Favourite artefacts | Sergeant George Rose | Greig

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.

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3 Responses to Favourite artefacts | Sergeant George Rose | Greig

  1. Hugh Rose says:

    It would be interesting to try to research his origins in Jamaica and why he took the surname Rose because slaves tended not to have second names. When they gained their freedom, they often adopted the surname of their previous owner or just chose one they liked. I wonder did he take his second name in Jamaica or in UK on enlistment? There were Rose plantations in Cuba and are still many Roses there but I do not know of Roses in Jamaica maybe his recruiting Sergeant was called Rose!

  2. Jo Murphy says:

    Hi! Thanks for sharing this. George is actually my ancestor so I have quite a bit of information on him.

    From a newspaper article, he says his father was Scottish. I’ve found one Scottish ‘Rose’, a trader named Alexander Rose from Inverness who died whist in Jamaica in 1807. Of course I am yet to prove this but at the moment it’s the most logical answer. His description calls him a ‘Mulatto’ so I would he would have had one European parent.

    • Hugh Rose says:


      How interesting – I will try to look out the papers I have about Roses in Cuba – they are not related to me but may have had Jamaican connections. The Alexander Rose in my family was not born till1818 and is buried in Chapel Yard.

      Hugh Rose

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