THOMAS M. M. HEMY (1852-1937) - PAGE 3

Thomas M. M. Hemy datapages 01, 02 & 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05. PRIOR PAGE / NEXT PAGE

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Here is another page of data, exclusively respecting an extensive 'The Boy's Own Paper' article, published in England on Jan. 27, 1894.

An image of the Thomas Hemy work entitled 'Just in Time', referred to in the second paragraph below, appears at the top of page 09. I now presume that that print was probably with the 'The Boy's Own Paper' when it was published in 1894, hence the folds visible in the image.

Read on. I am not skilled at typing! And it is a quite long article. But I trust that I present it here exactly as it was published so very long ago. The images, or some of them at least, are now on Page 61 since this page is already quite large. Or are available through the index on page 05. I should note also that for your ease and mine, since I am getting to have so many of the artist's works on site, I am now consistently putting the paintings titles in bold text (except in the index of his works on page 05).


(Vide Coloured Frontispiece of our Monthly Part.)

"The Times recently remarked, in the course of a most laudatory notice of the current "BOY'S OWN ANNUAL", that many of its coloured pictures "are veritable works of art". Of course; how could it be otherwise when artists like Mr. Seymour Lucas, A.R.A., Mr. J. T. Nettleship, R.I., and others almost equally well known, contributed of their choicest works, and no expense was spared by us in the worthy reproduction of the originals?

Already in the present volume some splendid sea pictures by Mr. W. H. Overend, Prof. Van Hier, and others, have been given; and now we have the pleasure, with this month's part, to present to our readers a fine frontispiece in colours - "Just in Time" - from the brush of one of our most skilful marine artists - Mr. Thomas M. Hemy. The painting which we have thus reproduced was to have been one of Mr. Hemy's principal Royal Academy pictures last year, and indeed was referred to in some of the "R.A." illustrated supplements as actually appearing on the walls, but, unfortunately, pressure of work prevented its completion on time.

We are able too this month, through the kindness of Mr. Hemy, of Messrs. Henry Graves & Co., the well-known printsellers and publishers, of Pall Mall, and also of Messrs. Mawson Swan and Morgan, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, to illustrate a brief sketch of Mr. Hemy's busy and eventful life with copies of his best-known popular works, viz. "The Captain was the Last to Leave", "The Wreck of the "Birkenhead", "The Burning of the Kent,'" and "Every Soul was Saved." Of these we will speak in more detail presently; but first a word or two as to the artist himself and his methods of working.

In a recent sketch of his career as a deep sea painter, we read: "It is commonly conceded that the world has seen no such painters of the mysterious, heaving waters of the English Channel as the living Mr. Henry Moore, R.A., and that amongst our seashore painters Mr. Colin Hunter, A.R.A., Mr. Napier Hemy, and Mr. J.C. Hook, R.A., to mention only more prominent names, are now seeing British Seas for themselves distinctively and characteristically as they have never been seen before. One of the great sensations of this year's Academy was the discovery of a new open-sea painter, Mr. Thomas Sommerscales; but, as an historian of the tragedies of the unfathomed deep, our subject, Mr. Thomas Hemy, stands absolutely alone.

"He was born at sea, aboard the good ship Madawaska, off the Brazils, in 1855. The deep sea was his nurse, and rocked the only cradle he ever slept in; and the Atlantic gales sang him lullabies. He was reared by the water-side at Newcastle, where his father, the late Mr. Henry F. Hemy, a musical composer, lived; and he ran away to sea, leaving a pile of art prizes all unclaimed for years on the desk of his master, Mr. Cozens Way, the local representative of South Kensington. He has served in the English Mercantile-Marine and the United States Navy, nine months in the Kearsage - the rickety old steamer which sunk the Alabama - in almost every capacity, before the mast, in the cabin, in the stokehold. He has sailed both Pacifics, both Atlantics, and the Indian Sea; has seen murder and mutiny aboard ship; knows the parts of South America, and has endured terrible things at the hands of the 'crimps' who infest them. Starvation at sea is familiar to him, and he has packed shipwrecks thick into the record of his sea-life. His tales of American captains' cruelty and brutality, of the unpublished and unpublishable horrors of life in many forecastles, and of lawlessness in Southern seas, such as would startle Mr. Stevenson, are almost incredible. All that can befall a man at sea and leave him sane and hale has befallen Mr. Hemy, except a fire. Lashed if need be, to the shrouds of a rolling and plunging ship, he paints the sea, majestic, illimitable, terrible; the salt is in his veins, his art, his life. He is the Clark Russell of the brush, with this difference - that the novelist relies greatly on his imagination and research, and Mr. Hemy always on his practical experience.

