James Roche Esq 1770–1853

The Gentlemans Magazine Volume XXXIX

At Cork in his 83rd year James Roche esq, Director of the National Bank of Ireland, President of the Cork Library Society, President of the Cork School of Design, Vice President of the Royal Cork Institution, Chairman of the Munster Provincial College Committee, and of several other local boards and committees, and for some years a frequent correspondent of our Magazine under the well known signature of JR.

Mr Roche was descended both on the paternal and maternal side from ancestors occupying for many centuries a distinguished rank amongst the territorial aristocracy of Ireland. He was born in Limerick on the 30th Dec 1770, being the third son of Stephen Roche esq, by his second wife Sarah O’Bryen.  His father was lineal descendant and representative of Maurice Roche, who when mayor of Cork in 1571 received a collar of SS from Queen Elizabeth, and who was grandson of David Roche, Lord Viscount Fermoy who died in 1492. Sarah O’Bryen his mother was daughter and coheiress of John O Bryen esq of Moyvanine and Clounties co Limerick, chief of the O’Bryens of Arran, lineal descendant of the great Brien Boroimhe, monarch of Ireland. Stephen Roche esq of Ryehill, co Galway, nephew to the deceased is the present representative of this ancient house.

Mr Roche was sent to France at the early age of fifteen and for two years pursued his studies at the College of Saintes, one of those which existed previously to the Revolution. His proficiency even during that short period in every one of the preparatory branches of learning was rapid and remarkable. The purity of his pronunciation and his idiomatic precision while conversing in French were so perfect that he was frequently mistaken for a native. Having returned to Ireland at the end of two years, he made but a short stay at home, and then revisited France, where he remained for seven years, partly devoted to his favourite pursuits the accumulation of knowledge and the culture and refinement of his taste and partly occupied in the management of business into which he was early initiated entering into partnership with his brother George who conducted an extensive wine trade at Bordeaux.

In that city he principally resided for the convenience of transacting his business and taking charge of the family property entrusted to his care yet his avocations his studies or it may be the uncontrollable and feverish excitement of the hour frequently brought him to the capital where he used to sojourn for some time and where he had the opportunity of gazing at the first gladsome and glorious scenes of the new social and political drama which France tremulous alike with the unwonted joy of an unexpected deliverance and with the apprehensions inseparable from the spectacle of a grand experiment of theoretic principles reduced to practice now prepared to exhibit to the delight the astonishment the dismay the terror and the despair of the civilised world.

In 1789, on the memorable 5th May, about a year and a half after his return to France, he partook of the general delight, and shared the fervid hopes and aspirations of those who were either onlookers or actors in that most magnificent spectacle, the assembling of the States General. From that eventful day, when the hopes of the good, the true, the enlightened, and the humane, had reached their culminating point down through the successive steps of vacillation, faithlessness, indecision, bloodshed, anarchy, to the deepest and darkest political hell. The Reign of Terror, whose sanguinary orgies reached the height, or will we say the depth, of their delirium in the spring and early summer of 1794. Mr Roche either in Paris or in Bordeaux or wheresoever his duties or his business required his presence was a spectator of that appalling world tragedy and liable like other accomplished and gifted men similarly circumstanced to become at every passing moment a conv


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