Roche, Philip (DNB00)

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ROCHE, PHILIP (d. 1798), Irish rebel, a Roman catholic priest attached to the parish of Poulpearsay, co. Wexford, and formerly of Gorey, appears to have joined the rebels encamped at the foot of Corrigrua Hill, under the command of Father John Murphy (1753?–1798) [q. v.], shortly before the battle of Tubberneering, on 4 June 1798 (Taylor, Hist. of the Rebellion, p. 73; Byrne, Memoirs, i. 86). It was mainly in consequence of information furnished to him that the rebels were enabled to anticipate and so to frustrate the attack of Major-general Loftus and Colonel Walpole. His priestly character and personal bravery at Tubberneering won him great reputation with the insurgents, and when Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey [q. v.] was three or four days later deposed from his command, in consequence of his repugnance at such atrocities as the massacre at Scullabogue, Roche was elected commander of the rebels encamped at Slyeeve-Keelter, near New Ross. After several unsuccessful attempts to intercept the navigation of the river, Roche moved his camp to Lacken Hill, where he remained for some days unmolested and almost inactive; but it was noted to his credit that during that time no such atrocities as were only too common among the rebels at Vinegar Hill were permitted by him (Gordon, Rebellion, App. p. 85). On 19 June he was surprised, and compelled to retreat from Lacken Hill to Three Rocks, near Wexford (cf. Cloney, Narrative, pp. 54–60). On the following day he intercepted a detachment under Sir John Moore, who was moving up to join in the attack on Vinegar Hill, at a place called Goffsbridge, or Foulkes Mill, near the church of Horetown. He is said to have displayed great military skill in the disposition of his forces, but after a fierce engagement, which lasted four hours, was compelled to fall back on Three Rocks, effecting the retreat in good order (Byrne, Memoirs, i. 167–8). After the battle of Vinegar Hill and the surrender of Wexford, Roche, seeing that further resistance was hopeless, determined to capitulate, and with this object went alone and unarmed to Wexford. On entering the town he was seized, dragged from his horse, and so kicked and buffeted that he is said to have been scarcely recognisable (ib. i. 204–5; Hay, Insurrection, p. 245). He was tried by court-martial, and hanged off Wexford bridge on 25 June 1798, along with Matthew Keugh [q. v.] and seven others, and his body thrown into the river (Taylor, Hist. p. 131). According to Gordon, who knew him personally, he was ‘a man of large stature and boisterous manners, not ill adapted to direct by influence the disorderly bands among whom he acted … but for a charge of cruelty against him I can find no foundation. On the contrary, I have heard, from indubitable authority, many instances of his active humanity … his behaviour in the rebellion has convinced me that he possessed a humane and generous heart, with an uncommon share of personal courage’ (Rebellion, pp. 148, 399). He displayed considerable military ability, and was probably the most formidable of all the rebel leaders.

[James Gordon's Hist. of the Rebellion in Ireland, pp. 137, 148, 166–9, 175, 188, 219, 399; Miles Byrne's Memoirs, i. 86, 167, 204–5; Ed. Hay's Insurrection of Wexford, pp. 185, 201, 205, 245, 251; Musgrave's Rebellions in Ireland, i. 464, 533, 536, ii. 43; Cloney's Personal Narrative, pp. 54–6, 81; Taylor's Hist. of the Rebellion in Wexford, pp. 73, 131; Narrative of the Sufferings and Escape of Charles Jackson, pp. 69, 70; Plowden's Hist. Review, ii. 735, 762, 767; Lecky's Hist. of England, viii. 136, 158, 164; Froude's English in Ireland.]

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