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Cunningham Scottish Clan

Clan Crest
Crest A unicorn's head, Argent, crined and armed, Or
Motto Over fork over
Translation Over fork over. A phrase from clan legend
Plant None
Gaelic name Mac Cuinneagain
Origin of name Place-name, Ayrshire
Pipe music None

Cunningham History

At some time before Hugh de Moreville, Constable of Scotland, died in 1162, he granted to Warnebald, presumably a Fleming, the property of Kilmaurs in the district of Cunningham in Ayrshire. When Haakon IV of Norway brought his fleet to this coast in 1 263, to assert his sovereignty over the western isles, Harvey Cunningham of Kilmaurs was among those who helped to repulse him at Largs. The family property was increased by Robert Bruce as a reward for their support. Hugh Cunningham of Kilmaurs was granted the lands of Lamburgton in 1321 by King Robert. His grandson Sir William married the heiress of the Denniestons of that Ilk and thus added the property of Glencairn also. Sir William s grandson was raised to the peerage by James Ill, first as Lord Kilmaurs in 1462, then as Earl of Glencairn in 1488. The King s favour is perhaps indicative of the new Earl s character, for James III bestowed it upon men of culture and talent, to the fury of the older nobility. When they hounded James Ill to his death in 1488, the 1st Earl perished with him.

Alexander Cunningham, 5th Earl of Glencairn, played a very different part. He was a member of the band which called itself the Lords of the Congregation of Jesus Christ, and whose activities included embezzling church property, and furthering England s political aims in Scotland in return for English gold. Glencairn was a particular patron of Knox, who sent Cecil military information and begged for money in return. These were the instruments which enabled the Tudors to destroy both the Regent Mary and her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, under the cloak of supporting a creed which they themselves persecuted in England as neither Mary nor her mother ever did in Scotland. In 1565 Glencairn joined Moray s rebellion against his sister, and he held a command among her enemies at Carberry, where she surrendered to them in 1567, only to be imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. While Moray secured the Regency, looted his sister's jewellery, and sent her famous pearl necklace to Queen Elizabeth as her share, Glencairn went on his own initiative to the chapel of Holyrood and smashed all its furniture and works of art in an orgy of destruction. He has since been much praised by Protestant historians, not merely for his religious zeal, but more strangely, for his patriotism.

The 9th Earl of Glencairn returned to the traditions of the 1st when he played his gallant and forlorn part in raising a rebellion in the Highlands for Charles II in 1653. The King had fled back to the Continent after the defeat at Worcester, and Scotland was now under the military government of Cromwell s generals. Glencairn s rising could hardly succeed, but after the Restoration in 1660 he was made Lord Chancellor of Scotland.

In the time of Robert Burns, the Cunninghams, including their Chief the 14th Earl and two of his more humble clansmen, stepped upon quite a different stage. The two were the brothers Allan and Thomas Cunningham, born to an unsuccessful farmer in Dumfriesshire in 1785 and 1776. Allan was the more successful poet and writer of the two, and he enjoyed the friendship of James Hogg, Sir Walter Scott and Chantrey the sculptor, as well as that of Burns himself. But Thomas also made his contribution as a poet and songwriter to this golden age of Scottish literature, while Glencairn himself earned from Burns this tribute:

The bridegroom may forget the bride
Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
The monarch may forget the crown
That on his head an hour has been;
The mother may forget the child
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
And a' that thou hast done for me

Cunningham Tartans

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