Roche surname history

Roche, together with its variants Roach, Roch, etc., is a name of Norman origin. Although the obvious derivation is from the French roche, "rock", the earliest bearer of the surname in Ireland, Richard FitzGodebert de la Roche, in fact adopted the surname after his place of origin in Wales, Rhos in Pembrokeshire. He was one of the first Norman arrivals, coming in 1167, and acquiring with others of his family large tracts of south Co. Wexford. Over the centuries the family became thoroughly hibernicized, to the point where they were prominent in the many rebellions against English rule, the best-known being Father Philip Roche, who led the Irish in the Battle of Horetown in 1798. The name is still strongly linked with Co. Wexford, where 6 townlands called Rochestown exist today; the family name is recorded in at least 30 placenames throughout the country, such as Ballinroche (Limerick), Rochfort (Galway), Raheenroche (Kilkenny), and Castletownroche (Cork). This last name reflects the prominence of the family around the modern town of Fermoy in Co. Cork, where they prospered greatly. They became Viscounts Roche, a title which became extinct in the 18th century. In 1856 Edmund Burke-Roche of Trabolgan was created Baron Fermoy. The present 8th Baronet is Edmund James Burke-Roche.

The name also proliferated further afield and multiplied throughout the southern province of Munster; Roche is today one of the commonest surnames in that area.

There also appears to have been another branch of the family based in the West, where the surname is today common in Co. Mayo.

Kevin Roche (1922 - ) is one of North America?s leading architects, celebrated for such designs as the General Foods headquarters and the extensions to the Guggenheim Museum.

Billy Roche (1949 - ) has worked as a musician and actor, but is best known for his plays and novels, which focus on the tensions of small-town life, as represented by his birthplace, Wexford.

Adi Roche (1955 - ) has been an anti-nuclear campaigner for many years, and is now internationally known for the Chernobyl Children?s Project which she set up in 1991 to provide medical treatment and holidays for young victims of the Chernobyl disaster. She was nominated European Person of the Year in 1996.

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