Thomas Roe (1832 - 1923)

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We regret to announce that Lord Roe died at his residence at Derby on Thursday night in his 91st year. The late peer was seven times Mayor of Derby, and represented that town in Parliament from 1883 to 1895 and again from 1900 to 1916, when he was raised to the peerage.

Lord Roe of the borough of Derby was a native of that town, having been born there on July 13, 1832, and with the possible exception of the late Sir Henry Bemrose, his lifelong friend and political adversary, no person within living memory has taken quite such an active and prominent part if the affairs of the town. On leaving school he entered the business of his father, a timber merchant, and himself an influential member of the town council, and an ex-Mayor, and it was doubtless this example which led the son to enter public life at the comparatively early age of 26. Mr. Thomas Roe, as he was then, was elected a member of the Derby Corporation on November 1, 1858, and he maintained an unbroken connexion with that body for the remainder of his days. He served as Mayor in 1867-68, and thirty years later, at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, he was elected for a second term. To mark an eventful year, the townspeople, without regard to sect or party, subscribed towards a public testimonial to him—his portrait in oils, by the late Sir J. J. Shannon, R.A., which is now in the Guildhall. Before this, in 1894, he received the honour of knighthood. When Sir Thomas Roe completed his municipal jubilee, in November 1908, he was given the honorary freedom of the borough.

In 1871, when the old Derby School Board came into existence, he was one of the original members, and he remained a member until the dissolution of the Board on the passing of the Education Act 1904. When the management of the schools was transferred to the Town Council, he became chairman of the Education Committee. He was a Freemason of high standing, having filled important offices in nearly all the different degrees of the Order, and in 1917 was Senior Grand Warden of England.

Politically Lord Roe was a stedfast Liberal, and though scarcely ever known to speak in the House, was a familiar figure at St. Stephen’s. He first entered, unopposed, Parliament in 1883, on the retirement of the late Mr. Michael Thomas Bass, but afterwards always had to fight for his seat. He contested four elections as the colleague of the late Sir William Harcourt—in 1885, 1886, 1892, and 1895—and on the first three occasions they were elected by majorities of over two thousand. The fourth time, after Sir William Harcourt had just introduced his Local Veto Bill, Sir Thomas Roe was defeated with his leader, by five years later, at the General Election of 1900, he was again returned to Parliament by his native town, and member for Derby he remained until December, 1916, when he was raised to the peerage.

Lord Roe married late in life, his wife being a daughter of the late Mr. Matthew Kirtley, at one time locomotive superintendent of the Midland Railway Company. Lady Roe died in 1909, and now by the death of Lord Roe a number of philanthropic and charitable bequests under her will become due. These include £5,000 to Owens College Manchester, for a scholarship in some branch of mechanical engineering, to be called the “Matthew Kirtley Scholarship”; £5,500 to the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, £3,000 to the Railway Servants’ Orphanage, £2,000 to railway benevolent institutions, £1,000 to the National Lifeboat Institution, £500 to the Middlesex Hospital for the upkeep of the Cancer Ward, the Surgical Aid Society, London, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Home of Rest, Derby, and the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital. There is no heir to the barony.

The Times June 9, 1923

Background Notes

"his wife" - Emily, daughter of Matthew Kirtley and Ann Pelham

"Owens College, Manchester" - John Owens, a Manchester cotton merchant and Non-Conformist, left most of his fortune for the establishment of a college which would be independent of the Church of England. The college ultimately developed into the Victoria University of Manchester.

"Surgical Aid Society" - founded in 1862 to provide surgical aids (artificial limbs, trusses, ear trumpets, leg irons and boots) to people who could not afford to buy them.