Obituary: Jim Roche, 87

Golfer Jim Roche was of a special generation

Golfer Jim Roche was of a special generation

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AS a scratch golfer who captained the Lochend club seven times and became one of only four honorary members in the history of his other club, Duddingston, the late Jim Roche was not too familiar with sandy bunkers.

It was a different story, though, so far as the beaches of Normandy were concerned, with Jim scrambling ashore at the height of the Second World War and on his 19th birthday en route to a permanent reminder of his heroism being displayed today in a French school.

Perhaps it was wartime experiences, which included twice being wounded, that led to Jim’s love of a more peaceful life on the golf links. There was no doubt he saw action on the frontline as a signalman in the Seaforth Highlanders, where his job involved having to go out at night and lay lines of communication as near to the enemy as possible.

It was lonely, dangerous work, and he was wounded first by shrapnel and, secondly – and most alarmingly – by an enemy bomb which knocked him unconscious.

When he awoke, he was alone and blinded but got up and started walking. Luckily, he walked in the direction of safety and regained his sight after three months.

Although Jim rarely talked of war exploits, his feats became known to French children who, keen to learn from the rank-and-file military of their country’s liberation, invited him to address them as part of history studies.

A photograph of Jim Roche hangs today in the memorial hall of Saint Foy School, in the town of Bergerac, Dordogne, a tribute to his bravery.

Jim, who spent civilian working life in hospital administration including at Leith hospital just around the corner from where he was born on Tolbooth Wynd, grew up in Sleigh Drive into a family, including two sisters, active in the trade union movement.

His fascination with golf had been cultivated by his father, who provided a set of cut-down clubs when he was six and the Craigentinny course was at his family’s back door.

Golfing talent flourished and achievements included winning Duddingston’s coveted Duncan Bowl Open tournament, setting the course record at Monktonhall and winning Lochend’s prestigious Mackie Cup five times.

Jimmy was also leading qualifier for the 1964 Lothians championship and off the course he not only captained Duddingston from 1985-88 but was a former president of the Lothians Golf Association.

Jimmy, a loving husband, father and grandfather, latterly lived in sheltered accommodation in Stockbridge.

He was 87 years old when he died on January 12 at Edinburgh’s Royal Victoria Hospital.