ROCHE, JAMES (1770–1853), styled by Father Prout ‘the Roscoe of Cork,’ was the son of Stephen Roche, and a descendant of John Roche of Castle Roche, a delegate at the federation of Kilkenny in 1641. His mother, Sarah, was daughter of John O’Brien of Moyvanine and Clounties, Limerick.
Born at Cork, 30 Dec. 1770, he was sent at fifteen years of age to the college of Saintes, near Angoulême, where he spent two years. After a short visit home he returned to France and became partner with his brother George, a wine merchant at Bordeaux. There he made the acquaintance of Vergniaud and Guillotin. He shared in the enthusiasm for the revolution, and paid frequent visits to Paris, associating with the leading Girondins. While in Paris in 1793 he was arrested under the decree for the detention of British subjects, and spent six months in prison. He believed himself to have been in imminent danger of inclusion in the monster Luxembourg batch of victims, and attributed his escape to Brune, afterwards one of Napoleon’s marshals. On his release he returned to the south of France, endeavouring to recover his confiscated property. In 1797 he quitted France, living alternately at London and Cork.
In 1800, with his brother Stephen, he established a bank at Cork, which flourished until the monetary crisis of 1819, when it suspended payment. Roche’s valuable library was sold in London, the creditors having invited him to select and retain the books that he most prized. He spent the next seven years in London as commercial and parliamentary agent for the counties of Cork, Youghal, and Limerick. Retiring from business with a competency, he resided from 1829 to 1832 in Paris. The remainder of his life was passed at Cork as local director of the National Bank of Ireland, a post which allowed him leisure for the indulgence of his literary tastes. He was well read in the ancient and the principal modern languages, and his historical knowledge enabled him to assist inquirers on obscure and debatable points, and to detect and expose errors. He contributed largely, mostly under his initials, to the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ ‘Notes and Queries,’ the ‘Dublin Review,’ and the ‘Cork Magazine.’ In 1851, under the title of ‘Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, by an Octogenarian,’ he reprinted for private circulation about forty of these articles. He also took an active part in literary, philanthropic, and mercantile movements in Cork. He died there, 1 April 1853, leaving two daughters by his wife Anne, daughter of John Moylan of Cork.
[Gent. Mag. June and July 1853; Athenæum, 5 April 1853; Notes and Queries, 16 April 1853; Dublin Review, September 1851 and April 1890.]