Jones, Richard (c.1810–p.1840), Ribbonman, was born in Farney, Co. Monaghan, coming to Dublin c.1825 to work for his uncle, one Clarke, a hay, straw, corn, and potato factor in Smithfield. He probably received an elementary education in Monaghan, as he could read and write, and possessed sufficient confidence later to train in shorthand for commercial and political purposes. Acting as clerk, and later, junior salesmaster for the business, he attended the corn exchange twice weekly from c.1830. He resided with his aunt and uncle at 13 Smithfield. Notably industrious and unassuming (taking the pledge in 1832) he appears to have dominated Dublin Ribbonism from the early 1830s, having first joined a city lodge in the later 1820s. There are suggestions in court evidence that he had been initiated into the ‘northern friendship’ before arriving in Dublin. The overriding issue besetting the tenebrous, quasi-political movement, recovering at the time from devastating police infiltration and exposure in 1822, was how best to renew links between the various divided urban and rural groupings in Leinster and Ulster. Jones reorganised the body in Dublin in the early 1830s, functioning as permanent secretary while placing Andrew Dardis, publican of 32 Constitution Hill, nominally in charge of city Ribbonism. In July 1835 Jones orchestrated a provisional reconciliation in Dublin between the Sons of the Shamrock and the Irish Sons of Freedom, in which the two principal Ribbon bodies agreed to adopt the same ‘goods’ or passwords quarterly and to unite lodges. Theoretically, there existed a Ribbon command structure, controlled (in order) by a national board, county boards, and parish boards, manned by elected stewards, communicating with each other by three categories of password. He dedicated the following four years to putting the agreement into effect and to consolidating the organisation by bringing maverick lodges into communication with the United Sons of Freedom. It was alleged by Dublin police that he played a part in the destruction of the statue of King William in College Green in 1836.
Able and conscientious, Jones seems to have aroused little personal distrust within Ribbonism. His motivations in helping to reinvigorate and expand the movement are now necessarily obscure, but society correspondence decoded by police in 1839 would indicate high-minded commitment on Jones's part to the good of the country and its liberation from slavery. Between 1837 and 1839 he circulated through Leinster and Ulster, and travelled to Glasgow, Liverpool, and Manchester to establish or revivify connections with ‘Hibernian’ benefit societies outside Ireland. Members of the ‘old faction’ in Roscommon were ousted in early 1838. Good relations with Belfast Ribbonmen were cemented in March 1838 by his gift of a hardy fighting dog to a lodge master on the Falls Road. A two-day ‘market’ or board meeting in Belfast, led by Jones, on 20–21 April 1838 affirmed the resolve of the united bodies to maintain mutually intelligible passwords ‘through the three kingdoms’. One of his letters reminded members in May 1838 that the hour of England's difficulty was at hand. Negotiations with Ulster groups received some setbacks in late 1838. Shortly after returning from a trip to Liverpool he was arrested in Cuckoo Lane on 1 October 1839 in connection with the murder of Andrew Ganley in October 1837, though a prosecution for murder did not ensue. Three small books in shorthand detailing his movements and naming contacts around the country, which were found on his person, formed the basis of crown prosecution of members of the Ribbon society in 1840 and 1841. Confined in Newgate gaol until briefly released on bail in early January 1840, he was rearrested under the act of 2 & 3 Vict., c. 74 (1 September 1839), on charges of membership of a secret society, and was detained in Newgate until his escape on 30 March. Taken into custody again on 1 May 1840 at Saggart, on the road to Brittas, he was eventually put on trial in late June that year. This attracted enormous public interest. Jones was revealed to have ‘a piercing eye and an expressive and rather intellectual countenance’ and to be aged about 30. Though he was convicted under twenty of the twenty-two counts of the indictment, it appears that the verdict was later made void on the judicial decision that the crown could not prosecute under the 1839 act for actions committed before its passing. So, though sentence of transportation was passed, it is not clear that Jones was ever finally brought to book. Two later trials for breaking out of gaol foundered on the inadequacy of crown evidence on the matter of whether force was used to effect exit from Newgate. After October 1840 he disappeared from the historical record.