Mr McCrackens family were farmers from the Rathfriland district of County Down, Northern Ireland. While he was quite young his father died, leaving his mother with eight young children to care for. This was a great problem in these days. About this time the gospel reached the family and several were saved, including his mother and his younger brother Robert, who later became an esteemed preacher of the gospel in America.
When William was thirteen the family went to Australia and it was there that he was saved at a gospel meeting in Sydney. The words of John 5.24 were used to bring him assurance of salvation. When he was fifteen, a shy, backward boy, he began to testify, and open air meetings were his usual means of speaking to people about the Saviour. The good climate in Sydney was very suitable for open air preaching and his clear voice was heard by many who never came to gospel meetings. He was small in stature, but for all of his life he had a good clear voice.
When the family returned from Australia his gift had developed, and after a period he was encouraged to devote his time to preaching the gospel, which he did with zeal and devotion for all his life. In many ways it was hard for him as there was a great deal of opposition from religious leaders. It was also difficult to travel, and, for the most part, little material support was the lot of the preacher. He knew, as few do, what it was to "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ". The example of Mr James Campbell and Mr William Matthews influenced him and gave him encouragement as he sought to reach out in pioneering gospel work.
After some time working in County Down he laboured in Counties Londonderry and Donegal. In company with Mr James Clark he saw the assembly at Straid formed. Many places in his native province were visited, God worked, and people were saved. The district of Markethill deserves mention. With Mr T McKelvey he preached there for a number of years and God wrought in a remarkable way. It seemed to be a special visitation of God. Large crowds gathered at all the meetings. Many were saved and two assemblies were formed, Lisnaget (now Markethill) and Ballyshiel.
Mr McCracken was not a teacher, but he was a sincere and earnest gospel preacher who sought to appeal to the hearts of his hearers. He could present the truth in a way which impressed many. He was a good visitor, like Paul who preached both publicly and "from house to house" (Acts 20.20). No distance was too great for him to travel and no home was too small or too great for him to enter. Times and conditions have changed, but is it not possible that personal visitation is on the wane? Others, who have no gospel to present, are still to be seen going from door to door with their message.
He was very fond of childrens work; as already noted, he was small of stature, but he was large of heart. Kind and generous, he always sought the well-being of the saints and of his fellow labourers. Those who knew him recognised him as a man of conviction who was hard to move from his views when he felt that he had the mind of God in the matter.
He had the joy of seeing all his family saved and in assembly fellowship. Above this, he had the added delight of seeing his two sons, John and Robert, follow in his steps and go out to preach the gospel. They worked a little in Ireland, but mainly in Nova Scotia.
In his closing years he was weak and his memory was failing him, but when other evangelists visited him he revived and something of the old gospel fire was rekindled. He loved to hear of those who had been saved. On 13th August , 1961 God called him into His presence. His large funeral services were conducted by his former fellow preachers.