Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Railway engineer and novelist. Freeman Wills Crofts was born in Dublin in June 1879, the son of Freeman Wills Crofts of the Army Medical Corps. After attending Methodist and Campbell Colleges, Belfast, he became a pupil of BERKELY DEANE WISE BERKELY DEANE WISE , chief engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. In 1899 he was appointed junior assistant engineer on the construction of the Londonderry and Strabane Railway, and the following year became district engineer on the Coleraine, Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. In 1923 he was promoted to chief assitant engineer at Belfast of the latter company, which had by this time become the Northern Counties Committee of the Midland Railway Company.

Crofts began to write detective novels in 1919. In 1929 he resigned from the railway to devote himself to writing, although in 1930 he was employed by the Government of Northern Ireland to hold an enquiry on compensation claims related to the River Bann Drainage Scheme. After leaving the railway he moved to England, living first near Guildford and later at Worthing. He published over thirty detective novels, and two volumes of short stories,as well as writing short plays for the BBC. In 1939 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.(1)

Crofts died on 11 April 1957. He had married Mary Bellas, daughter of J.J.C. Canning of Coleraine, in 1912 but had no children. He was a man of varied talents and interests, whose recreations included playing the organ and conducting, travelling, gardening and carpentry.


All information in this entry is from the biography of Crofts in Who was Who, 1951-1960, 259. A photograph of him appears on the back of the 1950 Penguin Books reprint of his novel, Inspector French and the Starvel tragedy.

(1) The date is given as 1939 in the biography on the back of Inspector French and the Starvel tragedy.