See also PART 2: PEDIGREES at


Cunningham is a territorial name which originates from a district of Ayrshire in the Lowlands of Scotland. It
is recorded in about the year 1150 as Cunegan – “a Celtic name of uncertain origin”. Two meanings of the
name, both agricultural, have been suggested: Cuinneag = milk-pail or Cunny or Coney = rabbit. So perhaps
the Cunninghams kept cows and harvested rabbits. But it was in the 12th century that Cunninghams became
prominent when the lands of Cunegan were granted to a soldier called Warnebald whose family took the
name. So by 1180 Cunegan had taken on the Saxon word for village –ham, and fifty years later it was being
spelled Cunnyngham.
An intriguing story of the Cunningham’s access to power and the origins of the clan motto reads like a
sequel to Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”:“According to the tradition of the early Cunningham family, it dates its principal accession of fortune
from the days of Malcolm Canmore, son of King Duncan of Scotland. When Prince Malcolm (aged
about 9) was flying from the emissaries of the usurper Macbeth who, having murdered his father, King
Duncan, sought to kill him also. Malcolm was so hotly pressed, that he was obliged to take refuge in the
barn of Malcolm, son of Friskin, the ancestor of the Cunninghams, who on being informed by the prince
of his danger, bade him at once place himself under some straw which lay in the barn, and to which he
commenced making additions from another heap with a pitching fork, continually calling out to the
companion who assisted him in his labour, 'Over, fork over'’. To the pursuers, who asked whether he had
seen anything of the prince, he replied in the negative. Much later, when Malcolm Canmore had overcome
and slain Macbeth, the grateful new King bestowed on his preserver the Thanedom of Cunninghame,
with permission to take the name of Cunningham, and to assume for arms a shake-fork, with the motto,
'Over, fork over'’ ”.

An alternative to this charming legend, offered by one source, is that the Cunningham motto is purely an
allusion to the office of the Master of the King’s Stables – although we doubt that housed a unicorn!
Alongside the crest, above, is the Cunningham tartan.
These early Cunninghams of Ayrshire flourished and in the 13th century they were granted the lands of
Kilmaurs after Henry/Hervey de Cunningham fought for King Alexander III of Scotland in defeating
Norwegian Vikings at the battle of Largs (1263) near the Ayrshire coast. Henry/Hervey became the
progenitor of the branch of the name who were made Earls of Glencairn in 1488. The coat of arms of the
Earls, next page, has two rabbits as supporters!

Coat of Arms of Cunningham, Earls of Glencairn

In the 14th century the Cunninghams had supported Bruce in the fight for Scottish independence and
acquired lands at Steventon, north of Irvine in Ayrshire, where they built Kerlaw Castle (In 1488 it was
burned down by the Montgomerys, a product of the feud with that family which lasted for 213 years. The
castle is now a touristic ruin). In 1425 the Cunninghams gained land south of Kilmarnock by marriage where
they built Caprington Castle, below (it was remodelled in the 1780s and 1830s and still remains in the
family today). In 1528, as part of the feud with the Mongomerys, the Cunninghams burned down their
Eglinton Castle at Irvine!

Caprington Castle – a Cunningham home south of Kilmarnock
in Ayrshire, Scotland

Fertile acres in Donegal with Lough Swilly beyond,
part of a 17th century Cunningham settlement

In about 1610 as part of the Plantation of Ulster, Sir James Cunningham was among many other
Cunningham families to be granted land, which had been ceded after the flight of the Irish Earls. He was
awarded 5000 acres on the south-eastern shore of Lough Swilly, a tidal river in Co. Donegal, ten miles west
of Londonderry. This was flat prime farming land (see above) which was divided between Sir James, a John
Cunningham (his grave below), a Cuthbert Cunningham and another James Cunningham. They were each
required to establish a fortified house or bawn, and tenant the properties with ‘loyal’ settlers, of whom most
would therefore have been Cunninghams or Stewarts from Ayrshire.
These fertile settlements had fish from Lough Swilly, grew mainly cereals and potatoes, and kept beef and
dairy cattle, and by 1622 Sir James had fifty tenant families on his land. The defences of the Laggan region
were increased with some locally raised mounted troops who became known as the Lagganeers. They
proved very efficient in seeing off trouble in the Cunningham and Stewart areas and beyond during the Irish
rebellion of 1641 in which many of the Scots and English who had settled in Ulster were terrorised or killed.
Today the only evidence of Sir James’ settlements beside the Swilly are the names of two hamlets –
ManorCunningham (originally ‘Manor of Fort Cunningham’) and NewtownCunningham, both established
in 1629, and a damaged gravestone (below).

