29th May 2009 at 01:00

When a 19th-century Orkney sailor called Jack Renton was murdered by a rival clan in the Solomon Islands, the tribe that had originally bought him as a slave went into mourning for three weeks, so the story goes.

Now an exhibition, The Adventures of Jack Renton, has opened at Stromness Museum in the sailor's home town where it will run until the end of September.

This major show on the life and times of Renton, whose exploits have inspired a number of books and a film, has been mounted with the help of National Museums Scotland, which has loaned back to Orkney the ceremonial necklace of human teeth the sailor entrusted to a local bank manager when he returned home briefly in 1876.

Renton had already been around the world four times when, at the age of 19, he was "shanghaied" in San Francisco (being shanghaied with drug- spiked drinks by unscrupulous sea captains was an occupational hazard for Victorian sailors). He woke up in the middle of the ocean on a leaky guano boat, whose cargoes of harvested bird droppings were sold as fertiliser.

What happened next is explained in the exhibition where the sailor's extraordinary story is told using words, pictures and objects, as well as a unique narrative ceramic piece created by Orkney artist Eric Marwick.

Only days before the show opened, a descendant of Renton's came forward with a packet of photographs taken by her grandfather who, in the 1930s, travelled to Malaita in the Solomon Islands to find out more about the place where the Orcadian adventurer had spent almost eight years of his short life.

T 01856 850025.

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