Sharman, William (1730?–1803), Volunteer colonel, landlord, and MP, was the elder son among two sons and three daughters of John Sharman of Grange, Co. Antrim; nothing is known of his mother. He entered TCD (26 May 1748), was called to the bar (1755), and was appointed collector of the revenue for Lisburn (1756–83). In 1775 he inherited substantial estates near Banbridge and Rathfriland in Co. Down, and a smaller property in Staleen, Co. Meath, from his uncle Capt. William Sharman (c.1695–1775), MP for Randalstown (1749–60) and formerly judge advocate in Minorca (c.1719–37). Politically liberal, Sharman played an important part in the Volunteer movement. He was elected lieutenant-colonel of the Moira (or Union) regiment of Volunteers, and was a Co. Antrim delegate to the Volunteer National Convention in 1782. A leading member of the radical wing of the Volunteers who sought parliamentary reform after the granting of legislative independence in 1782, he was elected chairman of the Ulster Volunteers' correspondence committee in 1783, and corresponded with the duke of Richmond on parliamentary reform; Richmond's reply advocating universal suffrage was published by the Volunteers that year. In 1783 he and William Todd Jones (qv) were elected MPs for Lisburn as Volunteer candidates. In parliament Sharman generally opposed the government, particularly on the commercial propositions of 1785. Although briefly regarded by government as ‘a violent and determined patriot’ (quoted in HIP, 262), he was a modest and diffident man who rarely spoke in parliament, and he did not stand again in 1790. A parliamentary observer praised him as an intelligent and well informed independent country gentleman who acted with ‘a manly decision and a prudent zeal’ (Falkland, 53), and lamented that he did not speak more often.
Elected Co. Antrim delegate to the Ulster Volunteer Convention at Dungannon on 8 September 1783, at which his proposal that the Volunteers should support catholic emancipation was defeated, he also attended the Volunteer Grand National Convention of Volunteers held at the Rotunda, Dublin (10 November 1783), and was elected to the sub-committee to draw up a plan of reform. He chaired the National Congress of Volunteers held in the Exhibition Rooms, William St., Dublin (25 October 1784) although by this stage the reform movement had largely run out of steam. He was a founder of a Reform Club created to revitalise the reform campaign (20 May 1786), and a member of the Northern Whig Club founded in Belfast in March 1790. At the Volunteer review held in Belfast in July 1791 to celebrate the fall of the Bastille, he was reviewing general and presided at a dinner of over 300 Volunteers held that evening in the Linenhall; he was chosen as reviewing general again for the same event in July 1792 but could not attend due to ill-health. During the early 1790s he opposed the recruitment of anti-catholic Volunteer companies and was critical of some local aristocrats – notably Lord Hillsborough (qv) – and their dependents for sowing religious dissension. He remained colonel of the Union Volunteer regiment until volunteering was proclaimed in March 1793, and presided at the last great Ulster Volunteer convention at Dungannon (15 February 1793). Thereafter he dropped out of politics and in March 1798 was described by Martha McTier (qv) as ‘an honest forgotten man’ (Drennan letters, ii, 377). He signed a petition against the act of union with several other Co. Down landed proprietors in March 1800. A benevolent landlord, he believed that legislation should be enacted to improve the lot of the Irish tenantry, a belief he passed on to his eldest son, the tenant right campaigner William Sharman Crawford (qv). His main residences were Sea View on the Shore Road near Belfast and Moira Castle, Co. Down. He died 21 January 1803 at Moira Castle; an obituary noted that ‘his life had been useful, beneficial and virtuous’ (Belfast News Letter, 28 Jan. 1803).
He married (1773) Arminella Willson of Purdysburn, Co. Down, daughter of Hill Willson, a former mayor of Carrickfergus; they had three children.