Ryder, Thomas (1735–91), actor, singer, and theatre manager, was born in England, elder of two sons of Preswick Ryder, provincial actor and manager, and Sarah Ryder (née Darby), actress. His younger brother, Samuel (1738–71), was an actor in Ireland. A career in the theatre beckoned from an early age, and Thomas spent the first half of 1757 performing in Scotland. Deciding to move to Ireland, he made his debut at the Smock Alley theatre, managed by Thomas Sheridan (qv), on 7 December 1757 and established an immediate rapport with the audience. His versatility proved particularly useful in the years ahead as he switched effortlessly between serious and comic roles, and even managed some singing parts. Between 1765 and 1770 he toured the country with a company of actors to much popular acclaim. Returning to Smock Alley in the 1770s, he also performed at the Crow St. theatre, and sang at the Ranelagh gardens during the theatre off-season. In 1772 he succeeded Henry Mossop (qv) as the manager at Smock Alley, and secured a lease for the theatre the following year. He is believed to have won a large sum of money in a lottery in 1773, and this seems to have encouraged his increasing prodigality with money. He purchased a large town house that cost £4,000 but was forced to sell it for just £600 when he ran short of money. His pirating of the dialogue from a Sheridan play also resulted in a costly lawsuit. In 1781 he lost control of the Smock Alley theatre to one of his own actors, Richard Daly (qv), although he continued to act under the new management. He left Ireland in 1786 and pursued a brief but moderately successful career on the stage in London; the audiences thought he was a little coarse. After a short spell in Scotland, he returned to tour Ireland in 1791, where he died 26 November at Sandymount, Co. Dublin.
He married (spring 1760) Rosetta Comerford, actress; they had one son and three daughters, all of whom performed on the stage. Ryder was a talented actor but a careless manager, and his extravagances cost him heavily. His financial difficulties were of his own making, and in 1783 the European Magazine blamed him for building ‘temples of folly’. Nevertheless his departure from Ireland was deeply regretted by critics and public alike, and he was hailed as ‘the ornament of the Irish stage’ (quoted in Highfill et al., xii, 157).