The "Boat Race" Grave at Margate
Featured in the August 2008 handbook.
Historians tend to spend a lot of time looking into the affairs of dead people, and while some would be put off by the idea we are stimulated by it. After all, what is history but an account of deeds of those now departed? We of the Margate Historical Society have naturally found much of interest in the occupants of Margate Cemetery, and as well as those who helped fashion our town in the past there are also graves holding rather notable people from our national history. Our Chairman, John t. Williams, has devoted many years of research into logging graves there before time and erosion destroy those few poignant lines etched into the stones, and four years ago he told me of a stone he had stumbled upon whilst searching for the grave of a fallen serviceman. He asked me what I knew of a Thomas Selby Egan, and my reply was that I knew nothing at all, but would set about finding out. Very soon the combined efforts of John, Alf Beeching, Chris Sandwell and myself came up with the low-down on our Mr. Egan and what a story his life had to tell.
Alf found that our man had been born in London on Christmas Day in 1814 and died on the 11th of May 1893, whilst lodging at the guest house of a widow, Mrs Powell, at 42 Marine Terrace, he was of
Irish stock and an accomplished linguist, translating and publishing German works into English as well as being Editor of “Bell Life “ magazine for many years. Chris a Margate Lifeboatman, found that his
files showed that a lifeboat named TOM EGAN was presented to the station at Tramore, Southern Ireland, in 1865, and following up on information on the plain Celtic Cross on his grave which recorded that Thomas had been the Coxswain of the Cambridge University craft in the Boat Races of 1836,1839 and1840, and that he had also been an Umpire at Hanley Regatta for 12 years, john wrote off to the Cambridge University Boat Club requesting any assistance and information they could give to help us.
Pending a response to this, Alf then discovered that Thomas had been admitted to Caius College, Cambridge, on the 29th of June 1833 Matriculating at Michaelmas that same year, he became a
Bachelor of Arts in 1838 and a Master of Arts in 1842. he was also incorporated at Oxford in June 1852 becoming involved in training their Boat Race crew who very fortuitously won the event that
year. He was known as the Aquatic Coach during his University days, and his services were very much in demand by both Cambridge and Oxford. Following that 1852 win for Oxford Egan is recorded
as having been elected President of Cambridge University Boat Club in 1853- 1854 training their crew for 1853 and 1858, but he surpassed himself in 1856 when he managed to suppress any partisan
instincts by training both crews! Obviously, Thomas Egan was the Aquatic Coach per excellence!
I Myself chased up the early history of the Boat Race and discovered that it was inaugurated in 1829, being rowed over a 2½ mile coures between Hambelden Lock and Henley Bridge, the Oxford boat
being victorious that year. There was then a hiatus of 7 years before Cambridge boat took the honours in 1836, so our Thomas Egan was a famous man in his day, being Coxswain of the first ever
Cambridge boat to secure victory. The event was sporadic up until 1856 when it became an annual event, but before that in 1845 the course was changed to that used today - 4½miles between Mortlake and Putney.
John heard from Cambridge that Thomas Egan had been at Rottingdean (Gonville & Caius College) that he had completed in three Boat Races as Coxswain against Oxford as listed previously, and that his weight had remained a constant 9 stone. So you see you never know who you might find in a quiet corner of our Cemetery.