The story of George Rose, who was born into slavery in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1787, really captured my interest and imagination. George, who can be seen in Gallery 3, is my favourite museum artefact because of his remarkable life.
At this time in history, one would expect a black slave to remain in slavery until his death, but George Rose somehow escaped this fate and made his way to England. In 1809 at the age of 22 he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion 73rd Regiment of Foot, The Black Watch.
George saw active service in many countries as an equal of the men he served with. He fought in the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo in 1815 where he was severely wounded in his right arm. He must have recovered well, however, as his army career continued for many more years.
In 1817 the 73rd Regiment was disbanded and George found himself in the 42nd. He became one of a very few soldiers to serve in both the 73rd and 42nd Regiments. In 1829 George was promoted to Corporal and in 1831 reached the dizzy heights of Sergeant, becoming the highest ranking black soldier in a British regiment at that time.
In 1836 Sergeant George Rose was discharged from service in Glasgow. He was awarded an additional 2 years service on his record so as to increase his pension. This suggests that George was a well regarded soldier with a successful army career; a far cry from the slavery into which he was born.
For the next ten years George remained in Glasgow preaching on Glasgow Green. Slavery now being abolished, he returned to Jamaica in 1849 where he was a missionary for the next 13 years.