The Doctor: William Frothingham Roach (1877-1940)


I became aware that Dr. William Frothingham Roach was an owner of Stephanotis by reading the notes to an auction of the collection of George Milligen by Bonhams Auction House in 2004 [4]. The notes say the vessel came into his ownership in 1935 and she was presumably sold to him by the executors of the estate of the Duque de Tarifa. I don't know whether he changed the name of the vessel to Wendorian or whether it was changed by the following owner as I have found no record of this.

Family Background

William has proven to be the most elusive of all the owners of Stephanotis. With such an unusual name you would think it would have been straightforward but this was not the case.

Life of William Frothingham Roach (1886-1940)

I can find no record of William's birth and am not even sure which country he was born in. His place of birth is given on the 1911 census as 'Clune House, Co. Cavan but I can find no record of such a place. All the other records I have found give his place of birth as Montreal, Quebec and this seems more likely and that he moved to England for work after qualification as a surgeon.

When the 1911 census was taken, William was a visitor in the household of widow Sarah Bibby at 8 Bruce Road East Southsea near Portsmouth. His occupation was recorded as a Civil Servant employed as a surgeon working for the Colonial Service. Also in the household was Sarah's daughter Ethel Nora Bibby who he would marry in April 1912.

I found out a lot more about William's wife Ethel Nora Bibby (1883-1948). She was born at Garston on the River Mersey in Lancashire on 12 September 1883. Her father Ernest Vincent Bibby (1849-1899) was a copper smelter.

Medical Training

Assuming I have found the right man, and I am well aware of the contradictions in the sources I have found, William appears on the Medical Register for Nova Scotia for 1907-8 and the entry states that he qualified as MD and CM at Bishop's College Montreal in 1902. If he was indeed born in 1877, he would have been about 25 on qualifying which is plausible.

Medical Register
Medical Register Nova Scotia [142]

Early Military Service

The Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps for April 1912 reported that William had been appointed a Lieutenant on 1 December 1911 - it did not specify which unit he had been attached to. [142]

RAMC
Cutting from Journal of the RAMC [143]

It seems highly likely that William served as a surgeon during WW1 but I have been unable to find any records of this.

Sailing

The aerial photograph below shows West Cowes and its shipbuilding yards in 1932 and Stephanotis might be there somewhere. There were certainly vessels of all shapes and sizes.

West Cowes
West Cowes and River Medina 1932 from Image No. EPW039662 [89]

Stephanotis was not William's first yacht according to the website for the schooner Windborne [141]. William must have been pretty wealthy to commission a vessel of this quality. I am not sure that the income of a surgeon would have sufficed and suspect he had family connections that I have not managed to discover.


Windborne is a 1928 Topsail Schooner built in Porthlevin England by Gilbert & Pascoe Boatbuilders. She was built for a Doctor W. Frothingham Roach, a keen racer who named her Magnet. She raced as a Cutter in the 1928 fastnet race and was re rigged as a topsail schooner by 1930. She was hidden during WW2 to escape being taken by the British Admiralty for coastal patrol work. She turned up in the 60s in Canada under the name of Huegenot and then left for New Zealand about 1975 under the name of Windborne. Only now are we piecing together her lost history which includes a well known folk singer wooing his wife to be, and recording songs on board.

Recently Windborne has completed several off shore passages to the tropical Islands of Tonga and Fiji for the winter season providing adventure and excitement for the lucky crew.

Much work has been done over the years to maintain Windborne to a high standard including re fastening the entire hull with bronze. She is registered in the NZ survey system (MOSS) and complies with the rigorous safety standards.
Windborne
Schooner Windborne - formerly Magnet [141]

The Royal Engineers Journal of June 1931 reported on the Fastnet Race of 1930 and noted that William's schooner Magnet had taken part [146].

The Fastnet Race was held every 2 years from 1925 with the course starting offshore from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, going through the Solent through the Needles Channel, rounding Land's End, crossing the Celtic Sea, rounding Fastnet Rock off the Southwest coast of Ireland, rounding the Isles of Scilly and finishing at Plymouth. It is a very challenging 615 mile race and the weather in 1930 was rough with the vessels departing on 12 August 1930. Of the 9 yachts that took part only 4 completed the course and Magnet was one of those that didn't make it. The winner was Jolie Brise.

Fastnet
Fastnet Race 1930 - Competitors [146]

Abdominal Operation

The Sporting Times published an item on 7 January 1928 noting that William was recovering from 'his recent serious abdominal operation'. It includes a drawing of him and an observation that he was a 'man of varied activities' a Freemason and the Hon. Secretary of the London Skin Hospital.

Cutting
Cutting from The Sporting Times [145]

Last Years and Death

William was serving as a surgeon on the Elders & Fyffe Passenger/Refrigerated Cargo Ship Carare when she struck a mine in the Bristol Channel and sank with the loss of 7 members of the crew and 3 passengers. A history of the vessel can be found on the Benjidog Ship Histories HERE.

Carare
Old postcard showing Carare [103]
Record of Death
Merchant Seaman Record of Death [103]

On 3 June 1940, the Western Mail reported that William had been buried at sea in the Bristol Channel from the Barry Pilot Cutter.

Cutting
Cutting from the Western Mail [52]

The public notice below appeared in the Advertiser and Gazette on 20 August 1940.

Cutting
Cutting from the Advertiser and Gazette [144]

Commemoration

William Frothingham Roach is commemorated on the memorial at Halifax Nova Scotia.

Halifax memorial
Panel 17 - Halifax Memorial [147]

Details of all those who lost their lives on Carare can be found on the Benjidog Tower Hill website HERE.

Summary

I have had very limited success in tracing William's ancestors to date and if you can shed any light on them I would be grateful if you could contact me using the Feedback option acessible from the menu.

I believe William was born in Canada and qualified as a surgeon there before coming to the UK and marrying. He practiced as a surgeon in London and served in that capacity in WW2, sadly losing his life when the vessel he was on struck a mine. During his life he was a keen sailor and before acquiring Stephanotis had a high-class schooner name Magnet which he raced on at least one occasion. My conclusion about his place of birth is supported by his commemoration on the memorial at Halifax Nova Scotia.

The next owner of Stephanotis was Godfrey Llewellyn