Damaged family gravestone of John Cunningham at Burt (died 1640s).
He founded the settlement at NewtownCunningham

William Cunningham, 9 th Earl,
showing his distinctive nose

In 1653 William, the 9th Earl (portrait above) led an insurrection in the Highlands in support of King Charles
II. When it was crushed, he somehow avoided execution by Cromwell’s regime and, after the Restoration of
the English monarchy in 1661, Charles made William Cunningham Chancellor of Scotland for life.
Members of the Cunningham clan who became well-known in the 18th century include Alexander, an
historical writer who became British envoy to Venice in 1715, Charles who was famous for his historical
painting, some of whose pictures hang in Berlin and St Petersburg, and Alan Cunningham 1784-1828 who
was a poet and writer, so admired by Sir Walter Scott that the latter provided for Alan’s two sons after his
death. And closer to home there was General Robert Cunningham, a great benefactor to Monaghan town
who was made Lord Rossmore in 1796.
Among the fifty Scottish ‘undertakers’ who were granted land in the 17th century ‘Plantation of Ulster’, five
were Cunninghams (including Sir James) and with them came many tenant farmers of the name from
Ayrshire. Then some 10,000 Scots from the Border region migrated to Ulster fleeing there from the famine
of 1696-98. Thus the Cunningham name spread throughout Ireland and by 1720 Presbyterian was the
majority religion in Ulster. The Irish birth register for 1890 shows Ulster as having over 40% of
Cunningham births in Ireland as a whole, with Co. Down and Antrim the most populous (in Co. Down today
the web tells us that more people have the Cunningham surname than any other). In other parts of Ireland
Cunningham births in 1890 were most common in Dublin, Galway, Roscommon and Cork. However not
quite all of these Cunninghams were of Scottish origin: a few native Irish with names such as
O’Cuinneagain, MacCuinneagain, O’Connagain, Counihan and Conaghan adopted the anglicised form of
the name, but the coat of arms of “the Irish Clan Cunningham” below is intended to cover them all:

‘Cunningham’ has become one of the more common Scottish names around the world. Variants of the name
include: Chonigham, Conigham, Conighame, Cunnynghame, Cwnninghame, Cunnyngayme, Cunynghame, Cunnygam, Cunyngahame, Cunninghame,
Cunymgham, Conynghame, Cwnyghame, Cunyngame, Cunyngaham, Cunyghame, Cwnygham, Cunningham, Conyngham, Cunningghame, Conyghans,
Conningans, Cunygam, Cunigham, Cunigom, Cuninggame, Cuningham, Cuninghame, Kuningham, Kyninghame

A timeline of Cunningham in Scotland is at:

County Monaghan, Ulster
Here among the lakes and drumlins of County Monaghan’s beautiful countryside we first come upon our
branch of the Scottish Cunninghams. They had clearly been part of the influx of tenant farmers of the
Protestant faith who had arrived in Ulster from the Cunningham lands in Ayrshire. At the earliest they would
have arrived during the Plantation of Ulster which began in about 1610, or during the ad hoc sale or
mortgaging of Irish land to Scots and English settlers in the three Ulster counties not included in the
Plantations (Antrim, Down and Monaghan). By the time of the ill-fated Irish rebellion of 1641, the
proportion of land in County Monaghan still in native Irish hands had fallen below 40%. [William J
Roulston in “Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors 1600-1800” p.3]
In the 1650s, the reparations which followed the Irish rebellion almost wiped out Gaelic landownership in
Ulster and thus encouraged more immigration from both England and Scotland. Then a further influx of
settlers in Ulster arrived there from Scotland in the 1690s following the Williamite campaigns in Ireland and
various Scottish harvest crises. In the so-called census of 1659 Monaghan parish had 434 of these settlers,
and there were only 62 in the parishes to the west and south of the county of whom 50 lived in
Carrickmacross. Three parishes were noted as having none at all: Aghnamullen, Clontibret and Tullycorbet.
But by 1733 there were Scottish and/or English households in every parish in County Monaghan. Monaghan
parish itself had 743 (400 Church of Ireland and 343 Presbyterians). [Peadar Livingstone in “the Monaghan
Story” p.134 says that settlers in 1733 made up only three-eighths of the population]

