Cannibal victim missionary John Williams's artefacts sold

Image source, Dukes Auctions
Image caption,
John Williams and fellow missionary James Harris were killed and eaten in Vanuatu in 1839

Items brought back from the South Pacific by a Victorian missionary who was battered to death and eaten by cannibals on a later trip have been sold at auction.

An ula throwing club and a Maori canoe bailer held by descendants of missionary John Williams were sold for £1,200 and £7,600.

Mr Williams and fellow missionary James Harris were killed in Vanuatu in 1839.

The canoe bailer went for more than four times its estimated price.

They were bought by private collectors at auction in Dorchester, Dorset.

Mr Williams and his wife Mary travelled on their first missionary expedition to the South Pacific in 1817.

They visited Tahiti and other island chains including the Cook Islands to spread Christianity, and were the first missionary family to visit Samoa.

Image source, Dukes Auctions
Image caption,
The Maori canoe bailer was sold for £7,600

On their return to Britain in 1834, Mr Williams supervised the printing of his translation of the New Testament into the Rarotongan language of the Cook Islands.

He returned to the South Pacific several years later and decided to go to Erromango, Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides.

'Very evocative'

However, the indigenous population, who had previously been mistreated by the crew of a trading ship, chased them before beating them to death and eating them.

In 2009 the descendants of Mr Williams went to the islands where locals apologised on behalf of their ancestors.

The club and canoe bailer were brought back by Mr Williams on his earlier trip to the south Pacific had remained with the family.

John Holmes from the Dukes Auctions saleroom said the items were "very evocative and have this great provenance".

"Objects from these islands are often difficult to date and authenticate, but with these we know where they've been since they were brought back by Williams.

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