Clan Cunningham

The Cunningham’s had settled in their lands of Kilmaurs (North of Kilmarnock/Ayrshire) by the end of the 13th Century. Hervy de Cunningham, son of the Laird of Kilmaurs, fought for Alexander III against the Norwegian invaders at the Battle of Largs 1263.

The Cunningham’s were supporters of the Bruce’s in their fight for Scottish independence. The lands of Lamburgton were added to Kilmaurs by royal charter in 1319 as their reward. They also acquire lands at Stevenston north of Irvine/Ayrshire where they build the well-fortified Kerlaw Castle.

Kerlaw Castle
Caprington Castle

1425, Adam Cunningham married the daughter of Sir Duncan Wallace with which he gained the lands of Caprington south of Kilmarnock/Ayrshire. The earliest parts of Caprington Castle were built on the land around that time.

1448, Sir Alexander Montgomery, Sir Robert Cunningham's brother-in-law, was made Bailie of Cunninghame, a title that belonged to Sir Robert Cunningham. This event sparked the bloody Montgomery/Cunningham feud that lasted 213 years.

1458, Sir Alexander Cunningham was rewarded for his support of King James II (Stuart) against the Clan Douglas by having his title Bailie of Cunninghame restored, this enraging the Montgomery’s.

1488, Sir Alexander Cunningham is made 1st Earl of Glencairn by royal charter, and receives Drummond and Duchray in Lennox for helping defeat the rebels at Blackness (the rebels being an army of King James III son James fighting to overthrow his father). June 1488, Sir Alexander Cunningham and King James III were killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn. The victorious son became King James IV of Scotland.

Later in 1488, King James IV revoked all titles given by his father over the past few years. Sir Alexander Cunningham's son and heir, Robert Cunningham, lost his title of 2nd Earl of Glencairn. He did however retain the earlier title of 2nd Lord Kilmaurs. Also in 1488, the Montgomery’s burned down the Cunningham's Kerelaw Castle.

1498, Hugh of Eglinton, Lord Montgomery, is made Bailie of Cunninghame.

1499, Cuthbert Cunningham, 3rd Lord Kilmaurs, leads the Clan in an attack on Irvine.

1528, William Cunningham, 4th Earl of Glencairn, lead an attack on the Montgomery’s and burned their Eglinton Castle (Irvine/Ayrshire).

The fifth Earl of Glencairn, a Protestant reformer, fought against Mary Queen of Scots forces. He was one of the commanders at the Battle of Carbery Hill where she surrendered in 1567. Glencairn is said to have ordered the destruction of the Chapel Royal at Hollyrood/Edinburgh.

1586, the Cunningham-Montgomery feud erupts after Hugh Montgomery, 4th Earl of Eglinton, is murdered by Cunningham’s. James Cunningham, 7th Earl of Glencairn and 7th Lord Kilmaurs is head of the clan at that time.

1661, William Cunningham, 9th Earl of Glencairn, is made Lord High Chancellor of Scotland for life. His marriage to Margaret Montgomery, daughter of Alexander, 6th Earl of Eglinton, ended the Cunningham-Montgomery feud.

The Cunningham’s were among the Scottish involved in the Plantation of Ulster. Sir James Cunningham, who was married to a daughter of the Earl of Glencairn, was granted five thousand acres in County Donegal. The name is now among the seventy-five most common names in Ulster.

The 9th Earl of Glencairn raised an army in Scotland to fight for Charles II in his bid to gain his father’s throne. Somehow he managed to avoid execution by Cromwell after the uprising was crushed.

1699, Sir John Cunningham of Caprington, a distinguished lawyer, was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles II.

Other prominent Cunningham’s were Alexander Cunningham, an eighteenth-century historical writer, who was British envoy to Venice from 1715 to 1720.

Charles Cunningham was famous for his historical paintings, some of which still hang in the Hermitage Palace in St Petersburg and Berlin.

Alan Cunningham, poet and writer, whom many believe was only eclipsed by Robert Burns, was born at Blackwood in Dumfriesshire in 1784. His work was supported by Sir Walter Scott who, on Cunningham’s death in 1828, provided for his two sons.

Caprington Castle was remodelled in the 1780s and again in the 1830s. The castle still remains in the Cunningham family to this day.

The ruin of Kerlaw Castle has been preserved as a tourist attraction.

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