Tribal paddle could make splash in sale

A highly valuable 200-year-old tribal paddle has been discovered in a Derby house – more than 10,000 miles from its South Pacific origins.

The paddle, believed to be from Tonga, is dated April 14, 1830 and writing on it reads, ‘William Murray, in a great hurry, took me in his hand. Out of a Conoa. Land. At Vavaoo and brought me to this land. I’m arrived at my journey’s end. To be presented. To a friend’.

Hansons senior valuer Karl Martin with ancient paddle
Hansons senior valuer Karl Martin with ancient paddle – credit Mark Laban Hansons

It was discovered in a house in Littleover, Derby – 10,212 miles away from Tonga – by Derbsyhire auctioneers Hansons’ senior valuer Karl Martin and, due to its rarity, could makes as much as £5,000 at auction.

Karl said: “It’s an unusually scarce object and pretty amazing to think it’s made it to all the way to Derby from the other side of the world. Tonga is a small archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, directly south of Samoa and about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Inscription on a tribal paddle

“We understand it arrived in the UK all those years ago through Bristol Docks but we have no idea how it ended up in a Derby. In the 19th century wealthy young men liked to travel the world in search of adventure and picked up exotic objects like this along the way.

“The market for tribal art is strong, particularly among collectors in France and Canada, so it could achieve as much as £5,000 under the hammer.”

The adventurer who acquired the object 192 years ago may have been inspired by Captain Cook. The legendary explorer first landed in the Tongan islands on October 2, 1773, during his second Pacific voyage. In 1774 he returned for four days and received such a warm welcome he named Tonga the ‘Friendly Islands’.

The paddle will be offered in Hansons Auctioneers’ October 14 Fine Art Auction.