Nothing is forever. That is certainly true of people.

Generation succeeds generation, but individuals can live on through both physical “traces” and in the hearts and minds of the people that they leave behind.

For me essentially that is what local history is about – footsteps in time, real personal, human stories.

We can all cite examples. For my part I want to tell you about my Uncle Arthur (hoping that I don’t sound too much like Private Pike!).

Ironically I never knew him, because he died when I was just four (but bizarrely I do have a vivid memory of seeing his silver motorbike).

Nevertheless, I was brought up on stories about him, told with hushed reverence and sadness, admiration and regret, by my nan, mum and by my cousin (his son) who, all these years on, has never really accepted his death.

But then that is understandable – it was his dad after all and this larger-than-life character was once part of the very lifeblood of Maldon, its social set and its sailing fraternity.

Arthur Roland Emmett was born in 1906, not here, but in Hounslow, then in Middlesex.

His link with Maldon was through his maternal line, for his mother was a Keeble, part of the Blackwater barging dynasty.

From an early age Arthur loved sailing and went on to own two boats, which he kept outside the Queen’s Head and at Charley Barker’s boatyard on the Downs.

These regularly brought him to town, but then war broke out.

He was a member of the RNVR and was called up for “war service only” in 1940 and served on minesweepers – both HMS Oystermouth Castle and Onetos, but was best known as the commanding officer of HMS Ronso (he and his crew were even mentioned in an Admiralty dispatch in 1942).

When he was released from naval service in 1946 with “the good wishes of their Lordships on your return to civil life”, he hurried back to Maldon to see how his boats had fared during the conflict.

As it turned out one of them, Iolanthe (a former Liberty Vessel for SS Arandora Star) had been requisitioned by the Navy, probably went to Dunkirk and was only good for scrap.

However, his other boat, Topsy, had survived. Built as a smack yacht by Aldous of Brightlingsea in 1906, Topsy was later lengthened and re-rigged as a yawl.

Although the deck was green, her paintwork peeling and varnished surfaces blackened, she was still sound and it wasn’t long before she was restored to her former glory.

Arthur initially lived on board but then married my aunt, Olive Lavender, and moved into her family home at 22 Church Street.

They then purchased a shop – Emmett’s Stores at nearby 18 North Street, where Arthur advertised cruises on Topsy.

She was a familiar sight sailing out of Maldon with paying guests treated to a sail to West Mersea, Bradwell and Brightlingsea where “various pubs were visited and a cheerful time was had by all”.

Sometimes, Arthur would even take her across the Channel to France, Holland and Belgium.

Some locals (including my mother) still remember those trips with much fondness.

Back on dry land, Arthur became landlord of the 18th-century Ship Inn on Market Hill, mooring Topsy close by at Fullbridge. Retired Naval officer, sailor, shopkeeper and publican, there was an awful lot more to Arthur than that.

He once ran a garage, raced at Brooklands, was an operatic tenor, fluent in French, founder member of Maldon Little Ship Club and a Dover pilot.

Arthur and Olive had just the one child, my cousin Michael, born in Maldon in 1952.

Michael has his own boat, Black Rose, which he now also lives on and in 1992 published his father’s memoires, supplemented by his own story as one of the last Maldon fishermen (Blackwater Men, Seax Books).

In that way, although Uncle Arthur died in 1965, he lives on in words and is recalled by those who have read the book.

But are there any physical “traces” left here in his home town?

His beloved Topsy isn’t around anymore. She was de-rigged, the keel was removed and she became a houseboat.

The last “trace” of her was in the Walton Backwaters, where she presumably rotted away (unless anyone can tell me otherwise).

Emmett’s Stores is no more – the Gold Flake and Capstan adverts have been taken down and number 18 is now a well maintained private house. The Ship Inn finally closed its doors in 1961 and is now flats.

In that way, to those who do not know Arthur’s story (and might not be interested anyway) there are no physical traces.

In many ways his presence was and is very intimate to his few remaining friends and relations.

However, whenever I pass the family home at 22 Church Street, or walk by 18 North Street, or struggle up Market Hill past the Ship Flats, or see a traditional rig on the Blackwater, the uncle that I never knew, but much admire, is still here with us today.