Clan Cunningham: Wikis


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A crest badge suitable for a member of Clan Cunningham.
Arms of the Earls of Glencairn, Chiefs of Clan Cunningham

Clan Cunningham is a Scottish clan. The clan does not currently have a chief, therefore it is considered an Armigerous clan by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, though recently two contenders for the chiefship have emerged. Legal opinion is currently being sought and the best claimant will then petition Lord Lyon for recognition.





Traditionally, in 1059, King Malcolm rewarded Malcolm, son of Friskin with the Thanedom of Cunninghame. Cunninghame is the northern part of Ayrshire.[1]

The first known Cunningham was Warnebald Cunningham and then his son Robertus Cunningham. Warnebald was granted the lands of Cunninghame by Hugh de Morville in around 1115. Robertus received the lands of Cunningham between the years 1160 and 1180. The Clan Cunningham was well settled in their lands and the parish of Kilmaurs by the late 13th century. The Clan Cunningham fought for King Alexander III of Scotland at the Battle of Largs in 1263. As a result, for this service Hervy de Cunningham, the son of the Laird of Cunningham received a charter from King Alexander III of Scotland confirming all of their lands.

Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence the Clan Cunningham supported King Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Although their name previously appears on the Ragman Roll in 1296 where they swear allegiance to King Edward I of England. As a reward for supporting King Robert the Bruce of Scotland the Clan Cunningham were given the lands of Lamburgton to add to their existing lands.

Later during the 14th century Sir William Cunningham of Kilmaurs was one of the Scottish noblemen who were offered to the English as a substitute for the captured King David II of Scotland

His son William married Margaret, the elder daughter and co-heiress of Sir Robert Denniston and through her acquired substantial lands, including Finlaystone in Refrewshire and Glencairn in Dumfriesshire.

15th century and clan conflicts

In 1421 Henry Cunningham the third son of William Cunningham led the Cunninghams at the Battle of Beauge.

Sir Williams grandson Alexander Cunningham was made Lord Kilmaurs in 1462 and later the first Earl of Glencairn. During the revolt against King James III of Scotland Alexander brought a substantial force to support the King and defeated the rebels at the Battle of Blackness.

In 1488 the Clan Montgomery destroyed the Clan Cunningham's Kerelaw Castle.[2] This was part of a century-long feud that had apparently started when the office of Baillie in Cuninghame, held by the Cunninghams, was awarded to the son of Lord Montgomerie on 31 January 1448-9.[2]

Also in 1488 chief Alexander Cunningham, Lord Kilmaurs was killed leading the clan in support of King James III of Scotland at the Battle of Sauchieburn. He was given the title of Earl of Glencairn for his service, but King James IV of Scotland revoked all titles given out by his father and Alexander's son Robert Cunningham was stripped of his title as 2nd Earl of Glencairn.

16th century and clan conflicts

The Chief's Arms, Symbol for the chief's motto: "Over Fork Over".
A representation of an ancient shakefork (pitchfork) made from a tree limb with forked branches.

During the 16th century the long running feud continued between the Clan Montgomery and the Clan Cunningham. Eglington House was burned down and the Montomery chief, 4th Earl of Eglington was killed by the Cunninghams. The government of King James VI of Scotland eventually managed to get the rival chiefs to shake hands.

In 1526 Cuthbert the 3rd Earl of Glencairn was wounded in a failed attempt to rescue King James V of Scotland from the Clan Douglas at the Battle of Linlithgow.

In 1542 William Cunningham, 4th Earl of Glencairn led the clan against the English at the Battle of Solway Moss where he was captured. He was released for a ransom of £1000.

The fifth Earl of Glecairn also called Alexander Cunningham was a Protestant reformer. He was also a patron of the reformer John Knox. In 1556 John Knox performed the first Protestant Reformed Communion service on Easter Sunday under a Yew tree at Finlaystone for the 5th Earl.

In 1568 Alexander Cunningham the 5th Earl of Glencairn led the clan at the Battle of Langside near Glasgow.

The Clan Cunningham fought against Mary, Queen of Scots, at the Battle of Carberry Hill where she was defeated. The Chief of the Clan Cunningham was one of the commanders at this battle. Alexander Cunningham is also reported to have ordered the destruction of the Chapel Royal at Holyrood.

17th century and Civil War

In 1643 Chief William Cunningham led the clan at the Battle of Kilayth to rescue the King from Oliver Cromwell but he was defeated.

