Daly, Richard (1758–1813), theatrical manager, was born in Co. Galway, second son of Joseph Daly, a prosperous farmer. He entered TCD in 1773, but there is no record of his taking a degree. A reckless and violent character, he was said by Jonah Barrington (qv) to have fought sixteen duels in the space of two years – three with sword and thirteen with pistols – but this claim cannot be substantiated. One of these incidents was with the memoirist himself, who was challenged after a case of mistaken identity; Barrington boasted that he almost killed Daly with his shot.
His father's inheritance almost squandered, Daly went to England where he decided on a career on the stage. Under the tutelage of his fellow Irishman, Charles Macklin (qv), he made his début as Othello at Covent Garden, London, on 4 March 1779; the performance was not well received, and he returned to Ireland in May 1779 as part of a travelling theatre company. Sensing an opportunity in Dublin, he purchased the deserted Smock Alley theatre, which he refurbished and opened in November 1780. Between 1781 and 1796 he was also, variously, the manager of the George's St. theatre, Cork, and others in Limerick, Newry, and Waterford. His work took second place to his dissolute lifestyle: rival companies appeared, but he was too preoccupied with drinking, gambling, and pursuing successfully the female actresses in his employ. Through his careful nurturing of the Dublin Castle administration, on 25 November 1786 he was awarded an exclusive fourteen-year patent by parliament to perform drama in Dublin (thus removing his competition), with the title of deputy master of the revels.
He rebuilt the Crow St. theatre, and reopened it in 1788. His lifestyle and manners drew much comment, and in 1789 he found himself assailed in the Dublin Evening Post and Weekly Packet, leading to riots and disturbances in his theatres. He sued John Magee (qv), the papers’ proprietor, for £12,000 damages; the chief justice, Lord Clonmell (qv), issued his notorious fiats against Magee, who was imprisoned when unable to pay. When the case was finally heard in June 1790, Daly was represented by eleven barristers, including Patrick Duigenan (qv), John Egan (qv), and John Philpot Curran (qv), but none the less he was only awarded £200 damages and sixpence costs. Exhausted by the constant attacks on his character and the pressures of work, he decided to retire and on 12 August 1797 sold his theatre and the remainder of his patent to Frederick Edward Jones (qv), a rival, for an annuity of £400. The following year he was granted a government pension of £100.
Tall and handsome, but with a squint, he could be charming when not being deliberately offensive. He died in Dublin in September 1813. He married (September 1779) Jane Barsani Lyster (widow of John Richard Kirwan Lyster), a beautiful London singer and actress who tolerated his behaviour; she died in 1795. He left several children, including a daughter by the actress Dorothy Philips (later Jordon), who herself won fame on British and American stages as Mrs Alsop.