Heron, Sir Richard (1726–1805), 1st baronet, chief secretary for Ireland, was the youngest child of four sons and two daughters of Robert Heron of Newark, Nottinghamshire, and his wife, Elizabeth Heron (née Brecknock). He was educated for a legal career and worked as an attorney in London. Under the patronage of the duke of Newcastle, he was appointed in 1751 a commissioner of bankruptcy, and thereafter a clerk in the remembrance office, and then the lord treasurer's remembrancer in the court of exchequer. He worked for John Hobart, 2nd earl of Buckinghamshire (qv), in a private capacity, and when Hobart was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland Heron accepted the office of chief secretary on 13 December 1776; he was sworn an Irish privy councillor on his arrival in Ireland in January 1777. He was an unfortunate choice for chief secretary: it soon became apparent that he lacked the political experience and the temperament required for such a difficult office. He entered parliament as MP for Lisburn, Co. Antrim (1777–83), and on 25 July 1778 was created a baronet and given a sinecure worth £700 a year. Popularly known as ‘Sir Richard Wigblock’, his failings made a replacement inevitable, and both the viceroy and Whitehall looked for alternatives. The primary requirement for a chief secretary was an ability to control the house of commons, but Heron proved astonishingly inept at management. The absence of any leadership proved fatal for the administration, and the lord lieutenant admitted in 1780 that ‘the house runs wild’ (Johnston, 40).
With the clamour for free trade becoming a serious threat after 1779, changes were unavoidable, and in the end the viceroy was recalled in November 1780 and William Eden (qv) succeeded Heron as chief secretary. The power of the Castle, however, had been damaged by Heron's ‘peculiar incapacity’ (Malcomson, 43), and the new administration struggled to restore its authority. Buckinghamshire is regarded as perhaps the worst viceroy of the period, and Heron was probably the most incompetent chief secretary; his ineptitude was a major factor in the weakness of the administration between 1777 and 1780. The one real benefit of his tenure was that Edward Cooke (qv) joined him in Ireland in 1778 as his private secretary, the beginning of a long and distinguished career in Irish administration.
On his return to England, Heron retired from public life. In 1798 he published a genealogical table of his family, the Herons of Newark, Nottinghamshire. He married Jane (née Hall), the widow of S. Thompson; they had no children. He died 18 January 1805.