraved by a local stonemason.
Tim, Pat and I had all met when we had attended the dedication service in April 2013, an event of much pomp and ceremony. And so we were rather disturbed to see that the Memorial stone has not been well looked after and will attempt to raise public awareness of it.
Pictured: Denise, Sylvia, John and Philip, the Yorkshire contingent.
Pictured above: Team Emptage member Ray, who will be writing about the lives of the Emptage mariners.
Those two photos by Andrew Emptage.
I hope this series of articles, and especially the photos, have given you a taste of what The Gathering was all about.
We’d love to meet you at the next Gathering, 12/13 September 2020. If you’d like to add your name to those who would like receive information about it in due course, you can .