March 24 - 30, 2013: Issue 103
1884 - 15th of October, 1936
John Roche was the eldest son born to early Pittwater settlers James Jospeh and Katherine Mary Roche (nee Collins). He may have been named to honour an elder brother and his grandfather, J J Roche's father, who were both also named John:
ROCHE -March 21,1897, John Roche, Q.C., of Summerville, Cross-avenue, Dublin, late Co. Court Judge for Down, eldest son of the late John Roche, Co. Cork, and brother of J. J. Roche, Bayview P.O., Pittwater. Family Notices. (1897, May 22). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14121702
He was born the year after his parents marriage:
ROCHE—COLLINS.—April 18, at the residence of the bride's mother, Rockvale, by the Rev. Dean Hanly, James Joseph, youngest son of John Roche, Esq., County Cork, Ireland, to Katherine M., youngest daughter of the late John Collins, Esq., of Pittwater. Family Notices. (1883, May 24). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13535436
In 1893 and article Manly to Broken Bay. A PICTURESQUE AND HEALTHY TRIP. BY "ST. MAGNUS." pinpoints the home of the Roche family;
In the foreground is Bay View House, vine yard, orchard, Post and Telegraph Office, the property of Mr. J. J. Roche. Our illustration, " A Cluster of Lemons," grown by Mr. Roche, on his Bay View Orchard, will compare favorably with any fruit of the kind grown in this country or any other. The lemons, which are of the Lisbon variety, and are very juicy, are simply superb, and grow close to the salt water in the greatest profusion ; and oranges, which are of the Siletta variety, are among the sweetest and best ever grown.
On Mr. Roche's property are several small caves, interesting as the unmistakable residence of generations of blackfellows, and the shells and debris collected show ages of habitation, and what is now used as manure. Manly to Broken Bay. (1893, November 11). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 19. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71191632
Another view of this property ca. 1900-1927 from Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers, and after J J Roche had passed away, shows the grounds more overgrown and not tended(Image No. a106167, courtesy of the state Library of NSW): visit - The Bayview Tea Gardens 1920 to 1923 When Run By Thomas Edward And Annie Newey (Nee Costello)
Locally schooled at Church Point, he grew up seeing the change of Pittwater from a rural area to place where holiday homes attracted those closer top town:
AT CHURCH POINT
On the precipitous slopes of the hillside overlooking the quiet backwater of Pittwater, and shaded by the silver coated gums, stands the little wooden church that gave Church Point its name.
It is a quaint little structure in which a service is held occasionally, and I should think that ten people would crowd It. It has a tower bell. It looked up at the church from the road that winds round the waterside, and 'Johnnie' Roche, the man they call the 'Prince of Pittwater’— -who was my companion, asked me If I had seen the church yard.
We scrambled up past the church, and then, among the rank grass and ever-spreading scrub, found the stones that mark the dust of the 'Rude forefathers of the hamlet.' Beside one weatherworn stones 'Johnnie' paused, and spoke to himself rather than to me. 'He was a relative of the teacher at the little school we got a holiday, I remember, to attend this funeral.'
In this quiet spot rest many that were friends of my companion in his boyhood.
The muter gardeners Time and Mature are gradually repairing this small 'God's Acre,' and the few graves are being gradually lost to human ken. Meanwhile the waters of the Bay lap the sand-fringed road, and motor parties Indicate that to-day is the day of the quick. The dead are of the past. Church Point. AT CHURCH POINT. (1922, November 23). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118825051
Right: DEMOLISHED METHODIST CHURCH. Erected in 1872 on Church Point, Pittwater, this old building was recently demolished. DEMOLISHED METHODIST CHURCH. (1932, April 7). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16853823
Mr Roche may have not spent as much time in this playground as he wanted while growing, a short eulogy, which may have been written by his companion of many a Pittwater Regatta 'Rear- commodore Stanley Spain, gives a reason why;
AN APPRECIATION. The 'Late' John Roche. (BY. R.S.S.)
