He was born at Kirkcaldy, Fife, and at an early age went in service to a small farmer near Largo.
Later he returned to Kirkcaldy, working as a hand-loom weaver. In 1816 he helped to finance his brother"s new venture, The Scotsman newspaper. Following his brother"s death in 1831, he became much more involved with the newspaper, giving up the drapery business.
Within a few years he was the sole proprietor, having bought out the other shareholders.
He turned the paper into a daily in 1855, selling at the price of 1d. In 1842, Ritchie"s great-nephew John Ritchie Findlay came to live with Ritchie, and entered the business.
In addition to his newspaper activities, Ritchie was a town councillor in Edinburgh, a magistrate, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and one of the founders of the United Industrial School. On Ritchie"s death in 1881, John Ritchie Findlay succeeded him in the ownership of The Scotsman.
They are buried in the same family plot at the south end of "Lords Row" on the western wall of Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh.