However, as a young man he was smitten with a sense of adventure. It was because of this characteristic he joined the famous regiment, the Connaught Rangers, like so many young men from the West of Ireland at the time.
In his younger days "Botha" was a fine specimen of manhood with a distinct military bearing. He was given the nickname "Botha" after General Louis Botha, one of the central figures in the South African War (1899-1902).
John Roach served with distinction in World War I and showed commitment and bravery far beyond the call of duty. His bravery in the face of enemy fire was later recognised and he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in 1918. This is regarded as one of the most distinguished awards in the British military.
The presentation was made on the steps of the Courthouse, Castlebar (opposite The Green), by Colonel Meldon, R.M. Also in attendance at the ceremony were County Court Judge Doyle, K.C., A. C. Larminie, J.P., and Michael Horan, J.P.
A company of soldiers from Castlebar Military Barracks, as well as many of John's comrades from the Great War and hundreds of local people, were in attendance at the ceremony.
Making the presentation, Colonel Meldon said he was privileged to make the presentation of the medal to Private Roach who had shown extraordinary bravery in the face of enemy fire. Private Roach was an exemplary soldier and had shown great resolve and commitment under intense pressure.
Private Roach's act of bravery was described as follows in the London Gazette of the 29th August, 1917: "Private John Roach, Connaught Rangers, awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry in action. When all the bombs of his comrades were expended and the bomb carrier killed, he volunteered to go back for more bombs. He brought these up across the open under heavy fire. On finding that the enemy had reoccupied part of the trench, he reorganised fresh bombing parties on his own initiative and proceeded to attack the enemy. Private Roach only retired when ordered to do so by his superior officer."
Colonel Meldon said it had been a most gallant act by a soldier who had put his life at risk so that others could be saved.
Mr. A. C. Larminie said he had known John Roach and his family for many years and they were decent, hardworking people. It was a great privilege to know and admire them.
The presentation of the DCM to Private John Roach was a red-letter day in the life of Castlebar, a occasion remembered in the county town for many years.
Many other Castlebar people served with distinction in World War I. Most of them joined for economic reasons, others for a sense of adventure. Many endured great suffering, particularly from the after-effects of gassing. Their bravery can never be doubted in what they regarded as a just cause.
After the end of the war, John Roach came back to live in Castlebar and was a familiar and popular figure in the town. He had a distinct military bearing. John walked with the aid of a stick in later years and as youngsters we were in awe of him as he kept the queues in order at the County Cinema in Spencer Street. No one stepped out of line when "Botha" was in charge. Like most of his comrades, he seldom spoke about the horrors of war and what he had endured. He got on with life and did the best he could, often under difficult circumstances.
John Roach was buried in the Old Cemetery, Westport Road, Castlebar. He died on June 12th, 1976, and his wife Ellen died on January 20th, 1942.
His grave had fallen into disrepair over the years until it was discovered by Ernie Sweeney, Boradruma, Castlebar, a member of the Mayo Peace Park Committee. Credit for restoring the grave goes to Ernie along with John Basquill, another member of the Peace Park Committee.
In a very impressive ceremony in the autumn of 2009, a headstone erected to the memory of John Roach and his wife was officially unveiled. Relatives of John raised the money necessary to provide the headstone and grave surrounds.
It was a splendid example of goodwill and co-operation, carried out in a sense of civic spirit and dedicated to a gallant soldier who, along with thousands of other Irishmen had fought for the freedom of small nations. The dignified ceremony was in stark contrast to the hurly-burly of trench warfare which had been endured by John Roach during World War I.
In a graveside oration, Oliver Fallon, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, secretary of the Connaught Rangers Association, outlined Private Roach's many acts of bravery in the face of enemy fire and the manner in which he had fought to save the lives of his colleagues.
"Private Roach was an intensely dedicated soldier who had put his own life in danger so that his comrades could live to fight another day," said Mr. Fallon.
Michael Feeney, chairman of Mayo Peace Park Committee, said the ceremony would not have been possible were it not for the tremendous work of Ernie Sweeney and John Basquill. They could feel very proud of what they had achieved.
Johnny Mee, a member of the Peace Park Committee, said he knew John Roach very well as he was a neighbour of his in McHale Road many years ago. To the end he kept his military bearing and always believed in discipline. He was a member of one of Castlebar's oldest and most respected families.
Prayers at the graveside were recited by Tony Lynch, whose mother was formerly Roach, a close relative of John Roach.
The Last Post was sounded by Debbie Clarke on a trumpet belonging to a regiment of the Connaught Rangers.
The grave was blessed by Rev. Fr. Arthur Devine, Castlebar, and also in attendance was Captain Donal Buckley (retired).
Amongst the attendance at the ceremony were a number of members of the Roach family, McAlpine families, Fitzpatrick families, Gannon families, Bennett families, Cunningham families and the Heavey family.
Ernie Sweeney said it was very encouraging to see so many of John Roach's relatives in attendance. They represented several generations of the Roach family. All were united in life and death in a very moving ceremony.
The ceremony closed a chapter on the life of John Roach and it is fitting that he is remembered in his native Castlebar as a genuine hero of World War I.
Student, Davitt College, Castlebar