Roche, Boyle (DNB00)

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ROCHE, Sir BOYLE (1743–1807), Irish politician, the scion of an ancient and respectable family, said to be a junior branch of the ancient baronial house of Roche, viscount Fermoy [see under Roche, David], was born in 1743. Entering the military profession at an early age, he served in the American war, distinguishing himself at the capture of the Moro fort at Havannah. Retiring from the army, he obtained an office in the Irish revenue department about 1775, and subsequently entered the Irish parliament as member for Tralee, in the place of James Agar, created Lord Clifden. He represented Gowran from 1777 to 1783, Portarlington from 1783 to 1790, Tralee (a second time) from 1790 to 1797, and Old Leighlin from 1798 to the union with England. From the beginning of his parliamentary career he ranged himself on the side of government, and for his services was granted a pension, appointed chamberlain to the viceregal court, and on 30 Nov. 1782 was created a baronet. For his office of chamberlain he was, says Wills (Irish Nation, iii. 200), who collected much curious information about him, ‘eminently qualified by his handsome figure, graceful address, and ready wit, qualities which were set off by a frank, open, and manly disposition … but it is not generally known that it was usual for members of the cabinet to write speeches for him, which he committed to memory, and, while mastering the substance, generally contrived to travesty into language and ornament with peculiar graces of his own.’ He gained his lasting reputation as an inveterate perpetrator of ‘bulls.’

The chief service he rendered government was in connection with the volunteer convention of 1783. The question of admitting the Roman catholics to the franchise was at the time being agitated, and found many warm supporters in the convention. The proposal was extremely obnoxious to the Irish government, and on the second day of the meeting (11 Nov.) Mr. Ogle, secretary of state, announced that the Roman catholics, in the person of Lord Kenmare, had relinquished the idea of making any claim further than the religious liberty they then enjoyed, and gave as his authority for this extraordinary statement Sir Boyle Roche, by whom it was confirmed. Ten days later Lord Kenmare, who happened not to be in Dublin at the time, wrote, denying that he had given the least authority to any person to make any such statement in his name; but the disavowal came too late, for in the meanwhile the anti-catholic party in the convention had found time to organise themselves, and when the intended Reform Bill took shape, it was known that the admission of the Roman catholics to the franchise was not to form part of the scheme. On 14 Feb. 1784 Sir Boyle Roche explained in a public letter that, hearing that Frederick Augustus Hervey [q. v.], bishop of Derry, and his associates were bent on extending the legislative privilege, ‘I thought a crisis was arrived in which Lord Kenmare and the heads of that body should step forth to disavow those wild projects, and to profess their attachment to the lawful powers. Unfortunately his lordship was at a great distance, and most of my other noble friends were out of the way. I therefore resolved on a bold stroke, and authorised only by a knowledge of the sentiments of the persons in question,’ he took action. He naively added that while he regretted that his message had been disowned by Lord Kenmare, that was of less consequence, since his manœuvre had succeeded to admiration. Speaking against Flood's Reform Bill, he quoted Junius as ‘a certain anonymous author called Junius,’ and declared that it was wrong to do away with boroughs. ‘For, sir,’ said he, ‘if boroughs had been abolished, we never should have heard of the great Lord Chatham’ (Parl. Register, iii. 54). He spoke strongly in opposition to the catholic petition in February 1792, and amused the house by his witty if somewhat scurrilous comments on the signatures to it (ib. xii. 185–6). He fought hard for the union. ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘may tither, and tither, and tither, and may think it a bad measure; but their heads at present are hot, and will so remain till they grow cool again, and so they can't decide right now, but when the day of judgment comes then honourable gentlemen will be satisfied with this most excellent union’ (Barrington, Personal Sketches, i. 117). For himself, he declared that his love for England and Ireland was so great, ‘he would have the two sisters embrace like one brother’ (cf. Parl. Register, xi. 294). Many other good stories are related of him; but it may be doubted whether he was really the author of all the extraordinary ‘bulls’ attributed to him. The above, however, rest on good authority. Sir Boyle Roche died at his house in Eccle Street, Dublin, on 5 June 1807. He married Mary, eldest daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Frankland of Great Thirkleby Hall, Yorkshire, by whom he had no issue, and with whom he lived a life of uninterrupted happiness. In his public capacity, as master of the ceremonies at the Irish viceregal court, he was beloved and admired for his politeness and urbanity, and in private life there was no more honourable gentleman.

[Gent. Mag. 1807, i. 596; Hist. of the Proceedings of the Volunteer Delegates, pp. 42 seq.; Grattan's Life of Henry Grattan, iii. 116 seq.; Plowden's Hist. Review, ii. 834; Wills's Irish Nation, iii. 200; M'Dougall's Sketches of Irish Political Character, London, 1799, pp. 174– 175; Irish Parliamentary Register, passim; Ferrar's Hist. of Limerick, pp. 133, 352; Barrington's Personal Sketches, i. 115–18; Barbehaill's Members of Parl. for Kilkenny; Cal. Charlemont MSS. ii. 265; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. x. passim, xi. 203; Fitzpatrick's Secret Service, 233 seq.; Froude's English in Ireland, ed. 1881, ii. 332, 418, 434, iii. 60; Lecky's Hist. of England, vi. 367; Addit. MSS. (B. M.) 33090 ff. 253, 259, 264, 33107 ff. 161, 246.]

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