Every movement has its Fabius, and also its Hotspur. Both are needed—the men of prudence and caution, anxious to avoid extreme courses, slow to commit themselves too far or to burn their boats with the river behind them; and the impetuous spirits, who chafe at half-measures, cannot endure temporising, and are impatient for the order to advance against any odds. Major F.H. Crawford had more of the temperament of a Hotspur than of a Fabius, but he nevertheless possessed qualities of patience, reticence, discretion, and coolness which enabled him to render invaluable service to the Ulster cause in an enterprise that would certainly have miscarried in the hands of a man endowed only with impetuosity and reckless courage. If the story of his adventures in procuring arms for the U.V.F. be ever told in minute detail, it will present all the features of an exciting novel by Mr. John Buchan.
Fred Crawford, the man who followed a family tradition when he signed the Covenant with his own blood, began life as a premium apprentice in Harland and Wolf’s great ship-building yard, after which he served for a year as an engineer in the White Star Line, before settling down to his father’s manufacturing business in Belfast. Like so many ardent Loyalists in Ulster, he came of Liberal stock. He was for years honorary Secretary of the Reform Club in Belfast. The more staid members of this highly respectable establishment were not a little startled and perplexed when it was brought to their attention in 1907 that advertisements in the name of one “Hugh Matthews,” giving the Belfast Reform Club as his address, had appeared in a number of foreign newspapers—French, Belgian, Italian, German, and Austrian—inquiring for “10,000 rifles and one million rounds of small-arm ammunition.” The membership of the Club included no Hugh Matthews; but inquiry showed that the name covered the identity of the Hon. Secretary; and Crawford, who sought no concealment in the matter, justified the advertisements by pointing out that the Liberal Government which had lately come into power had begun its rule in Ireland by repealing the Act prohibiting the importation of arms, and that there was therefore nothing illegal in what he was doing. But he resigned his secretaryship, which he felt might hamper future transactions of the same kind. The advertisement was no doubt half bravado and half practical joke; he wanted to see whether it would attract notice, and if anything would come of it. But it had also an element of serious purpose.
Crawford regarded the advent to power of the Liberal Party as ominous, as indeed all Ulster did, for the Liberal Party was a Home Rule Party; and he had from his youth been convinced that the day would come when Ulster would have to carry out Lord Randolph Churchill’s injunction. That being so, he was not the man to tarry till solemn assemblies of merchants, lawyers, and divines should propound a policy; if there was