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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Edward Roche

 Borris, Co. Carlow

By Jim Roache c2006

Edward Roach from Borris, Co. Carlow was part of a mass emigration by the Irish to Newfoundland. Arriving about 1823, his timing was not optimal, but by about 1829 he had a government job and, like many others, had put down roots.

Historian John Mannion of Memorial University estimates that between 1797 and 1836, the island's Irish population quintupled, arriving in two major waves: 16,000 between 1811-16, and 8,000 between 1825-31. By 1836, there were roughly 38,000 Irish, or 50% of the population. St. John's was the principal port of disembarkation, so the City became "the first substantial Irish urban ghetto". But some did land at "ancient fishing capitals," and dispersed along the coast.

Local scholars note that the most emigrants embarked from Waterford, Wexford and New Ross - but Borris-St Mullins-St Mary's overlap Carlow/Wexford and are in the same Diocese (Leighlin-Kildare)! Most new arrivals were natives of Counties Wexford and Waterford, many originating within a forty-mile radius of Waterford City.

Mannion points out, was that "as late as 1828 there were probably more Irish Catholics in Newfoundland than in any other province or state in North America". But feuds and rivalries from Ireland characterized their relations, and many did not re-settle near former friends and neighbours!

As a Yeoman, and government employee, Edward had additional responsibilities to the Crown. But with financial security, he married Catherine Maher/Meagher of Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary 7 Feb 1829 at the RC Basilica in St. John's.

The couple were the grandparents of the future RC Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche (b. 1874, d. 1950).

Specific information on Edward's family in Borris shows:

Parents: James ROACH and Mary Fogarty
Children (likely baptismal, not birth dates):
Patt b 21 7 1786 - Sponsors Edmond Phelan and Catherine Dwyer.
Edmond (twin) b 18 4 1788 - Sponsors Richard Butler and Mary Dowling.
Philip (twin) b 18 4 1788 - Sponsors James Butler and Elinor Byrne.
James b 20 7 1789 - Sponsors James Byrne and Mary Rute (Rupe?).
Margaret b 22 5 1793 - Sponsors John Byrne and Bridget Neill (without an O)
Edmond b 23 12 1795 - Sponsors Thomas Evans (possibly Evers) and Mary Murphy (usually when two infants have the same name, the eldest has died).
Thomas b 14 12 1802 - Sponsors Matthew Owens and Anne ROACH
Edward died in St. John's aged 85, after 56 years in the colony and over 50 in government service, (Source: St. John's Gazette).

The youngest son of Edward and Catherine (Maher) Roach, Edward J., moved to the town of Placentia to work at the Anglo-American Telegraph Station and married a local woman from a prominent family, Mary (O') Reilly [18 May 1871]. It was in Placentia that he seems to have changed the spelling of his name to Roche - it is shown and signed using that spelling on his Last Will and Testament.

The couple had two sons; the second, John, died at about age 20, while working as a newspaper reporter in St. John's.

Both boys - born in 1874 and 75 respectively - were completely orphaned (by age 10-12). Their mother died just months after John's birth - 11 Jul 1875; and their father on 9 Apr 1885.

For some reason, two separate Baptismal Ceremonies were held for each infant - the entries in the parish registry appear below:

Edward Patrick of Edward and Jane Mary ROACH - 20 February 1874 sps: Edward Reilly and Mary Sullivan.


21 February 1874 sps Edward ROACH (grandfather from St. John's or from his mother's family?) and Sarah O'Reilly (maternal grandmother).

Underneath the entry is written - Archbishop of St. John's - (C. Irvine, PP). Area of birth - Place Harbour, Placentia.

John Thomas of Edward ROACH and Mary Reilly - March 16, 1875 - sps: Thomas and Sarah Reilly (maternal grandparents).

John Thomas of Edward and Jane Mary ROACH - June 26, 1875 saps: Edward ROACH and Sarah Reilly (maternal grandmother).

Underneath the entry is written - Brother of the Archbishop of St. John's. Area of birth - Place Harbour, Placentia.

Edward J's sister, Catherine, cared for the young future Archbishop in St. John's when he moved there to attend school. Oral tradition has it that the O'Reilly family did the same in Placentia, while the boys lived there. Both were educated in St. John's from a relatively early age, but there is no firm information on timeframe, nor whom it was that was responsible for John's care.

Today, there are no surviving male Roach/Roche descendants in Newfoundland of Edward Roach of Borris .... leaving something of a mystery for those families who claim they might be related (and several do).

The Encyclopaedia of Newfoundland and Labrador records in part (I have taken certain editorial liberties...)

Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche (1874-1950)
Roman Catholic Archbishop.
Born Placentia.
Educated St. Patrick's Hall; St. Bonaventure's College; All Hallows College, Dublin.

EDWARD PATRICK ROCHE was born 19 Feb 1874, Place Harbour, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. He was appointed Archbishop by Pope Pius X. and consecrated by Monsignor Stagni, Apostolic Delegate to Newfoundland at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist 29 June 1915.

That was because Newfoundland was NOT part of Canada until 1949 and the Archbishop reported to Rome not to the Church Hierarchy in Canada.