Aughnamullen graveyard and church (Church of Ireland): The Cunningham family’s church in the 19 th century, where
many of them now lie. Right foreground is the black gravestone of Senator Billy Fox, a famous cousin of the Cunninghams

First appearance of the Cunninghams of Aughnamullen
(See also “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 1: )
The earliest member of our branch of the Cunninghams who we have identified was born in 1775 in the
rural parish of Aughnamullen in the south-western corner of County Monaghan. The parish lies between the
Dromore river valley and its lakes to the north and the Carrickatee hills to the south-east. The nearest town is
Cootehill about six miles away to the west which had been established by Thomas Coote in the middle of
the 17th century. This earliest known ancestor of ours was John Cunningham who became a soldier at the
age of 22. He enlisting in the 9th Light Dragoons in Ireland, with whom he served for nearly 18 years,

including two years fighting under Wellington in the Peninsular campaign. When in 1814 his Regiment
returned to Ireland, he retired at the age of 40 with a pension to settle back at Aughnamullen where he
married Jane in the old church there in about 1818. See
In this part of Ireland the 18th century was on the whole a time of recovery from the internecine disruptions
of the previous century. Subsistence farming and the penury it led to had been the lot of many. But then, as
Ulster settlers were able to organise, settlement patterns began to change. There was an increased demand
for food which made farming land more valuable, while on some of that land a cottage linen industry had
been developing - initially due to the presence of Huguenot settlers in Ulster. Large landowners encouraged
this new linen industry so that soon a majority of tenants were growing flax seeds, spinning and weaving,
and thereby making more money than working on the land.
The Coote family sponsored a linen market at Cootehill in 1725 and by the end of the century this was
attracting skilled weavers and flax spinners from other parts of Ulster, and buyers from Belfast, Dublin and
London. Around 1750 on the other side of Aughnamullen a new linen market was established upstream on
the Dromore River beside Lough Major. There the ground was suitable for flax while streams supplied
power for the machinery of the mills. The driving force behind this expansion came from the Jacksons, an
old Irish family from County Meath. The town they helped to develop there is named Ballybay.

The Cunninghams of Creeve, near Ballybay (See “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 5)
Alongside the Jacksons at Ballybay we meet a new family of Cunninghams, the children and grandchildren
of a linen lapper, Samuel Cunningham, who in about 1755 came from Lisburn with his wife Sarah to work
for the Jackson family. The Jacksons and these newcomers from Lisburn were Presbyterians and both
members of ‘First Ballybay’ . As well as being partners in the
Jackson’s linen business, in about 1800 these Cunninghams became related to them by marriage. By then
they were living in some style at Cleeve where they occupied large houses, Carnaveagh and Drumfaldra
among others. The Jackson family shared a great love of hunting and maintained a pack of hounds (28
couples) near Cremorne House at Creeve. The favourite quarry was hare, hunted on foot with beagles. These
hunts were often community events in which all took part.

“Carnaveagh House” painted by Stella Little 1990 (courtesy of the late Alexander Nixon Montgomery 1925-2009).
Built by John Jackson of Ballybay, it became the home of Joseph Cunningham and Dorsatica née Jackson
in the early years of the 19th century until the decline in the linen industry in the 1830s. Joseph’s son,
Dr Joe Cunningham, the doctor in Ballybay, then took over the house from his father.


Significantly, both the Jacksons and the Cunninghams of Creeve were among the many Presbyterian
activists in “the Society of United Irishmen” and, as such, were part of the political disaffection of Ulster
from the government in Dublin, which resulted in the ill-fated rebellion of 1798. During the fighting the 16
year old James Jackson was captured by the army and transported to America. In 1816 Joseph
Cunningham’s brother, William, who frequently travelled to France, was implicated in a conspiracy
involving Dublin Castle. These events added to the uncomfortable political pressure felt by the two families
and, when the linen trade was collapsing in the 1830s, many of the Jacksons left Ireland to settle in America.
The deportee of 1798, James Jackson, was there to welcome them (see Clogher Record 2007-8 pp.203-38).
James had made a fortune there in merchandising and had been paying for two schooners to ship the
Jackson’s Irish linen exports direct to Tennessee through the small Irish harbours at Newry and Dundalk. It
was in 1828 that Andrew Jackson, born in Carolina, a member of the wider Jackson family, became the 7 th
President of the USA.