In the experience of everybody, we come across personalities which attract us, for reasons which often. are somewhat hard to define-or, on the contrary, for outstanding qualities, which those who run may read, or, indeed, for some special act of public usefulness, or private unselfishness.
From whatever reason, or from whatever combination of them, John Roche, who died last week, was certainly one of those rare souls, who unconsciously, and without effort, gained among his fellows, their affection and confidence. It was Just his cheerfulness, his placid courage, his elan, and fine conduct of life, which, in his case, had been, in many ways, no easy one, '
Roche was brought up, from his earliest years, on a property on the estuary of the Hawkesbury, owned by his family at Bay View. We all, in our hearts, cherish some spot of this attractive, if difficult world, which we call home, and to which, as poets so often remind us, our wandering thoughts return. John Roche's mind, I do believe, was never far divorced from his beloved Broken Bay. He knew and loved every arm of its far-flung waterways, and he used to dwell with pride on the lush and often exotic vegetation that hid itself, and flourished, in sheltered spots round the creeks of that delectable region.
It followed that he not only liked the trees and fruits of his native bushland, but it was the sea that mostly called him, and so fishing and boats and yachts, or indeed anything that would carry him on the face of the waters, gave him a joy which never paled-a Joy happily shared by many of us who have escaped the devastating malady of golf or other things even less laudable!
But, apart from the prominent positions he has held in the yachting world, and which, Indeed, have been very useful, Important, and unselfish ones in all ways, and about which others are very much more competent to speak than I am-it is rather concerning his character as a man that I would wish to add my little offering to his name and fame.
It was probably known to all who knew him intimately, that from his childhood, he suffered from the after-results of that tragic malady of early life, Infantile paralysis. Most men would have wilted under such a handicap. Not so John Roche-neither in deed, manner, nor word did lie allow his disabilities to alter his way of life. Nor did he ever pour out useless complaints against fate regarding his own great physical drawbacks. Far otherwise was his way, for he always carried a high heart, with a happy smile, and a wholesome speech to sweeten the day's greeting.
I might write much, and with more detail, of this line man's fine record, but it is not necessary, for of those who read tills small eloge of mine, who knew him, they could themselves tell much more of things Indicative of his life-long courage in the face of many difficult, days. We part indeed from "a very gallant gentleman," and a fine sportsman. AN APPRECIATION. (1936, October 20). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17268893 Portrait of a Mr John Roche courtesy ANMM, Object no. 00024319.
An Engineer by profession Mr Roche's real passion was for sailing. Although a first Pittwater Regatta was run when he was a mere toddler it was his love of skiffs, building them, sailing them, and a race around Lion island in a 16ft one he built with other local man William D M Taylor as crew (Don, also born in 1884 and son of Bayview gentleman Patrick Thomson Taylor and brother of Gordon Taylor that occurred in 1906 when he was 22, that was the inspiration for what became a favourite part of the sailing calendar in Sydney.
From 1907 when the first of these was held, up until 1936, Mr Roche worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this skiff filled, sculling, motor boat and large class sailing fest on Pittwater.
