Crawford, William (1740?–1800), presbyterian minister, Volunteer, and educationist, was born at Ballytromery, Crumlin, Co. Antrim, eldest son of Thomas Crawford (1696?–1782), minister there for fifty-eight years, and Anne (née Mackay); the youngest son was Alexander Crawford (qv) (d. 1823). Thomas's father, Andrew (d. 1726), had been minister at Carnmoney, and his grandfather, also Thomas (d. 1670), minister at Donegore. William Crawford studied at Glasgow university (MA 1763, DD 1784), and was ordained (6 February 1766) as minister of the presbyterian congregation at Strabane, Co. Tyrone. In theology he was broad (‘new light’) and in politics cautious. His Remarks on the late earl of Chesterfield's letters to his son (1776) and his translation (1777) of a treatise by a Genevan theologian, John Alphonso Turretine, on natural theology drew public attention. An enthusiastic Volunteer, he became chaplain to the 1st Tyrone regiment and published two sermons preached to Volunteer congregations (1779, 1780). His best-known work was his History of Ireland (2 vols, Strabane, 1783) which remains valuable for its list of over 1,200 subscribers and its accounts of Oakboys, Steelboys, and Volunteers. He was moderator of the synod of Ulster in 1785.
Crawford advocated an Ulster university acceptable to presbyterians and opened (7 November 1785) an academy at Strabane, formally recognised by the general synod of Ulster in 1786; it seems, however, to have disappeared by the 1790s. The arrival of Earl Fitzwilliam (qv) as lord lieutenant of Ireland (early January 1795) made a state-supported presbyterian college seem attainable; the synod appointed Crawford and two others to meet Fitzwilliam and procure ‘the establishment of an university for the education of our youth under the patronage of the general synod of Ulster, the presbytery of Antrim and the Southern Association’ (Records, iii). With Fitzwilliam's dismissal (late February), however, the prospect faded. In October 1798 Crawford moved from Strabane to Holywood, Co. Down, in succession to Arthur McMahon (qv) as minister of the ‘old congregation’. It was attached to the ‘new light’ presbytery of Antrim but afforded a greatly reduced stipend (£36 p.a.). He died 4 January 1800, leaving a wife, two daughters, and a son, Stewart, who became a medical doctor at Bath, England.