ROCHFORT (Rochford, Roachford), JOHN, doctor and office-holder; b. in Ireland; m. on 6 Feb. 1823 at Harbour Grace, Nfld, Elizabeth Cane (Cain), and they had five children; d. 2 Jan. 1865 at St John’s, Nfld.
After receiving a medical education in Ireland or England John Rochfort arrived in St John’s in 1820 and began to practise there. He was soon involved in local politics. That year a surrogate court sentence of 36 lashes to Philip Butler and James Landergan for contempt of court aroused widespread public discontent with the arbitrary and brutal sentences handed down by these courts. At a public meeting on 14 November called to appeal the sentence to the king, Rochfort played a prominent role and signed the resolutions along with Dr William Carson*, Patrick Morris*, and 13 other professional men and small merchants of St John’s. Partly as a result of this protest the surrogate courts were abolished in 1824.
In 1822 John Rochfort moved to the thriving town of Harbour Grace, some 70 miles from St John’s, where he became closely connected with the leading mercantile families of the area: the Dansons, the Packs, and the Thornes. He was also deeply involved with the Roman Catholic parish of Harbour Grace, especially in the establishment of a school there. In 1826 he was elected president of the newly formed St Patrick’s School Society.
An 1828 newspaper advertisement announced Rochfort’s return to practise in St John’s, although his whole family does not appear to have moved to that town until June 1829. In St John’s Rochfort joined the campaign for a local legislature for Newfoundland [see O’Brien; Brooking]. A meeting was called in September 1831 to prepare petitions to the House of Commons in London asking for quicker passage of the bill to establish the legislature. Rochfort was one of 67 signatories to a petition, and a member of the committee selected to convey to the king and the House of Commons the meeting’s resolutions calling for an elected legislature.
Rochfort’s successful medical career during the 1830s led to his appointment in 1838 as one of four district surgeons for St John’s. In February of the next year he was involved in a dispute at the government-run St John’s Hospital; the commissioners of the poor had removed the patients at this institution from the care of the district surgeons, and after an unsuccessful protest to the governor, Rochfort refused to visit the hospital again. By 1850 Rochfort, as one of the most prominent Roman Catholics in St John’s, was appointed to the Roman Catholic board of directors of the St John’s Academy, in company with Bishop John Thomas Mullock, John Kent*, Laurence O’Brien, and Philip Francis Little*.
With the election of the Little administration after the introduction of responsible government in 1855, Rochfort was appointed to the Legislative Council, a position of social prestige if little power. The following year he was also appointed by that government surgeon-in-charge of St John’s Hospital. He continued in these positions until his death in 1865.
Church of the Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic) (Harbour Grace, Nfld.), baptismal and marriage registers, 1820–27 (mfm. at PANL). Church of St John the Baptist (Roman Catholic) (St John’s), baptismal and marriage registers, 1831–36 (mfm. at PANL). Nfld., Blue book, 1857. Harbour Grace and Carbonear Weekly Journal and General Advertiser for Conception Bay (Harbour Grace, Nfld.), 11 June 1829. Newfoundlander, 1828–34, 5 Jan. 1865. Newfoundland Mercantile Journal (St John’s), 1820–26. Royal Gazette (St John’s), 10 Jan. 1865. Times and General Commercial Gazette (St John’s), 26 May 1855. Gunn, Political history of Nfld.