Drumfaldra House, Cleeve near Ballybay, the home of John Jackson
Cunningham JP (1805-77). With his brother Samuel he took over the
family linen business from his father Joseph in the 1830s – poor timing!
Both brothers went bankrupt and the house was auctioned off in 1846.

James Jackson 1782-1840.
Transported to USA in 1798,
where he made his fortune.

The rapid decline of the local cottage-based linen industry in the 1830s resulted from the growth of the linen
mills in the Lagan valley. Home-based spinners and weavers could not compete with the massive output of
the new ‘factories’. Many of the wealthier weavers and spinners emigrated to America whilst the remainder
turned their attention to dairy and tillage farming in an effort to survive. The flourishing linen markets at
Cootehill and Ballybay soon died out and were replaced by markets for corn, cattle and dairy produce. Flax
continued to be produced for sale on a smaller scale at the local markets for the Lagan valley mills.
Meanwhile the Cunninghams remained at Creeve. They even bought up some of the Jackson mills, hopeful
of resuscitating the local trade. But they found themselves in the “mortgage-loan whirligig” and suffered the
same fate as the Jacksons and the other bleachers who stayed – bankruptcy. It was John Jackson
Cunningham JP living at Drumfaldra House (above) in the days of plenty, who alone among his family was
able to turn bankruptcy into an opportunity. He became agent for the Leslie family estates for 22 years,
firstly at Pettigo in Donegal and then for the home properties at Glaslough north of Monaghan. On his death
in 1877 his tenants at Glaslough erected a memorial stone to him at the First Ballybay Presbyterian
graveyard, on which they recorded their “gratified remembrance of his many acts of kindness to them during
his time as agent” . He seems to have been the last of his family.
(See “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 5 at )


A Cunningham family link?
At one time a link had been presumed between the two Cunningham families working in the same area, the
Presbyterians of Cleave, and the Church of Ireland faithful of Aughnamullen. However, after research and
the lack of any evidence of a connection, it was considered that a link was unlikely given both the religious
and the strong political differences which lie between the two families. In the end, the Cunninghams of
Cleave were decimated and dispersed by the failure of the local linen trade while the Cunninghams of
Aughnamullen had the enterprise to survive, and they still farm in the area today.

Returning to the Cunninghams of Aughnamullen
In our own family line, we have already introduced Dragoon John Cunningham and his wife Jane. They
are the earliest progenitors of our family whose names we know. John was born in the rural parish of
Aughnamullen in 1775. He was a weaver when, aged 22, he enlisted as a Private in the 9th Light Dragoons, a
regular Regiment of the army in Ireland with which he served for nearly 18 years. He left them in 1814 at
the age of 40 with a pension, and was described by Colonel Charles Morland, his commanding officer, as
being “of good character having been nearly worn out with service”!
Within months of his enlistment, came the 1798 rebellion in Ireland in which the 9th Dragoons were fully
engaged and suffered numerous casualties. Then, after the short-lived Peace of Amiens, the Napoleonic War
with France re-ignited and the Dragoons left Ireland where the 9th had been for 86 years. After helping to
defend the south coast of England from a French invasion, which in the end was prevented by the Royal
Navy, John’s Regiment became part of two ill-fated expeditions. The first was to South America which took
a year, 1806-07, and ended in failure to recapture Buenos Aires. The next, in 1809, was the invasion of
Walcheren in Holland where the force had to withdraw due to a fever epidemic.
In 1811, after recovering from that, his Regiment joined Wellington’s army fighting the French in Portugal
and Spain for two years, for which he earned the Badajoz medal. Finally in July 1814, as the war against
France was about to end, the 9th Dragoons returned home to Ireland where John Cunningham retired with a
pension to rejoin the family in Aughnamullen whom he had not seen for ten years. The full story of his
eventful Army career is at: .

