Auctioneer Michael Callan had some good news for the vendor of two tribal clubs in the wake of the sale at Thomas R Callan (20% buyer’s premium) in Ayr on December 3-4. Estimated at £600-900, they sold to a buyer from Belgium at £40,000.
Pole clubs of this type (akatara) are associated with Rarotonga and Atiu on the Cook Islands
Carved from the heart of the toa tree (ironwood), they have broad scalloped blades. Some, like this pair measuring 6ft 6in (2.02m) and 7ft 6in (2.29m) long, have ‘eye’ type collar designs.
Ship surgeon William Anderson noted them during Cook’s Third Voyage while on Atiu in 1777, writing: “The clubs were about six feet long or more, made of a hard black wood launce shap’d at the end but much broader, with the edge nicely scallop’d and the whole neatly polish’d.”
This Ayrshire pair did show signs of battle wear – but only the chips incurred when the owner’s two teenage boys had used them in sword-fighting contests. It is thought they had come into the family via an ancestor involved in the 19th century shipping trade.