"Coming ashore for three years, the artist betook himself to Antwerp, and under the splendid tuition of the late Charles Verlat, learned to give his tremendous chronicles of the deep artistic form; the knowledge and facility in figure-drawing thus acquired in the great Belgian atelier, to which so many young English painters owe much that is best in their work, proving invaluable when, the whistling of the wind proving irresistible, he and his brushes and palettes got afloat again."

Mr. Hemy, we should mention, is a brother of Mr. Napier Hemy, of Falmouth, whose pictures of sea shore, and fisher folk, and fishing work enjoy so supreme a reputation.

His first exhibited works were studies of shipping on the Tyneside, shown at the Dudley Gallery; but his name soon became familiar in the Grosvenor, the R.A., and other catalogues. Once he doffed his sou'-wester and his sea boots and trudged inland for subjects. He painted Rugby, Eton, Harrow, the great national schools of England, with the lads at play at cricket, football, or fives, in the fields where the battles of England are won. Here is Mr. Hemy's own account to us of how he came to do this work:

"It was suggested to me by a publisher that an interesting series of pictures and etchings could be made out of the great schools of England, and acting on this hint, I went down to Eton; but the difficulty was that hundreds of other people had been already there, and it seemed impossible to get anything that was new out of it. However, in the course of the first day there I got into conversation with some of the boys, and found out what interested them; and on talking over the matter with Dr. Warre, the head master, and several others, I was confirmed in the idea of making a series of pictures illustrating the characteristic customs, games, etc., of the different schools, and proceeded to paint 'Absence,' 'Speeches,' and the 'Wall Game.' The first gives the call over in the fine old quadrangle of the school; indeed if it had not been for the background I should have given it up altogether, so much did one suffer in representing dozens of Lincoln and Bennett hats, in the height of their gloomy hideousness, and the trousers that must bag at the knees, etc. However, my next work was more pleasing - the grand old Speech Room, with its busts of heroes, etc., the boy reciters, with their silk stockings, buckled shoes, and collegiate cloaks, and the three masters sitting in judgment, with the more or less attentive boys in the background. And then the Wall Game. Everyone has heard of the Wall Game at Eton; it is played nowhere else, and I think is the most exciting of games, but difficult to understand, very. I thought on St. Andrews Day, which is the match day of the year, when the game is played between the Oppidans and the Collegians, that I had some chance of getting some information from an outsider, as I saw a man who appeared to be busy reporting this game; and I immediately interrogated him as to what it all meant. His reply was, although he had been reporting it for quite a number of years, he knew nothing about the points of the game; so I suppose he did with his notes as I with my pictures - handed them over to the players themselves for revision. By this time I felt a great longing for the sea once more; and after doing three more drawings at Harrow and one at Rugby, I returned to my first love, leaving the continuation of the Great Schools of England to others. The picture painted immediately after my trip into school life was 'Women and Children First,' and it is not generally known that the most of it was done from memory, with the difference that we had no women and children aboard and no lifeboat when I was wrecked. We made a raft, soon got to land on that; the rest of us managed to get a line ashore and pulled ourselves through the breakers; but when I tell you that it was February, that we had been clinging to the wreck all night and not a soul offered us a stitch of dry clothing, that we were put into a barn amongst the straw that night, and that the barn belonged to a large hotel full of empty bedrooms, you may perhaps think this happened on the Fiji Islands, but it didn't - it took place on the coast of England. The next day we poor ship-wrecked mariners, without a penny amongst us, were introduced to tramps' dens to spend our second night. The man who owned the inn we were sent to at W----- refused to take us in, and handed us over to the care of a mutton-headed policeman, who took us to the den. Fortunately for us, just as we were getting up with the intention of walking the cold street all night, a good Samaritan in the shape of an inspector turned up, and took us to a respectable inn, telling the people there 'that he would be responsible for us'. I should like to shake that worthy by the hand again; it was a little oasis of humanity in a desert of heartless indifference. This was my last experience of sea before the mast."

