Richardson, John (c.1669–1747), clergyman, was born in Co. Tyrone, one of the five sons and four daughters of William Richardson, gentleman, possibly at his father's home at Tullyreavey, near Cookstown. His father's means were comparatively modest and Richardson trained for the church, entering TCD at the age of 14 in 1683 and graduating in 1688. He was ordained in 1693 and was rector of Derryloran (Cookstown), Co. Tyrone, in 1694–1709 and of Annagh (Belturbet), Co. Cavan, from 1709. A brother, William Richardson (c. 1690–1755), made his fortune as an agent of the Irish Society of London, acquired the Somerset estate near Coleraine, and was MP for Augher, Co. Tyrone (1737–55).
John Richardson was a prominent advocate of the use of the Irish language as a means of converting the catholic population. In 1711 he travelled to London to present a petition calling for the publication of testaments, prayer books, catechisms, and sermons in Irish, to the lord lieutenant, the duke of Ormond (qv), to whom he was introduced by Jonathan Swift (qv). In the same year he published A proposal for the conversion of the popish natives of Ireland to the establish'd religion, which outlined an ambitious plan for the provision of itinerant ministers capable of preaching in Irish; the publication of Irish Bibles, prayer books, and catechisms; the establishment of schools to teach the established religion and the English language free of charge to children; and the foundation of a society by royal charter to direct the project. Richardson's first publication in Irish, a collection of sermons entitle Seanmora ar na Priom Phoncibh na Chreideamh, appeared in 1711 and contained an original sermon by himself as well as translations by Seon Ó Maolchonaire and Philip Mac Brádaigh (qv). Also in 1711, the house of commons voted him £200 in recognition of his ‘zeal and service’. Richardson succeeded in winning the endorsement of the lower house of convocation for his project, but the proposal was opposed by bishops in the upper house despite being strongly supported by Archbishop William King (qv) of Dublin. Having failed to obtain the official backing of the church for his strategy, Richardson turned to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) for assistance and in 1712 his Short history of the attempts that have been made to convert the popish natives of Ireland to the establish'd religion was distributed to the society's members. In the same year, the SPCK helped to partially defray the costs of printing Leabhar na nOrnaightheadh cComhchoitchionn – a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer, based on the previous translation of 1608 – and a bilingual edition of The church catechism. There was little demand for either work and most of the copies printed were still in the SPCK's warehouse five years later. Richardson suffered a loss of several hundred pounds and was forced to abandon the project.
Three other works by Richardson subsequently appeared. Two sermons preached at Cootehill in July and at Belturbet in October 1715 were published at Dublin in 1716. The second of these, entitle The true interest of the Irish nation or Fíorthairbhe na Ngaoidheal, appeared in a bilingual edition and attempted to persuade catholics that conformity to the established church would serve not only their spiritual but also their material interests. In 1727 Richardson's final publication appeared: entitle The great folly, superstition and idolatry of pilgrimages in Ireland, it was an attack on pilgrimages in general and on those to Lough Derg in particular. Richardson's efforts to reverse his church's neglect of the Irish language had antagonised certain members of the episcopal bench and one, Archbishop Thomas Lindsay (qv) of Armagh (1714–24), tried to have him deprived of his living on grounds of neglect. Richardson was repeatedly passed over for preferment, but in 1731 he finally obtained the deanery of Kilmacduagh on the recommendation of Lindsay's successor, Archbishop Hugh Boulter (qv), who represented him to government as having met with ‘great opposition, not to say oppression’ (King, A great archbishop, 293n).
Richardson continued to live at Belturbet and was disabled by gout in later life. He married and had four sons and four daughters. One daughter who married in the locality cared for Richardson in his final years; another daughter, Katharine, was housekeeper for her uncle at Coleraine and corresponded with Jonathan Swift till her sudden death in 1740. Two sons, John and James, took holy orders and the eldest of these, the Rev. John Richardson jun., inherited the Somerset estate on his uncle's death in 1755. John Richardson died 9 September 1747 at Clogher, Co. Tyrone.