Roche, Laurence (1927–99), forester, was born 20 October 1927 in Wexford town, second son and second child among five sons and four daughters of William Roche, shopkeeper, of 9 Monument Place, Wexford, and Bridget Roche (née Banville), from a well known literary family. Having attended the Christian Brothers in Wexford he joined the merchant marine in 1945, remaining a seafarer, a profession that he loved, till 1952. After quitting the sea, Roche spent eighteen months in St Mary's College, Aberystwyth, Wales. He read widely, developed a deep interest in philosophy, politics, and religion, and was increasingly aware of the changes that were beginning to take place in Ireland. A devout Roman catholic, Roche obtained permission from the bishop of Ferns to attend TCD, which he entered to read forestry in 1956. As an undergraduate his strong personality, his gifts as a public speaker, and his obvious maturity marked him out among his fellow students. A passionate orator who preached socialism and berated nationalism as ‘the opium of the people’, he was elected president of the University Philosophical Society for the session 1958/9, and soon began to make an impact on a wider stage. Guest speakers at his presidential meeting – Lord Hailsham, the Labour MPs Patrick Gordon Walker and Michael Foot, and Noel Browne (qv), TD – reflected his interest in politics and (Hailsham excepted) his political stance. In 1959 the National Progressive Democrats, a political party with a left-wing leaning, was founded in his rooms in Trinity College, the other founder members being TDs Noel Browne and Jack McQuillan (qv) and barrister Noel Hartnett (qv). But Roche was eventually to eschew involvement in Irish politics and, having graduated BA, B.Agr. (Forestry) in 1960, he took up a travelling scholarship to North America to study forestry genetics. This led to a master's degree in forestry from the University of British Columbia in 1962 and, after three years as a research forester in the British Columbia Forestry Service, to a Ph.D. from the same university in 1966. In that year he moved to the Canadian Forestry Service in Quebec and in 1972 was appointed professor of forestry and head of department of forest resources management in the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Here he developed a philosophy of tropical forestry, promoting the view that forestry development, particularly in tropical regions, must take into account the native peoples, their cultures, and their way of life, and must be renewable, unlike the scorched-earth policy adopted by some of the large logging concerns.
In 1975 Roche was appointed professor of forestry at the University College of North Wales in Bangor, and using his overseas contacts he greatly expanded the Bangor forestry department, establishing for it a major role, particularly in the developing world. Besides his many scientific publications he founded and edited the Journal of Forest Ecology and Management. In 1990 he spent a year as head of Forest Research (Education and Training Branch) in the FAO in Rome. He retired from Bangor to Madaboy House, Murroe, Co. Limerick, in 1992. Awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole in 1991, he was elected an honorary fellow of TCD in 1993. He died on 23 November 1999 in Madaboy House.
He married (1962) Felicity Eleanor Anne, only child of Frank and Joan Bawtree of Co. Limerick. They had two daughters, Nicola and Patricia, and one son, Christopher.