And now we may pass on to tell the story of the popular sea pictures of which we have been able to give such clear and faithful reproductions. "The Wreck of the 'Birkenhead" worthily commemorates an episode that ought to be familiar to every British boy. What glorious heroism and disciplined self-sacrifice it was, when that gallant band of British soldiers went down uncomplainingly to their ocean grave, standing stern and motionless, in parade order, while the women and children were got into the only boats! Truly peace has her victories as well as war!

In "The Burning of the 'Kent' East Indiaman" we have another thrilling drama of the sea most stirringly depicted. The story is one that has been told before now in our pages, and that gained even additional interest from the fact that the infant saved on that occasion grew up to become the "Rob Roy" MacGregor, whose pen contributed to our volumes and whose death we so recently had to deplore. Mr. Hemy has seized for illustration the moment when the fiery catastrophe has become beyond control, and the partially water-logged and wholly-unmanageable gigantic Indiaman rolls helplessly on the ocean. Hours have elapsed - a lifetime in its agony of suspense - since the first dread warning of what had occurred was given. Distress signals, firing of guns, and every other expedient have been resorted to by those seeking rescue from disaster at sea, until hope is all but extinguished, and is being succeeded by despair. Not until the sky was luminous in the warm, silvery night of evening came the cry of gladness, that help was at hand, and the sweet boon of life might yet be preserved. Still, danger was imminent, for the fire raged, and might at any moment reach the deadly combustibles which, unfortunately, formed part of the vessel's freight. Laying-to at a safe distance, the Cambria at once despatched her boats to aid the sufferers. And then followed a scene that surely does honour to human nature, and makes one proud of British soldiers and sailors. With strict obedience to duty and discipline, in face of a death awful to contemplate, those of both services on board the Kent prepared to lower away the boats, and "Women and children first!" was the cry. This, with infinite difficulty, and not without casualties, was accomplished, and on the right of the picture is seen the first boat that left the blazing vessel. In the stern of the frail craft is observable Mrs. MacGregor, nursing the infant "Rob Roy". We may here suitably give, though it appeared in one of our earlier volumes, a facsimile of the letter which was found in a bottle at a bathing-place at Barbadoes, West Indies, nineteen months after the burning of the Kent. The father of little "Rob Roy" had written the letter and left it on the cabin table in the bottle, which was ultimately cast into the sea by the explosion.

