New Halifax Transit ferries to be named Vincent Coleman and Rita Joe
Runners-up included Raymond Taavel, Ruth Goldbloom, Dr. Burnley 'Rocky' Jones
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.
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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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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