Here’s an interesting coincidence: A few years ago, I added the above image (a portion of a painting by Englishman Thomas M. M. Hemy) to a blog post about a baby named after the ship she was born on. Recently, I discovered that the artist’s full name is Thomas Maria Madawaska Hemy, and that “Madawaska” refers to the name of the ship he was born on!
His parents, Henri and Margaret Hemy, moved the family to Australia temporarily in the 1850s. On their way south aboard the Madawaska in 1852, they welcomed their sixth son, Thomas. Curiously, he was born “near the Brazilian coast.” (During the age of sail, routes weren’t as direct as they are today because sailors needed to utilize the prevailing winds.)
The Madawaska was a barque built in Quebec in 1847. “Madawaska” is the original name of the upper St. John River Valley, on the Canada-U.S. border. Several places in that region retain the name, including a county in New Brunswick and a town in northern Maine.
The etymology of Madawaska is unknown, but one theory holds that it derives from an Algonquin word meaning “place of the porcupine.”
Thomas M. M. Hemy — whose older brothers Charles Napier Hemy and Bernard Benedict Hemy were also marine artists — passed his unique middle name down to at least one of his children, daughter Eve Madawaska Hemy (b. 1880).
- “A family of artists.” Monthly Chronicle of North-country Lore and Legend Sep. 1890: 417-419.
- Thomas M. M. Hemy (1852-1937)
- Wallace, Frederick William. Record of Canadian Shipping. Toronto: Musson Book Company, 1929.
Image: Portion of And Every Soul Was Saved (1889) by Thomas M. M. Hemy