Our third reproduction - And Every Soul was Saved - is another of Mr. Hemy's more popular works. Here is the story of that shipwreck: "In April, 1889, the whole civilised world was startled at the news flashed along the telegraph-wires of the loss of a large emigrant ship; and shortly after the heart of every Briton was stirred within him with the account of the gallant rescue, in the midst of the stormy Atlantic Ocean, of the crew and passengers, by an English ship, manned by an English crew, and commanded by an Englishman. The story of heroism was read and talked over in every household, and was the one topic of conversation in the streets, in the railway carriage, and in our homes; but it may be as well to recall briefly the chief incidents. The emigrant ship Danmark sailed from Copenhagen in March, 1889, and when but fifteen days out they found themselves in imminent danger, for the shaft had broken, and in breaking knocked a terrible hole in the ship's bottom, of such a size that the ship was slowly sinking. It was blowing hard, and a heavy sea running at the time, so it was extremely doubtful, even if the boats had been lowered, whether they could live in such a sea; and in any case they could not have carried all the persons on board. It was decided, therefore, to wait for the chance of succour. The poor creatures on board spent four-and-twenty hours of most agonising suspense. They prayed, sang hymns, they whispered together in groups, they scanned the horizon most fervently for the sight of a sail which might rescue them from the death that was almost inevitable. Their prayers were mercifully answered; on the afternoon of April 5 the Missouri, of the Atlantic and Transport Line, commanded by Captain Hamilton Murrell, bound from London to Philadelphia, came in sight. 'I have 735 passengers on board, and that is too many lives to be lost from one vessel,' was the startling signal seen by the Missouri, which at once took hold of the Danmark and towed her through the long night; but the next morning it was seen that the vessel was hopelessly sinking, and that the passengers must be transferred. The lifeboats were launched, and in mid-ocean the transportation of the passengers began. They behaved nobly under the circumstances, the women especially preserving a wonderful coolness under the trying ordeal. The heavy swell running all day made the work dangerous and difficult to prevent swamping. Five hours were consumed in the work, without a single accident. The women and children were taken off first, and then the men. And Every Soul was Saved. As the Missouri was not a passenger ship, the captain was hard pushed to accommodate his big load, but as fast as a boat laden with its human freight came alongside, a corresponding load of the cargo was unhesitatingly thrown overboard to make room for the passengers."

"Out of the 735 persons," said Captain Murrell, "sixty-five were children under eleven years of age, and no less than twenty-two of these were little babies under eleven months. One of the most interesting of the events was that the first two boats to come alongside were our two own lifeboats, containing these twenty-two babies and some of the mothers. We pulled the helpless babies up in baskets, and a very unusual cargo they made for the sailors to handle." This is the precise incident that Mr. Hemy has depicted in his picture. The lofty side of the Missouri is seen towering up on the spectator's right, and in the foreground are the two lifeboats crowded with women and the twenty-two babies; one of the latter, having been carefully stowed in a coal basket, is just starting on the journey up the huge side of the lofty ship, followed by the eyes of the anxious women. Farther away are two more boats deeply laden with passengers, and in the distance is the doomed Danmark, already settling by the stern to its watery grave.

We have not space to describe in detail other notable pictures by Mr. Hemy. "The Captain was the Last to Leave," of which we give a reproduction, tells its own story. Another of his successful works was Running the Gauntlet, a picture of a small river steamer, heavily and clumsily protected by great baulks of timber, carrying relief to Khartoum. Exhibited in Bond Street, then taken to Osborne by Royal command, subsequently sent round the provinces, it now finds a worthy resting-place at Greenwich Hospital, as the gift of Lord Charles Beresford. Lastly, we may mention that Mr. Hemy has quite recently been out to the Dogger Bank, on one of the vessels of the Mission to Deep-Sea Fisherman, and he is now painting a series of picture of what he saw there for exhibition in London next spring. One of the more striking of these realistic paintings will be issued, in colours, in the "B.O.P."

G. Andrew Hutchison.

Some words about the above. It says he was born in 1855, but I think that 1852 is, in fact, the correct date. And here is the Madawaska (1852-1868) on which he was born & for which he was named. The captain's name is stated on that site as being Captain J. Pascoe. And that jives, or at least the name Pascoe does, with the artist's own words in his book (the article on datapage 02 had that detail incorrect also when they state the captain's name was Parker). On that same datapage 02, the location of his shipwreck on the coast of England is stated to be 'St. Bede's Head'. That too proves to be incorrect, since the artist's book talks of 'St. Bee's Head' which I see is located on the north-west coast of England. W----- is in fact the town of Whitehaven which is nearby. The author's whole chapter in his book about that St. Bee's shipwreck can be found here with a couple of his related illustrations.

If YOU have any new data about Thomas Hemy, I would welcome your dropping me a line.

Thomas M. M. Hemy datapages 01, 02 & 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05. PRIOR PAGE / NEXT PAGE

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