During the Civil War, the Clan Cunningham supported King Charles II. Chief William Cunningham, 9th Earl of Glencairn, commanded the Royalist rising from 1653 to 1654 and raised a force of over 5000 in 1653 to oppose General Monck, who was the governor of Scotland. In August of the same year, William Cunningham went to Lochearn in Perthshire where he met with some of the Chiefs of the Highland clans. With a body of men he then took possession of Elgin in 1654.

18th century and Jacobite uprisings=

During the Jacobite Uprisings the Clan Cunningham supported the British government. The Cunninghams fought at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 where Captain Cunningham commanded the British artillery which fired Grapeshot at the advancing Jacobites.

Modern history

Scottish descendants around the world have formed ancestral family clubs, known as clan associations, to celebrate their Scottish heritage. While most of these clubs interact with their main Clans in Scotland, they hold no authority in the Government of Scotland or in the official operations of the Clan itself (outside of the express consent of a Clan's ruling Chief, which is extremely rare). In the past century, during the dormancy of the titles of the Clan Chief, several Cunningham associations have formed in Canada, Australia and particularly in the United States. There has recently been a dispute between two of these Cunningham societies in North America - Clan Cunningham Society of America [CCSOA], and the popular Clan Cunningham USA which was welcomed as the representing host of the Cunningham tent at the 2009 International Gathering of Scottish Clans in Scotland (known as The Gathering 2009), and who, on the advice of the Lord Lyon King of Arms and the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs have now become Clan Cunningham International. The dispute between the two associations arose when the president of CCSOA laid claim to total supremecy relating to all things Cunningham, while rejecting the existence of Cunningham associations which both preceded and co-existed with CCSOA, and claiming authority to denounce and deny to all Cunninghams who are not a member of CCSOA permission to form their own Cunningham societies - claims which have been renounced by the Lord Lyon King of Arms himself and the State of Maine which issued CCSOA its Non-profit license. As with the clashes in the days of the Ancient Clans, the contention between the two societies remains heated as CCSOA, which does not accept the ruling of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, continues to defend its claims to supremecy through continued public attacks and slanders against Cunninghams and others who oppose their claim to supremecy. It is believed that CCSOA's directed attacks on Clan Cunningham International (while virtually ignoring all other Cunningham societies) is a form of retaliation after nearly all of CCSOA's board members resigned in protest and discontent. It is not yet known if the future voluntary resignation or forced removal of the current president of CCSOA, who now styles himself "High Commissioner and Chairman", will restore the celebration of brotherhood sought by all Scottish societies.


Clan Cunningham castles include:

  • Finlaystone Castle was the ancestral seat of the Clan Cunningham Chief, Earl of Glencairn between 1401 and 1796 and then passed to the Cunninghame Graham's of Gartmore until 1863 when it was sold.
  • Château de Cherveux in France was built in 1470 by Robert de Conyngham during the Auld Alliance after he served as the Captain of the King's Bodyguard for both French Kings Charles VII and Louis XI. Owned by François and Marie-Thérèse Redien, it is open to the public.
  • Kerelaw Castle was owned by the Clan Cunningham from the 15th century.
  • Auchenharvie Castle owned by the Cunninghams from at least the 17th century.
  • Dumbarton Castle was where four Cunninghams served as governors from as early as the 16th century. Inside is a coat of arms displaying the governors that served in the castle, spanning eight centuries from 1264 to 1996. The first three Cunningham coat of arms displayed are: 1571; John Cunningham the 6th Drumquhassil, 1692; John Cunningham the 11th Earl of Glencairn and 1714; Colonel William Cunningham the 12th earl of Glencairn. There was also a fourth Cunningham governor in the 20th century: 1955; Admiral Sir Angus Cunninghame Graham the 16th of Gartmore and 20th of Ardoch, whose dress uniform is on public display in the Governor's House.
  • Corsehill Castle, Stewarton.
  • Cunninghamhead Castle.
  • Robertland Castle, Stewarton.
  • Aiket Castle, Dunlop.
  • Thorntoun Castle, Springside.
  • Lainshaw Castle, Stewarton.
  • Clonbeith Castle, Auchentiber.
  • Montgreenan Castle, Auchentiber.
  • Glengarnock Castle is a ruined keep, located on the River Garnock about 2 miles north of Kilbirnie.

See also

Notes and references

External links


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