Niue, the Savage Island – or just a load of bananas?

Unlike the Friendly Islands of Tonga, Niue was, perhaps unjustly, named the Savage Island on first contact: Captain Cook and his crew deducing that the natives with whom they had first been in contact appeared to be painted in blood, but this turned out to be the stain from the hulahula ( a native red banana).

The earliest contact for the University of Glasgow was made through missionaries, the London Missionary Society (LMS) having set up there in 1846. Among the earliest of those LMS missionaries was George Turner, who we have already come across in Samoa. Among the artifacts he collected from his life in the South Seas from the 1840s, were several from Niue. Including a shell girdle:

Shell belt (GLAHM E.425/2)

Following Turner was George William Lawes also of LMS, who set sail initially for the Savage Island in 1860, before establishing a mission station at Papua Guinea.

Moving into the 20th century, Niue became a British protectorate for a short period when the Island also saw its last King and Queen before its annexation with New Zealand in 1901. Their portraits were published in Basil Thomson’s Savage Island: an account of a sojourn in Niue and Tonga, (London: John Murray, 1902), a copy of which is held by the University Library (Research Annexe T14-g.13):

Photograph of the King of Niue, p. 38

Photograph of the Queen of Niue, p.46


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Filed under Commonwealth of Nations, Oceania

One response to “Niue, the Savage Island – or just a load of bananas?

  1. Pingback: Pacific Guardians | The church’s Niue connection

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