[Sir] Boyle Roche

Life
1743-1807; entered Army and served in American War; office in Irish Revenue Dept., c.1775; Tralee MP and later for Gowaran, 1777-83; Portarlington MP, 1783-90; Tralee, 1790-97; Old Leighlin, 1798-1800; professed in parliament that the ‘the Revolution of 1782 [Legislative Independence] had brought as many constitutional blessings to the kingdom, as the revolution of 1688’ (27 May 1782); created baronet, 1782; Chamberlain to Viceregal Court, service to Govt. in connnection with Volunteer Convention, 1783; celebrated master of the ‘Irish Bull’ and so characterised in Barrington, Edgeworth, and Froude (‘on posterity’). RR ODNB DIB ODQ FDA

[ top ]

Criticism
Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, pp.494-99; The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. Seamus Deane (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, p.475.

[ top ]

Commentary
William Carleton
, Traits and Stories (1843 Edn.), ‘I know that several of my readers may remind me of Sir Boyle Roche, whose bulls have become not only notorious, but proverbial. it is well known, however, that when he made them, they were studied bulls, resorted to principally for the purpose of putting the government and opposition of the Irish House of Commons into good humour with each other, which they never failed to do - thereby, on more than one occasion, probably, preventing the effusion of blood, and the loss of life, among men who frequently decided even their political differences by the sword and pistol.’ (General Introduction, p.ii.)

Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘[…] there were the outrageous bulls of Sir Boyle Roche, “the most celebrated and entertaining anti-grammarian in the irish Parliament” [ Barrington ]. Sir Boyle and his hearers lake recognised the pertinence of his impertinence. His most famous bull was no more illogical than Ireland’s position under English rule. In commenting on the nation's imminent loss of its Parliament (abolished by the Act of Union in 1800), he exclaimed: “It would surely be better, Mr. speaker, to give up not only a part, but, if necessary, even the whole, of our constitution, to preserve the remainder!” (Kain, op. cit., p.8.)

Maureen Wall, ‘The Making of Gardiner’s Relief Act, 1781-82’, in Catholic Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Gerard O’Brien (Geog. Publ. 1989), writes: Sir Boyle Roche, who one newspaper referred to during the Convention [of 1782] as ‘the pack-horse which the Castle has loaded with its lumber of division’, wrote to several prominent Catholics [in Feb. 1784, at the time of the appointment of Duke of Rutland as viceroy] saying that he was convinced that government would further ‘extend its indulgences’ to them if the heads of that body could be induced to present an address to the new lord lieutenant on arrival, ‘not only of loyalty to the king, but of attachment to the present constitution, without innovation.’ (See Freeman’s Journal, 22 Nov. 1783; England Life of O’Leary, 114 [sic]; here p.151.)

[ top ]

Notes
Sir Jonah Barrington relates anecdotes of Sir Boyle Roche in Personal Memoirs or Rise and Fall; also that his ‘bovine remarks’ [Irish bull] are covered in ‘A Few of Sir Boyle Roche’s Best’, in Patrick Kennedy, Modern Irish Ancedotes (n.d., 68-70). And note that Barrington on Roche is quoted in Frank O’Connor, Book of Ireland.

Son of Bull: Roche’s celebrated bull, ‘Why should we put ourselves out of the way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity done for us?’, is a variant on a frequent solecism recorded several times in Oxford Dict. of Quotations [see index under posterity].

[ top ]