Lyttle, Richard (1866–1905), land campaigner, nationalist, and non-subscribing presbyterian minister, was born 6 March 1866 at Barnhill, a farm near Dromore, Co. Down, owned by his father, Richard Lyttle, a merchant in Dromore whose family had been gentlemen farmers near Donaghcloney. His mother, Mary (née McWilliam) of Banbridge, came from a family connected with the linen trade. In later life he liked to speak of himself as possessing mixed ‘Celtic and Teutonic’ blood. His family were unionists, but as a boy Richard became a nationalist through reading nationalist newspapers and works of Irish history. His discontent with the existing state of affairs was strengthened during his boyhood when Barnhill was lost to his family through a defective title, and his father's legal claim against the landlord for £2,000 compensation for tenant right was disallowed.
At the age of 14 Lyttle entered Lurgan College; after studying there he was briefly apprenticed in a solicitor's office before deciding to become a minister, rather than a lawyer as his parents had intended. In 1884 he entered the Unitarian College at Manchester, where he studied for three years. He won a scholarship to Owens College, Manchester (latterly Manchester University, then part of the federal Victoria University) where he studied for two years but left without graduating. This was due to eyestrain caused by overwork and to a feeling that the recent death of his only sister and the declining health of his parents made it necessary for him to return to Ulster to help them. During his stay in Manchester Lyttle was prominent in Irish nationalist and liberal activities. He was also a successful athlete, and was offered a place on the Irish national rugby team, which he declined for health reasons.
On 24 January 1889 Lyttle was called to the non-subscribing presbyterian congregation of Moneyreagh, Co. Down, taking up his ministry in July. This area of east Down had a strong tradition of presbyterian, liberal, and tenant-farmer radicalism dating back to the United Irishmen; a previous minister of Moneyreagh (1879–84), the Rev. Harold Rylett (qv), had been a prominent Land Leaguer and retained links with the area after moving to a congregationalist ministry in London. Lyttle's parents lived with him in the manse till they both died in May 1897. Lyttle was a renowned preacher and an active and conciliatory minister who resolved disputes within the congregation over its denominational affiliation, increased its membership, raised funds to repair the meeting-house, and formed an active and successful temperance guild. His pastoral dedication and the non-subscribing denomination's traditional emphasis on private judgment won him acceptance even among those who did not share his home rule views. In the early 1890s Lyttle organised Ulster protestant home rulers to campaign for Gladstonian by-election candidates in Britain, going over himself whenever he could spare a few days. He was a leading promoter of the Ulster protestant petition in favour of home rule presented to Gladstone in 1893. He engaged in extensive controversies in the correspondence columns of the liberal unionist Northern Whig and often wrote for the nationalist Irish News. Lyttle associated himself with the Dillonite wing of the anti-Parnellites. At the 1896 Irish Race Convention he recalled catholic O'Donnells and protestant United Irishmen, and predicted that falling agricultural prices and rising wages would convert Ulster unionist farmers to home rule. In 1900 he campaigned for the nationalist candidate in the marginal Tyrone East constituency.
In 1894 he participated in the foundation of a cultural nationalist body, the Irish Women's Association, which brought him into contact with Alice Milligan (qv) and Ethna Carbery (qv). His cultural nationalism also found expression in the establishment of a Gaelic League branch at Moneyreagh, and in 1896–7 Lyttle helped organise nationalist excursions to the grave of Betsy Gray (qv). His pamphlet The origin of the fight with the Boers (1899) went through several editions and was widely reviewed and quoted by nationalist newspapers. It denounced the Boer war in terms reminiscent of British pro-Boer radicals, rather than the advanced nationalist view that Britain's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity.
After the defeat of the second home rule bill, Lyttle was active in the Ulster Tenants’ Defence Association, an umbrella organisation for local tenant and presbyterian groups which resented landlord and anglican influence. From 1900 this body became the Ulster Farmers' and Labourers' Union, led by T. W. Russell (qv), liberal unionist MP for Tyrone South, which campaigned for land purchase and opposed official unionists at the polls. Lyttle was one of Russell's principal lieutenants as joint secretary of the UFLU.
Lyttle's health was undermined by his political exertions and pastoral labours; from 1894 he was responsible for the neighbouring congregation of Ravara as well as Moneyreagh, and from 1901 for a newly formed Carrickfergus congregation. He died suddenly on 22 October 1905 in Bristol, while returning from a conference of unitarians at Geneva; he was buried at Moneyreagh, and a memorial fund organised by the congregation and the UFLU built the Lyttle Memorial School, which existed from 1908 to 1961.