Ordained in Dublin on June 24, 1897, ROCHE was appointed to parish duties at Topsail and Manuels, [near St.John's]. Topsail was not a hotbed of Catholicism. As early as 1837, a Methodist meeting house had been built there, and in 1841 their first school opened.

In 1860, Topsail was made a parish of the Church of England, and in 1871 a new Methodist Church built. It was not until 1922 that St. Thomas of Villa Nova Roman Catholic Church opened its doors, after Father Roche had left. During his decade there, he served his congregation from a Church in a nearby community, always being careful to cultivate positive relationships with non-Catholics.

In 1907, he was appointed Cathedral Administrator and Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of St. John's. In October 1914, Roche became Administrator of the Archdiocese of St. John's, and in June was consecrated Archbishop.

But he began his episcopate under a personal cloud: the discovery of tuberculosis. Many feared his episcopate might be a short one. Instead it became the longest in the history of the diocese. Through American medical expertise, the archbishop recovered his health.

To a relative who had also contracted the killer disease, he confided, in 1918: "... the year I was consecrated . . . there was active tuberculosis and high fever . . . I went to New York where I took treatment for five months, and I have had no serious recurrence."

Although medical problems would plague Roche throughout his life, the impact of being saved through US medical intervention prepared the way for the many personal and ecclesiastical relations he subsequently forged in America.

He continued his annual visits to a sanatorium there and fostered close ties with American orders and institutions of higher learning, so much so that a close associate, Rev. P.J. Kennedy, could characterize the relationship between Catholics in Newfoundland and the US as more intimate than with Catholics in Canada.

Early in his episcopate, he oversaw amalgamation of the Presentation Order (Sisters), deciding that education would benefit if the various convents were under a single mother house. Perhaps his most important institutional development was St. Clare's Mercy Hospital [1922].

With his star in ascendancy, the Daily News reported Archbishop ROCHE had a private audience with the Pope, 5 March 1930.This no doubt played well politically and otherwise at home.

He was one of Newfoundland's most influential proponents of responsible government during the months leading up to the referenda in 1948. He feared that union with Canada would subject his flock to corrupt economic and social influences, including secular education, a breakdown of the family and rampant consumerism. (In retrospect, some might say he was a prophet!)

As the parish paper, The Monitor, declared, acceptance of confederation was equivalent to admitting that Newfoundlanders were,

''prepared to become a nation of shopkeepers, bartering autonomy and self-competence for a political and economic mirage.''

Results of the first referendum showed clearly votes were split along denominational lines. The debate took a nasty turn. It was reported that the Archbishop had released nuns and brothers from their vows, allowing them the franchise.

Orange Lodges took up the issue, the grand master asking Orangemen to do what they could to thwart Catholic political influence. While the actual effects of Roche's involvement are debatable, his direct intervention was perhaps the last example of overt sectarian influence in Island politics.

The interpretation of his legacy by supporters, of course, is more positive, their believing his long episcopate made him "an institution".

New parishes were founded, churches, schools and rectories built and convents established across the Island. Roche's tenure spanned two world wars, the Depression, the loss of self government, the impact of American, Canadian and British bases, the onset of modern communications and Confederation.

Catholic schools were strengthened, a Department of Education and Memorial College, organized on non-denominational lines, were accepted. The man was a pragmatist!

Despite chronic illness, Roche was influential. His attempt to sway the referenda campaigns ultimately failed, but he stressed always that constitutional change should be negotiated only by an independent Newfoundland.

In opposing Confederation, he had the support of many clergy and laity, but not all. Bishop John M. O'Neill qv of Harbour Grace (1940-72) supported him. However, Bishop Michael O'Reilly qv of St. George's (1941-70), where the population had stronger links to Canada, held a contrary view. Several priests were also openly pro-Confederate.

When Archbishop Roche died in 1950, he was succeeded by Patrick J. Skinner qv, another Newfoundlander, but one who had served in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Skinner, in the immediate post-Confederation period, had the duty of soothing angry feelings left over from Newfoundland's joining Canada, 1 April 1949.

Archbishop Roche's remains rest under the main altar of the RC Basilica in St. John's. Soon to follow would be "The Roche Memorial".

A large tablet to the right of the Altar to the Blessed Virgin, bears his bas‑relief portrait. It was commissioned by his successor, erected in 1951 and is the work of Italian, Armando Batilli in Carrara marble. The inscription reads:

Sacred to the memory of
The Most Rev. Edward Patrick Roche, D.D.
Archbishop of St. John's, 1915‑1950
Born at Placentia, February 19th 1874
Ordained at All Hallows College, Dublin, June 24th, 1897
Consecrated Archbishop of St. John's, June 29th 1915
Made Assistant at the Pontifical Throne, June 24th 1940
Died at St. John's September 23rd 1950
Thirty‑five Years
As Metropolitan of the Church in Newfoundland
Brilliant Scholar ‑ Outstanding Educationalist
Beloved Benefactor ‑ Eminent Churchman
Loyal Newfoundlander
Circumspice in Re

Source: The Encyclopaedia of Newfoundland and Labrador records in part (I have taken certain editorial liberties...)

The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
2001 County Carlow Irish Genealogy Project. IGP
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