This article appears in the November 2003 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly
Dr. Kenneth Roche
Ken Roche was a member of a group of determined and devoted members who steered the Guild through the difficult years of the fifties and sixties when moral permissiveness was beginning to exert itself. The post-war years were largely occupied in reconstruction and attending to careers; but as the threat to Catholic doctors became apparent, Ken's efforts and advice greatly helped them to defend themselves.
He used to proudly say that he had held every senior office in the Guild, Master, Hon Secretary, Treasurer and Registrar. In his own Branch, Bristol , with the help of Finola, his wife, he raised it to become for many years the most active in the Guild. Symposia held there attracted glittering speakers; the atmosphere was always highly convivial with many sick heads in the morning. One remembers a special one held at the time of the Falklands war. Chris Patten and Lord Rees-Mogg were the two speakers at the banquet, and amid hearty salutations to the Guild they spent the whole time swapping anecdotes with each other illustrating how well they and their wives knew each other.
Although always a dominant figure at meetings of Council he fervently believed in the importance of the branches for, in his view, they generate local companionship for members and support for those who have difficulties in confronting major ethical problems in their practices.
His pipe became a regular and conspicuous feature, before the days when an environmental cloud descended on all such gatherings. It was one of that curious variety that never seemed happy to smoulder away on its own. Not a vitalist pipe, for it seemed to constantly require flaming injections; the competition between Ken and our late chaplain Father Roe with his traditional briar always lightened the atmosphere.
A revival of branches may well be the best way of gathering new members. In Bristol Finola and Ken, with their wide ranging social commitments, served as a source of encouragement and wisdom to many younger members.
In his retirement he became extremely active on the international scene, attending all the FEAMC and FIAMC meetings of which he had been appointed secretary. He always felt that our own Guild played an important part and its input often had a decisive impact on the subsequent decisions.
On one occasion when attending a FEAMC gathering in Rome and Mass was being celebrated appropriately in the church of St. Cosmas and Damian by Mgr. Hickey, who later became an American Cardinal, assisted by our own Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, then rector of the English College, the sermon began with the opening bars from a then current New York musical 'If you have not got a dream, how can you make a dream come true?' Ken was so impressed by this that it became a theme song to all his family.
In recognition of all these great efforts it gave him great pleasure to be appointed a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and a Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory by His Holiness.
Paddy Linehan, who knew him better than any of us, always says, when he was Master and Ken Secretary, how much he owed to the wisdom and experience of Ken on occasions when tact and compromise were required.
His requiem Mass at his parish church overflowed: five celebrants on the altar and representatives from all his social and religious interests, including a large representation of members of the Guild.
May he rest in peace.