About the object

Late or now

This piece of engraved mother of pearl is inscribed: ‘James son of James Concannon Gent, late or now of Jamaca [sic] 1757’. ‘Late or now’ suggests the child’s mother didn’t know whether his father was still in Jamaica, or even if he was still alive, when she left her two-month-old at the Foundling Hospital.

The little boy was renamed Raymond Kent. He was later placed as an apprentice with a Yorkshire farmer and slater, John Burgin, to be ’employed in his business’.

Detective work

The detailed information on this token made it relatively easy to find the relevant record or ‘billet’, connecting the object to a specific child. Along with a note about the child’s birth date and baptism is a torn half of a printed page. The text refers to a French general and naval commander, suggesting the child’s father may have been a military man. There was a Lieutenant James Concannon serving in the Royal Artillery at the time.

It was not unusual for women whose husbands were sent abroad in the army or navy to be left without an income. In notes left with many babies, mothers in this situation lament being unable to feed their children. Elizabeth Concannon might have been one such mother.

Jamaica, 1757

In 1757, Jamaica was under British colonial rule. Sugar was the country’s main source of income, with Jamaica becoming the largest exporter of sugar in the British Empire. To sustain the labour-intensive cultivation of sugar cane, the British brought thousands of enslaved African people to the country and forced them to work in brutal conditions. If ‘James Concannon Gent’ was in Jamaica in 1757, it is very likely he was connected with the sugar industry there, whether administering a plantation himself or providing military support to the planters.