Mrs Kate Roche was born as Kate Walsh at Duckett Street in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Ireland on 27 October 1869.
Born into a Roman Catholic family, she was the daughter of Thomas Walsh, a car driver, and Bridget Davin, a native of Co Galway who was illiterate.
Her known siblings were: Thomas (b. 10 August 1866) and Anne (b. 26 May 1868).
Kate was married sometime around 1897 to fellow Clonmel native John Patrick Roche (b. 15 March 1868), son of police constable John Roche and the former Anne Dohoney. No definitive record for their marriage has yet been located.
The newlyweds welcomed two children whilst they lived in Ireland, both born in Clonmel: daughter Bridget (aka Ann Marie) arrived on 11 November 1898 whilst their son John Patrick was born on 12 July 1900. John Roche was described as a storekeeper and clerk on his children’s birth records.
Kate and John later moved to London, England, leaving their children in the care of the former’s mother. The two children appear on the 1901 census of Ireland living with their widowed maternal grandmother Bridget at 4 River Street in Clonmel. The elderly Bridget Walsh later died in a workhouse on 15 November 1904 aged 69.
Whilst in England Kate and John had another child, their daughter Kathleen, who was born in London on 22 September 1904. John Roche was described as an asylum clerk and the family address was listed as 12 Montfort House, Victoria Park Square, London.
By the time of the 1911 census John Roche and his two elder children were living as lodgers at 6 Garfield Street in Bootle, Liverpool and he was described as a freight clerk in a shipping company. Kate and her younger child Kathleen are not listed on the census and their whereabouts are unknown.
On 6 April 1912 Kate signed-on for the maiden voyage of Titanic; she used her maiden name, “K. Walsh” and stated that she was 32 years old and gave her local address as 57 Church Road, Southampton. Her previous ship was the St Paul and as a stewardess she could expect monthly wages of £3. It has been speculated that Kate used her maiden name as she believed that she would have a greater chance of employment if she were a single woman. There has also been a suggestion, albeit unverified, that she and her younger daughter Kathleen were estranged from the other members of the family.
Kate was one of only two Irish stewardesses, the other being Belfast-woman Mary Sloan. During the voyage Kate was one of two stewardesses who catered exclusively to the second class passengers, the other being the young and recent-widow Lucy Violet Snape. Surviving passenger Selina Cook recalled Kate following the disaster:
“We had a very nice stewardess… Miss Walsh. I was feeling very sick. The stewardess was very kind and brought me a glass of milk.”
Although the large majority of female crew members survived the sinking, both second-class stewardesses and third-class matron Catherine Wallis did not. Although it is not known why Kate did not leave in a lifeboat, there were reports that Catherine Wallis refused to leave her post and Lucy Snape likewise; it may have been the case that Kate chose to remain with her comrades. There were also reports amongst survivors of uniformed stewardesses being turned out of or being denied access to lifeboats.
Kate Wallis Roche died in the sinking and her body, if recovered, was never identified.
It appears that only her daughter Kathleen, for reasons that are not clear, was provided for by the Titanic Relief Fund Southampton Committee, and several entries are listed inside the various Minute Books at Southampton. It is also unclear who acted as Kathleen’s guardian after her mother’s death as it does not appear to have been her father. As an orphan on the Relief Fund, Kathleen’s guardians would have received an allowance amounting double payment weekly. Kathleen’s last appearance in the relief fund minute books from Southampton is for the year 1922, when a grant was awarded for her apprenticeship.
Kathleen Roche was no orphan and her father John continued to live in Liverpool for the next few decades. He never remarried and by 1939 he and his son John were still living and working in Liverpool, he still as a shipping clerk and his unmarried son in a packing company. John died the following year in 1940 at the age of 71. What became of the younger John is not known.
Kate’s daughter Ann Marie later worked as a domestic to a shipbroker and in 1939 was living with her employers in Finchley, London. In 1943 she married Frederick Percy Allinson (1909-1965), remaining childless, and spent the remainder of her life in London and died in Barnet in 1971.
“Orphan” daughter Kathleen later trained as a teacher and worked in Birmingham before moving to Ireland where in 1936 in Co Waterford she married Michael Crotty (b. 1902), a Limerick-based officer with An Garda Siochána, the police force of the then Irish Free State. On her marriage record she declared that her father was deceased, although this was not the case.
Kathleen and Michael welcomed their firstborn Kevin in 1937 and went on to have three more children. Kathleen spent her final days living in Limerick and family recall that she was reluctant to ever discuss the Titanic and refused to watch James Cameron’s blockbuster film in 1997 as it would be too emotional for her. She died in 2001.