MR. J. ROCHE. Mr. John Roche, who died at the War Memorial Hospital yesterday, was widely known in yachting and sailing circles. He was associated with the Pittwater regatta from its inception, being honorary secretary for 24 years up to 1931. He had always taken a keen interest in aquatic sports, and in 1906 participated in a challenge skiff race at Pittwater. From this race grew the annual regatta, the first of which was held in 1907.He was a member of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, being for a time a committeeman, and of the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club. He was keenly interested in the organization of sailing and yachting events, and took an active part in the arrangement of the Anniversary Regatta over a number of years. He is survived by Mrs. Roche. MR. J. ROCHE. (1936, October 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17280386
He was also involved in many other sailing pursuits, clubs and initiatives and always to promote and support the growth of sailing and the obvious freedom and health benefits he had experienced from an early age. Two of these being the annual Manly Regattas held during this era and travelling to America to research and bring back plans for the American star Class yachts in 1920;
MANLY REGATTA. SAILING AND ROWING EVENTS. EXCITING SURF-BOAT RACES. The light south-easterly wind which prevailed on Saturday afternoon was ideal for the sailing events at the annual Manly regatta, while the water In North Harbour, where the rowing contests took place, was calm The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company’s steamer Bingarra acted as flagship. Mr Alfred Seller was commodore, and Mr John Roche vice commodore. MANLY REGATTA. (1927, February 21). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16356350
The build up of sentiment about putting sailing back on the wider social agenda coalesced into a committee late in 1920. Comprising delegates of the Royal Sydney, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club and the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club, the committee met on 1 February 1921 to decide on a suitable boat for interstate racing. The unanimous decision was that the yacht must be inexpensive and suitable for pleasure as well as for racing. One design put up for consideration was the American Star Class, but the committee found that these boats were too expensive. They were also deemed unsuitable in that they were strictly racing boats, and having a bulb keel were more difficult to slip.
The committee seems to have quickly came around to agreeing that the 21 foot Restricted class was suitable in every way.
Three of these were built to the Victorian (Charlie Peel) design, with the other two coming from local Sydney designers. These first three, destined for members Forster, James Milson and Frank Albert, were scarcely distinguishable from each other, and so it was decided to draw for them by ballot (from Milson’s hat). Don Taylor threw in his hand with the new commodore, and crewed or, in the owner’s absence, skippered Corella, which Forster drew from the hat, for many years later. The boat was built by Stewart, Sandeman and Co at Careening Cove, Port Jackson.. Classic Wooden Boat. 2009. retrieved from here
and: ... the R.P.A.Y.C. has been appointed to confer with, the R.S.Y.S. and S.A.S.C. to discuss the best type ... themselves' of the opportunity of Mr.John Roche's visit to America, to obtain plans of the Star class, which ...Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 - 1933) Friday 20 August 1920 p 7 Article
'Forster' was Lord Henry William Forster, 7th Governor General (October 1920 - October 1925) of Australia and known as 'the sporting Governor-General’. His boat, the Corella sailed in and won many races at Pittwater regattas, John Roche on board on at least one recorded occasion;
John Roche put in a good afternoon in Corella and managed to help along the cash for Pittwater at night. John is a great worker for the sport, and spends most of his spare time attending meetings. – The Australian Motor Boat and Yachting Monthly Jan 1st, 1927. P.28
RAWHITI sailing at the Pittwater Regatta. This image appears in The Sydney Mail, 4 January 1922, page 18. The yacht in the background is most likely to be the CORELLA. Object 00012168 courtesy ANMM
The succeeding Governor General wholly supported sailing too;
LOVE OF THE SEAS. TRIBUTE TO YACHTING. GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH. The value of yachting from a national standpoint was strikingly emphasised by the Governor-General (Lord Stonehaven) in a speech at the Pittwater Regatta on Saturday. It was the occasion of the presentation by his Excellency of an illuminated address and wallet of notes to the hon. secretary, Mr. John Roche, who had held that position since the Inception of the regatta, 21 years ago.
Mr. C. E. Le Malstre Walker, C.B.E., president of the regatta executive, described the Governor-General as "a good sport." He complimented the officials, especially Mr. Roche, whose service constituted a record. Lord Stonehaven said they thoroughly realised how deserving was Mr. Roche of the praise expressed in the Illuminated Address, "You are very precocious In Australia-which is not to be regretted-and though only 21years of age, it seems to me that this regatta is very flourishing, full of confidence, and sure of success," said his Excellency. "This result must be due very largely to the work of the secretary. (Cheers.) An efficient secretary is a most difficult man to find, and a valuable man to retain when you get him(Renewed cheers.) He is entitled to the gratitude not merely of the racing fraternity, but of the citizens as a whole. Anyone coming from any other port of the world cannot fail to realise the part that yachting plays in the development of Australia. I have been greatly impressed today, from the lads in the dinghies to the elder men whose heads emerged from the cockpit of the flagship. (Laughter.)
