Sir Boyle Roche

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Roche, Sir Boyle, Bart., "the buffoon of the Conservative party" in the Irish House of Commons, as he is styled by Mr. Froude, was born in Ireland about the middle of the 18th century. As an officer of the British army, he distinguished himself in the American War. Retiring from the service, he obtained a seat in Parliament, and for his consistent support of the Government, was created a baronet in 1782. Acting at the instigation of the Viceroy, he played a very discreditable part at the Rotunda Convention of 1783, declaring, without any warrant, that he was commissioned by Lord Kenmare to say that the Catholics did not desire to press for any alteration in their position.

He voted for the Union, and was granted a pension and the post of Master of Ceremonies at Dublin Castle. Barrington says he was "in point of appearance, a line, bluff, soldier-like old gentleman. He had numerous good qualities;.. his ideas were full of honour and etiquette — of discipline and bravery. .. His lady, who was a 'bas bleu' prematurely injured Sir Boyle's capacity, it was said, by forcing him to read Gibbon's Decline and Fall." He was gifted with a wonderful memory, and could get off by rote, at one or two readings, any production, no matter how long. The Ministry made constant use of this faculty, and there was scarcely an important debate in which he had not a part previously cast for him. The following are specimens of the many "bulls" attributed to Sir Boyle, most of them supposed to have been uttered in the House of Commons: "Mr. Speaker, if we once permitted the villainous French masons to meddle with the buttresses and walls of our ancient constitution, they would never stop nor stay sir, till they brought the foundation stones tumbling down about the ears of the nation. Here perhaps, sirs, the murderous Marshallaw-men [Marsellaise] would break in, cut us to mince meat, and throw our bleeding heads upon that table, to stare us in the face."

Burke's son, as agent of the Catholic Committee, had committed a breach of privilege in the House, and the sergeant-at-arms was blamed for permitting him to escape: "How could the sergeant-at-arms stop him in the rear, while he was catching him in the front? Did he think the sergeant-at-arms could be, like a bird, in two places at once?" Opposing a grant for some public works: "What, Mr. Speaker, and so we are to beggar ourselves for the fear of vexing posterity! Now, I would ask the honourable gentleman, and this still more honourable house, why we should put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity; for what has posterity done for us? (Laughter.) I apprehend gentlemen have entirely mistaken my words. I assure the house that by posterity I do not mean my ancestors, but those who are to come immediately after them." Speaking of the Union, Sir Boyle Roche said: "Gentlemen may tither and tither and tither, and may think it a bad measure;.. but when the day of judgment comes, then honourable gentlemen will be satisfied at this most excellent Union. Sir, there are no Levitical degrees between nations, and on this occasion I can see neither sin nor shame in marrying our own sister." Sir Boyle Roche died at his residence in Eccles-street, Dublin, 5th June 1807. His brother, "Tiger Roche," was a noted fighting character in Dublin.

Sources

22. Barrington, Sir Jonah, Personal Sketches of his own Time: Townsend Young, LL.D. 2 vols. London, 1869.

141. Froude, James A.: The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century. 3 vols. London, 1872-'4.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

191. Irish Political Characters of the Present Day. London, 1799.

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