Crone, John Smyth (1858–1945), physician, book collector, and antiquarian, was born 25 November 1858 in Castlereagh Road, Belfast, the eldest son of John and Isabel Crone. He was educated at McClinton's School, the RBAI, and QCB, which after completing a four-year course in medicine he left at the age of nineteen, too young to graduate. At the London Hospital he gained medical experience and soon he was in general practice in suburban Willesden. In 1882 he was licensed by the Apothecaries’ Company and in 1887 obtained the licentiate of the RCSI. Joining the army as a private at the outbreak of war (August 1914), he was commissioned lieutenant in the RAMC and was medical officer to the 6th Middlesex volunteer regiment until 1919; he was also deputy coroner for West Middlesex (1916–39).
During the forty years he practised as a physician Crone found much time for his interest in books relating to Ireland, as well as for civic duties. By 1909 he had a large collection of Irish books, pamphlets, maps, and manuscripts, part of the collection he later bequeathed to Belfast Central Library and which was added, in accordance with his bequest, to the F. J. Bigger collection. He was a founder member of the Irish Literary Society of London (1891) and later its president (1918–25). In 1909 he started the Irish Book Lover, which he edited till 1925 and to which he contributed till his death. His knowledge of books was ‘not in any sense a scholar's but it was wide and catholic’ (IBL, xxx, 2), and he was the founder of a school of Irish bibliophiles that included Francis Joseph Bigger (qv), James Coleman (d. 1938), Seumas Ó Casaide (qv), David J. O'Donoghue (qv), and P. S. O'Hegarty (qv). Crone's best-known literary work was A concise dictionary of Irish biography (1928; rev. ed., with additional entries, 1937), which contains nearly 3,000 entries, a careful selection. He also wrote a biography of another Irish bibliophile, Henry Bradshaw (qv).
Crone was a member of Willesden urban district council (chairman, 1900–03) and later of Middlesex county council. Very popular, he claimed never to have canvassed a vote or spent a penny on electioneering. Appointed a magistrate in 1907, he proved conscientious, and was chairman of the Willesden petty sessional division (1939–43). In 1918 he stood for parliament as a liberal in the West Willesden division (unsuccessfully). Crone had little or no interest in Irish politics. He was present, however, at the Westminster Palace Hotel at the final public meeting of Charles Stewart Parnell (qv), and when the train carrying Parnell's body stopped at Willesden Junction en route for Dublin (10 October 1891) it was Crone who placed a wreath on the coffin.
Crone was elected to the RIA (16 March 1916) and was a founder of the Ulster Association of London. He died 6 November 1945 at Ealing, west London. With his first wife, Mary Hirst (d. 1890), daughter of the Rev. Thomas Smyth, he had one son, J. W. S. Crone, an official of Middlesex county council. In 1897 he remarried and with his second wife, Nina Gertrude (d. 1933), daughter of Peter Roe (b. 1817), editor and publisher of the Irish Builder, he had three more sons: Captain R. E. Crone, who was employed by the Melbourne port authority, Gerald Roe Crone (1899–1982), who was librarian to the Royal Geographical Society and an expert on historical cartography, and Desmond Roe Crone (1900–74), who joined the Royal Engineers and took part in the Indian survey, before becoming a lecturer in surveying at QUB (1954–62).