"We are fond of yachting," he continued. "Not only Is It a wonderful relaxation, but it is also a splendid sport. Australia is an island, and an island depends on the command of the sea for its development, its happiness, and everything else. Nothing breeds a love of the sea more than yachting. It affords a splendid opportunity of relaxation, assists in the training of character, and contributes towards the future of this great nation."
(Cheers.) His Excellency paid a tribute to the Navy League Sea Cadets, who had provided a guard of honour. Mr. Roche, in reply, said that he had always looked upon his work for the Pittwater Regatta as a hobby. LOVE OF THE SEAS. (1928, January 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16431021
In 1924 he married a lady who did not remarry once made a widow;
ROCHE - CLAY.-February 26, at St Matthew's Church, Manly, by his Rev. L. A Pearce, B A , John, elder son of Mrs. K M. Roche, Mandolong road, Mosman, and the late J J Roche, of Pittwater to Hester Mona, second daughter of the late Dr W R, Clay, and Mrs Clay, of Hornsby and Sydney. Family Notices. (1924, May 24). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16138582
ROCHE - CLAY. The wedding of Miss Hester Mona Clay, second daughter of the late Major W. R. Clay, A.A.M.C., and Mrs. Clay, of Hornsby and Sydney, and Mr. John Roche, elder son of the late Mr. J. J. Roche and Mrs. Roche, of Mandeolong road, Mosman, was celebrated at St. Mathew's Church, Manly on Tuesday, Februarv 26. HRo. L. A.. Pearce officiated. The bride was gowned, in nattier blue taffeta, with a hat to tone. She was attended by Miss D. Watkins, wearing a frock of burnt orange georgette, with a brown hat. Mr. S. D. Wonborn acted as best man. The reception was held at the Pacific Hotel. Mr. and Mrs. .Roche left later for a motor tour of the South Coast. ROCHE—CLAY. (1924, March 15). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 - 1950), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104449717
A little about Hester's parents:
John Roche should welcome the closing of the yachting season with open arms. He must average, at least, three or four nights a week at some committee meeting or other, while for weeks before the Pittwater Regatta he is hard pressed to find time to sleep. If John is on a committee, he is more than an ornament -he is a hard, unselfish worker, always courteous and obliging, with organising ability above the ordinary. COCKPIT GOSSIP. The Australian Motor Boat and Yachting Monthly. (Mar 1, 1927, p. 7)
Sometimes referred to as 'Johnny' or 'Johnnie' in the monthly anecdotes of now defunct sports magazines and newspapers, it is fitting that this gentleman was known by many as the 'father of the regatta' and a race named to honour his contribution to sailing and to Pittwater;
PITTWATER REGATTA. The Pittwater Regatta committee, to record Its appreciation of the services rendered by the late John Roche, the father of the regatta, have decided to inaugurate a memorial trophy for large class sailing yachts. The John Roche Memorial Trophy is to be competed for at the regatta each year. The closing date of entries for the 1936 regatta is November 28. PITTWATER REGATTA. (1936, October 24). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 22. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17277845
Above: Mr John Roche (left), Mr John Williams, Vice Commodore (?), Mr F. J. S. Young (right) and an unidentified man on board NAMOI, Pittwater Regatta, 1921. Object 000121 66 courtesy ANMM. Below: Sam Hood image of Bayview's Pittwater Aquatic Club contributing to the regatta, with John Roche on Bayview Wharf track, or still at home, circa 1925. Digital Order No. a409025, courtesy State Library of NSW.
John Roche threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2013.