The Military General Service medal 1847 was the first British “campaign” medal to be issued to all ranks who had been
present on the battlefield. It was awarded for military actions between 1793-1814, which encompassed the Napoleonic wars
among others. John Cunningham was entitled to its ‘Badajoz’ clasp 1812. See

Dragoon John Cunningham became a farmer and married Jane in about 1818. Their son James, born in
1821, is the only surviving child of their marriage we could find. Judging from the army’s comment about
John being “worn out” in 1814, it is unlikely he survived into old age. Indeed this may be the reason that
James had no siblings, and it looks as if it was James’ mother, in the absence of his father, who signed his
marriage certificate in Aughnamullen church in 1855. This document also shows that James was then
farming in the townland of Carnaveagh just west of Creeve Lough, the farm that may well have been

acquired by his father after he retired from the army. James’ new wife, Mary McCombs aged 25, was then
with her parents James and Rachel McCombs living at Creeve nearby. We think the McCombs were farming
land on the Carrickatee hill overlooking Upper Creeve Lough.
John Cunningham and James McCombs will have started farming at a propitious moment when the value of
land and its produce had risen. Most farms which then supplied the Ballybay market were mixed and able to
provide the community with a wide variety of produce. It included cattle, sheep, flax, oats, grass-seed,
turnips, potatoes, pork, milk, butter, poultry and eggs, ducks, geese and turkeys in season. At the same time
many tenant farmers were benefiting from a still buoyant local linen trade. They preferred to cultivate crops
of flax, and spinning and weaving the linen while, if they grew food on their holdings, it was generally for
subsistence rather than for sale. The increase in population that resulted drove farmers to exploit marginal
land in upland areas where they could survive by growing potatoes which do well on poor soil. Is this what
our ancestors were doing on a Carrickatee hillside?

James Cunningham’s son, Samuel (1861-1942) with his daughter Sylvia (1904-33) on his farm at Mount
Lodge Demesne. The family had depended on its produce for at least the previous two generations.

The hazards of life in County Monaghan in the early 19th century included famines in the years 1817, 1821
and 1822, and a hurricane force wind on 6th January 1839 which caused tree blow-down, fire, death and
wide-scale destruction. Most damaging of all was the severe outbreak of typhus in 1817 which carried off
many victims. If John Cunningham, our progenitor, was indeed without siblings, then typhus could have
been the cause. Even in the better years, farming here could be a roller-coaster experience. We know nothing
of the type or size of the Cunningham or McComb farms but, when in the 1830s the local linen trade
collapsed as the new-powered factories started up in the Lagan valley, many farmers were suddenly reduced
to penury. Then a few years later came the Great Potato Famine (1845-47) in which Monaghan suffered
most among the Ulster counties due to its disproportionately high population, many of whom were most
vulnerable to a potato shortage: these were the unemployed (including many linen refugees), the labourers,
the cottiers and the small farmers. During the famine the County lost at least 40% of its population of about
220,000 [Peadar Livingstone in “the Monaghan Story”].
In 1845 the potato famine in the Ballybay countryside started when the farmers’ crops were struck by the
blight. There was little if any outside help but the landowners, clergy and local people all contributed
generously to a relief fund. A committee helping supply food to the destitute set up soup kitchens where

vegetable broth cooked in large vats was distributed (the Ballybay town soup pot which had once been a
‘steeping vat’ used in the bleach mills at Creeve, still survives). Certain ‘famine’ construction work was put
in hand: the Ballybay Market House was built, while room had to be made in the town for a new graveyard
for all the victims. Then work was done on road building and drainage schemes while a long ‘famine’ wall
was erected beside the main road to Monaghan town (R188) most of which still stands today. This awful
period saw Ballybay town lose 8% of its population while the surrounding countryside lost a dreadful 30%,
decimating the cottier and labouring classes. It resulted in parts of the countryside being cleared, farms
consolidated, and emphasis placed on grazing rather than tillage, but it was many years before local
agriculture found its feet again.

James and Mary Cunningham of Carrickatee. and their children
In this maelstrom of Irish misery one thinks of our farming ancestor James Cunningham and his mother
Jane, probably without her husband John aged seventy if he was still alive, surviving through the Great
Famine. It was in the decade which followed the famine that James and Mary McCombs married and they
started farming on the slopes of Carrickatee. Their first child was a daughter Jane, named after her
grandmother, and in 1859 their eldest son John was born, named after his grandfather. Then came Samuel
two years later (1861), and he was followed by two sons, James (1865), William Henry (1868), and their
sister May (known as ‘Pu’). See “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 1, at: .

