The votes have been counted and Halifax Transit's newest harbour ferries will bear the names of Halifax Explosion hero Vincent Coleman and Mi'kmaq poet Rita Joe.

Of the 11,014 votes received over the course of the 10-day naming contest, Vincent Coleman received just under half — 5,340 — of the total votes cast. Rita Joe received 20 per cent, or 2,202 votes.

Halifax train dispatcher Vincent Coleman

Halifax train dispatcher Vincent Coleman. (Nova Scotia Archives photo)

The other names shortlisted were Raymond Taavel, Ruth Goldbloom, and Dr. Burnley 'Rocky' Jones.

Coleman was the train dispatcher who sacrificed his own life in the Halifax Explosion by staying behind to warn an inbound Saint John train of the impending disaster.

His last message read: "Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys."

His actions saved the lives of about 300 passengers.

Craig Walkington, chair of a special advisory committee for the explosion's 100th anniversary, said he's "absolutely delighted" with the news.

Craig Walkington, chair of the Halifax Explosion 100 anniversary special advisory committee

Craig Walkington, chair of the Halifax Explosion 100 anniversary special advisory committee, says Vincent Coleman hadn't been properly recognized until now.

"People want to commemorate somebody who has been recognized as a hero in the Halifax Explosion," he said.

"Vincent Coleman wasn't necessarily being recognized properly. It was just a case of finding an appropriate occasion and time."

'It's an honour'

Rita Joe was a poet and songwriter from Whycocomagh in Cape Breton.

MUSIC Life Reflected 20160517

Mi'kmaq poet Rita Joe is invested into the Order of Canada by Gov.-Gen. Ray Hnatyshyn in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 1998. (The Canadian Press photo)

Known as the poet laureate of the Mi'kmaq people, she wrote about her residential school experiences in her autobiographical book, Song of Rita Joe, and authored six other books. Joe, who died in 2007, was also a member of the Order of Canada. 

"It's an honour for my mom and we are really happy," said Ann Joe, the youngest of Rita Joe's 10 children. 

Ann Joe said her mother loved nature and water.

The coastal city of Halifax was the first place her mother lived after leaving the Shubenacadie Residential School, Ann Joe told Mainstreet Cape Breton on Friday.

Ann Joe and Francis Joe

Rita Joe's daughters Ann and Frances are shown May 17 at a performance of their mother's work by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Eskasoni. (Holly Conners/CBC)

"She liked it, it was like her first time being independent," she said. "She bought herself red shoes and red lipstick."

Halifax Transit will submit the vessel names to Transport Canada for approval.

With files from Carolyn Ray and Mainstreet Cape Breton