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Henry McGilchrist, a Trumpter (Kettle Drummer) of the 3rd (King's Own) Dragoons


Signed and inscribed on the reverse, This card must not/ b taken from the/back of the Picture/. I.W.Slater Pinxit/ 1810/ 83 Bernes Street/ Oxford Road.
set in the lid of a gold mounted tortoiseshell box (restored minor crack to the left hand side at the border). The gold mount engraved, James Gubbins Kings Own Dragoons.

The inscription on the box refers to the owner of the box, Captain James Gubbins, who served in the regiment from 1805 to 1811, and whose portrait Slater also portrayed in miniature. (see image). Henry and George left the regiment about the same time, so they may have been close - perhaps Henry was Gubbins's soldier / servant. It is likely that Gubbins had the box and miniature made for himself as a memento - a trumpeter could not have afforded such a thing.

Henry, a Negro, was born in Passley Pen, Portlandin, Jamaica, West Indies in 1754. He was baptised, as an Adult, in Glasgow in 1773 and enlisted as a Trumpeter in 1774 at Greenwich whilst the regiment was at Black Heath Camp. Henry was enlisted in the troop of Major Fitzroy, having been recruited as a Trumpeter by Major Whyte of the 3rd Dragoons . The returns of 1776 list 'one black kettledrummer'., with Henry's name beside the description. It is likely that although officially a Trumpeter for muster purposes, he was and always had been, a Kettle Drummer.

Two hundred years ago it was the fashion amongst many regiments to employ drummers from Africa and the West Indies. From reports of Generals visiting garrisons at various times, one learns that they were rattling good drummers too.The established rank of Kettle-Drummer was effectively a Sergeant according to the Musters of 1799-1806, (the only ones examined in detail as yet). The 1806 - 1809 muster shows Henry McGilchrist Trumpeter (Kettledrummer) paid £8 5s for 90 days, ( An ordinary private received £5 12/6 and a Serjeant £9 15s).

The period, 1774 - 1810, for which Henry was the Kettle-Drummer of the 3rd Dragoons was one in which the regiment appeared to see no active service abroad. They tended to move around the country quite a lot and the itinerary gleaned from the 1771-1781 description book demonstrates this :-.

The regiment was in Kettering by June 1774 and from October to March 1775 Northampton In April 1775 they were in Darlington and by May Dalkeith,in Oct 1775 the troop was at Edinburgh Castle but back at Dalkeith by Jan 1776 in March 1776 they were at Coventry and remained there March 1777 In April 1777 they were in Newbury and June Sturminster, June Dorchester where they remained until Mar 1778. In April they were in Salisbury, June Hertford, West Stow camp in August Huntington in August and Stamford December. March 1779 York July Lewes and August Brighton Sept Lewes and Chichester Dec 1779.June 1780 Brighton and Chelsea July Paddington Sept - Mar 1781.

At this period there was no established police force and the army regiments stationed at home served that purpose. They assisted in maintaining law and order and in the enforcement of customs and excise laws. They had no regimental barracks and would be billeted on the local population, when in a particular area it was common for the troops to be dispersed to nearby towns.

Henry served for 37 Years 177 days as a musician - Kettle Drummer was discharged to pension in November 1810 for 'being rhumatic and worn out from length of service', aged 56 he was possibly no longer fit for active service and by the Spring of 1811 the 3rd Dragoons were with Wellington on the Peninsula.

Henry married Francis Akin in Saint Mary's, Carlisle, Cumberland, in 1791. They had three children sadly all who died at a very young age: 1) Sarah McGilchrist, b. 1794 - 1795, 2). Susannah McGilchrist, b. 1795, Birmingham, Warwickshire, d. Mar 1800, Devizes, Wiltstshire 3). Harry McGilchrist, b. 1798, d. Feb 1800, Devizes, Wiltstshire,
More Information
Year                 circa 1805
Condition                 Minor crack to the left hand border
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