The
Six Degrees
of
Pat Roche

 
Pat Roche has influenced many people in his lifetime. 

The kids that he taught Irish Dancing to, grew-up to become parents and/or teachers of Irish Dancers. 

The following are some people's thoughts and stories of this great man.

I began taking Irish Dancing at 4 with my sister. We danced for Pat Roche. His daughter, Peggy also taught us. They first told my mom I was too young, but I had to do what my sister did. They relented with the agreement that my mom didn't care if I learned anything. My memories of the hall when I was young were that of old wooden floors and the smell of old beer and cigarettes. We were taking at a hall with a black door on the northwest side of Chicago. It's funny now to get a real perspective of my teachers since my early memories were of their shoes and the tight grip they held on my little hand as they taught me the steps. 

Irish Dancing came and went in my life and went full circle as I became involved again with my children. Moving to an area with no Irish Dancing forced my hand at teaching and then going on to getting my TCRG. It's amazing the road life takes. The amount of people that Mr. Roche has touched with his gift of dance is incredible. People here in Omaha would never have had the opportunity to experience this dance form if Mr. Roche hadn't agreed to let a little sister tag along to dance class.

Trish Weekly
Omaha, NE
We moved to the west side when I was 11, the oldest of 4 girls.  Pat Roche and his family lived down the street.  I remember him coming to our home to convince my mom that we should take dancing.  Since Mom didn't drive, he volunteered to pick us up and bring us home.  We only danced with him about 2 years but received the foundation of our love of Irish dancing. 
Thank you, Pat. 
Julie Kernaghan White
Chicago, IL
I started dancing at age 6 in the basement of Resurrction School (West Jackson Blvd). Even though there were so many students practicing, Pat Roche, the true Master of Irish Dance, came over to me, held my hand and showed me my first step: 1-2-3, 1-2-3. He told me to practice and return the next week for another step. I kept dancing until age 18, and now dance (a hornpipe) at my daughters' weddings. 

The jigs, reels, hornpipes, Blackbird, all helped me in every sport I played....quick feet. But the most important lessons from The Master, were the importance of practice in order to compete successfully, the love of one's country and culture, dignity, honor, and how to be a man! The friendships with the other "boys" John Roche, Jerry Casey, Steve Grace.... we were good (and still have the medals to prove it); not many Irish Dance Schools had 4 boys to dance an 8-hand jig.... and the girls we were paired with were outstanding....  We often received standing ovations. 

All of this was because of Pat: his care and love for each of us. My life is better having known Pat Roche. He remains an inspiration. 

Laurence Mulcrone
Westchester, IL
In the early 1990's, Pat Roche published a book which included the contributions of some renowned Irish dancing teachers. Among them was Pat Roche himself. He sent that book to us, Sisters Roselina and Lucille McKillop. In it, he inscribed a note which we treasure. It reads: "To the McKillop sisters, who started the medal and trophy robbing, being the first to bring medals and trophies into Chicago May the angels ever guard you." 

There were three McKillop sisters: Luclle, Kathleen, Roseleen who enjoyed "taking dancing" from Pat Roche through the 1930's and 1940's. Pat was just beginning to move his students into the American competitions which were held in New York at the time, and we were fortunate enough to be his first entries. We won first place medals in national competition in June, 1944. He was overjoyed, as we were. 

In 1945, the national competition was held in Chicago. Kathleen McKillop won the first place trophy as national champion, after a competition which included both young men and young women. It was 14 years later that World competition was introduced. (Meantime, Roseleen and Lucille had entered the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy in September of 1944. Kathleen continued to dance until after she finished college, married Raymond Mueller, and they had the first of five children.) 

In those days, we danced, not for competition, but for the love of the dance, and the music, and their inter-relationship. The dancer was lifted into the music and the music flowed into the dancer's movements. We learned from Pat what was meant by pride of race, and the association of the dances and the music with Irish history and culture. Our parents became friends with other parents and we became life-long friends with other dancers. All were interested in the concerns of the Irish clubs, which, although they were social clubs, were steeped in the Irish problems of the day. Following each meeting, we had set-dancing, step-dancing and songs, both rebel and sentimental. 

Pat was the master teacher. He taught us how to teach. He did it by his example of concern for a student who might be having difficulty and by the individual attention he managed to give that student. He would take the student by the hand and together they would dance slowly through each step which caused difficulty, counting out the steps and slowing down the music. Always we danced with music. In those days we had those wonderful phonographs which allowed us to control the speed of the music. 

His manner of teaching is a lesson which we as life-long teachers have treasured. Pat knew each of his students. Each one was special, and he remained friends with them, as he did with us, for the rest of our lives. His influence on us has influenced many, many others. We will always be grateful. We loved him. 

We know he is resting in peace. He said the Rosary with his students on trips we made together during the years when his students represented the Irish at Folk Festivals sponsored by the Allied Nations of World War II. The Blessed Mother will be taking care of him. 

Thank you for the opportunity to eulogize Pat Roche. 

Sisters Roselina McKillop
and Lucille McKillop
I'm only 11 years old, and I never knew Pat Roche. Pat's wife Grace was my Grandma's cousin and maid of honor at my grandparents' wedding.  I have been dancing for five years in Texas. My Grandpa tells me that Mr. Roche was aware of my dancing. I am very proud of my connection to Mr. Roche! 
Maggie McMahon
Flower Mound, TX
I am so happy I found this web site! I found it when I was trying to find out why Irish Dancers keep their hands at their sides (a friend asked me that question recently and I had no answer). It was great reading the notes from my past irish dancing partners, Jerry, Larry, Steve, and John. I hope he was talking about the Smyth Sisters, ha ha! To this day, I am proud to say I was a "Pat Roche Dancer". And proud to say, the Smyth sisters had the honors then and special memories now of having danced with Pat at our weddings. He has been such a positive influence in my life. I ballroom dance now with my husband and the training I received in dance with Pat benefits me yet today. I loved competing in Irish Dance and have many happy memories. Proud to be Irish. Pat, you are at rest with Ed and Mary Smyth and I am sure there is plenty of set dancing going on! P.S. Can anyone answer my question? 
Charlotte (Smyth) Olsen
Las Vegas, NV
[Peggy Roche-Boyle will be replying to this letter]

 
Please submit your thoughts/stories of Pat Roche
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Pat Roche the man
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