Crawford, William Ernest (‘Ernie’) (1891–1959), rugby player, was born 17 November 1891 in Belfast, son of Henry Edward Crawford, drapery salesman, and Catherine (Katie) Crawford (née Sadlier). He was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast, and the Belfast Mercantile College. On leaving school he trained as a chartered accountant at the firm of Messrs Martin Shaw, Leslie and Shaw, Scottish Provident Buildings, Belfast, and qualified in 1914. When the first world war began he enlisted in the 6th Royal Inniskilling dragoons of the Ulster division. A severe arm wound, sustained at Arras in May 1917, prohibited his return to the front, so he was appointed to the staff of the department of factory audit and costs in the Ministry of Munitions. In early 1919, after his demobilisation, Crawford was appointed accountant and chief financial officer of the Rathmines and Rathgar urban council, then the third largest municipality in Ireland. He resigned in 1931 when it was amalgamated with the city of Dublin corporation. He formed his own private accountancy practice and lectured at the Rathmines Institute until May 1933, when he was appointed city treasurer and chief financial officer of Belfast, a position he held until his retirement in 1953. He was also a barrister at law, called to the bar at King's Inns in 1923.
Crawford had already distinguished himself as a rugby player of talent before the war, playing senior club rugby for Malone, but his elevation to the international arena was delayed by the war and he did not make his debut for Ireland until 1920, when he was aged twenty-eight. He was capped thirty times, fifteen times as captain, in a career that lasted until 1927. One of the finest full backs to play rugby for Ireland, he captained the great Irish team of 1925–6, which included players of the calibre of Denis Cussen (qv), the Hewitt brothers, and Jammie Clinch (qv); it narrowly failed to win the Triple Crown when it was beaten in its last game by Wales. He also had a successful club career with Lansdowne, winning the Leinster senior cup on four occasions (1922 and 1927–29), and played club rugby with Cardiff and the Barbarians. One of the great characters of Irish rugby, Crawford is credited with inventing the word ‘alickadoo’ (meaning a non-playing rugby aficionado): when a team-mate preferred to read his book about an oriental potentate than to play poker, Crawford, in his annoyance, exclaimed, ‘You and your bloody Ali Khadu.’
After his playing career ended Crawford remained involved in rugby, both in administration and as a selector for the Irish team (1943–51 and 1955–7), including the teams that won the Grand Slam in 1948 and the Triple Crown in 1949. He served as a member of the Irish Rugby Football Union committee for many years, and was the union's president in 1957–8. He was also a member of the committee of the Barbarians Rugby Club. In 1932 he became the first man from Britain or Ireland to be awarded the silver medal of honour of the French ministry of sports and physical education. Also a gifted soccer player, he played league football with Cliftonville and Bohemians.
He was married to Florence Crawford and they had three children. He died 11 January 1959 at his home, 24 Cranmore Avenue, Belfast.