Ridgeway, William (1765–1817), barrister and law reporter, was born in Dublin, eldest son of William Ridgeway, merchant, and Dorothy Ridgeway (née Tandy). Educated at TCD, he graduated BA (1787), LLB (1790), and LLD (1795). Deciding on a career as a barrister, he entered Middle Temple (1788) and the King's Inns, and was called to the Irish bar in 1790. A relation of James Napper Tandy (qv), Ridgeway joined the United Irishmen on 21 December 1792. However, he was not a radical, and only seems to have attended because of his family connection; when the United Irishmen became more extreme in the following years, his membership lapsed. During the 1798 rebellion he acted as quartermaster of the lawyers' yeoman cavalry, and worked to quell the insurrection.
A competent lawyer, Ridgeway was respected for his meticulous skill in reporting law cases. Asked by the attorney general to publish a collection of Lord Hardwicke's cases (1733–7) in 1794, he followed this with three volumes of Reports of cases upon appeals and writs of error in the high court of parliament in Ireland, containing decisions made in the house of lords (1784–96). Although the first Irish law reporters of the modern period were G. W. Vernon and J. B. Scriven, Ridgeway is credited with producing the most accurate and detailed reports. With W. Lapp and John Schoales he published a set of Term reports of cases in the king's court in Dublin (1796), and the professionalism of this work ensured a wide circulation. Ridgeway's regular attendance in the house of lords, and his connection with an unnamed judge who supplied detailed notes of all his decisions, enabled him to maintain a consistently high standard in his reports.
Between 1798 and 1803 Ridgeway acted as a crown counsel for prosecutions, and published a number of individual reports for the trials he attended. One of the few times he acted for the defence was in 1802 when he represented Maj. Henry Sirr (qv) who was being sued for damages by John Hevey on charges of assault and false imprisonment. The most noteworthy of his cases was the trial of Robert Emmet (qv) for high treason in September 1803. Ridgeway assisted the prosecution, and his account was published later in the year as part of his Reports of proceedings in cases of high treason at a court of oyer and terminer held under special commission. His notes were also used as the basis for the pro-government Dublin Evening Post's account of Emmet's famous speech from the dock. In neither version was the peroration about Ireland taking her place among the nations of the earth included, prompting some historians to question its authenticity; it does, however, appear in other contemporary accounts, and it has been speculated that Ridgeway only summarised the closing parts of the speech.
Ridgeway also acted as crown counsel for the trials of Edward Sheridan and Thomas Kirwan (qv) and published a detailed report in 1811. His final work was a Report on the trial of Roger O'Connor and Martin McKeon (1817) that was finished by R. W. Greene. Ridgeway had caught typhus fever while on the circuit at Trim, Co. Meath, and died on 1 December 1817. He married (1797) Catherine, daughter of Edward Ledwich (qv), the distinguished antiquary; they had seven children. Despite some reservations about his pro-government bias, Ridgeway is highly regarded as one of the earliest law reporters, and his accounts have won praise for their ‘technical competence as well as for . . . legal and technical importance’ (quoted in Simpson, 447).