Samuel Cunningham 1861-1942 of Carnaveagh, Canada, Mount Lodge Demesne
and Clontibret, and his wife Elizabeth Anderson née McBride 1862-1944

It seems it was the younger brother Samuel who had the enterprise to leave the nest first. He went off aged
22 to Canada and found a job on the Canadian railways – but he would be back (see below). His elder
brother John left Ireland two years later when he was 26, but that was without a return ticket. John arrived
in New South Wales in 1885 and, with Eliza Mitchell from an Ulster family who had arrived the same year,
they set about founding the Cunninghams of Australia. In 1887 John was joined by his sister Jane
Madeline with their youngest brother James aged 22. We know no more of James after his arrival at
Sydney. But Jane married John Henry Hill by whom she had three children. See “The Cunninghams of
Australia” below, and at “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 2 at: .


James and Mary’s younger daughter, May (known as ‘Pu’), was artistic, unmarried and motherly. In 1923
she was selected to act as companion/housekeeper in London to a brilliant young Irish musician aged 15. He
was a Belfast boy, by name Howard Ferguson who eventually became a famous composer and
musicologist. Howard’s father was managing director of the Ulster Bank in Belfast so May should have
been paid quite well!
In London she lived in a very comfortable house on Hampstead Heath (8 East Heath Road, NW3) which
belonged to Harold Solomon Samuel, Howard Ferguson’s teacher with whom he shared it. From its front
windows May had a wonderful view across the open Heath. She became like a talisman to Howard and
travelled everywhere with him. In 1927 they went to the USA and Canada for four months, accompanying
Harold on his tour. In 1931 May arranged for her niece, the artist Sarah Elizabeth (‘Betty’) Cunningham
to join her at the house. Betty quickly became Howard’s second acolyte, and all three remained together after
Harold’s death in 1937. In 1939 Howard took on the management of the wartime concerts that his friend
Myra Hess initiated: the concerts were held at lunchtime in the National Gallery in London during ‘the
Blitz’, partly as a mark of defiance after each night’s bombing raid. They continued, almost as a tradition,
until 1946. To some eyes, Howard’s magnificent work on that project and its importance to the country at
the time almost overshadows his other musical achievements. May retired after the war, and she and Betty
shared a house (106 Wildwood Road) at Golders Green where May died in 1955. See Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson 1908-99, May’s Irish composer

The Cunninghams of Belfast, Canada & the USA
James and Mary’s third son, William Henry, remained in Ulster, married a Belfast girl Lilian Loughlin,
became a Presbyterian, and ran a thriving drapers and tailoring business in Rugby Avenue, Belfast, where
they had eleven children. Originally we found no record that any of their six adult daughters were married,
and for a time we thought William and Lilian had no grandchildren. Herbert (born 1894), the eldest of
their four adult sons, joined the Army in 1916, saw action in France with the Army Service Corps,
transferred as a Flight Cadet to the RAF on its formation in 1918, trained as a pilot at Vendôme and was
finally discharged after the war in Feb 1919 . His photo
(next page) is with his brother Hector Maxwell (1901) who, after joining the RAF under-age by using
brother Herbert’s identity papers, then sailed off on his own to British Columbia.
Back in Belfast, the second son, Sydney Cecil Augustus (1896), worked as a commercial traveller for his
father and on the latter’s death in 1934 Cecil took over the business until he died in 1948. His Catholic wife,
Mary McClaughlin, then ran it until 1969. The eldest of the six spinster daughters was Florrie Helen
Maud (1898) who left an estate of £60.000 to charity. We know little of Linda or Lilian, while Violet and
Vera had died in the 1930s. Eileen Iris (1905), the last surviving sibling, we then found had left Belfast for
central London where she married a Dutchman Verwaal. She died intestate in 1987 with an estate worth
£39,000 which was distributed widely throughout the family in Belfast and Canada (see bottom of page 12).


Cartoon of William Henry Cunningham 1868-1934, and his drapers and tailoring business in Rugby Avenue, Belfast

Hector (sitting) & Herbert c.1918

Florrie Helen Maud 1920s

Lillie Cunningham 1877-1960

The scene shifts back to 1918 with Hector, aged 17, successfully enlisting in the RAF under-age by using
brother Herbert’s identity papers! See . At the
time Herbert was training as a pilot at Vendôme in France. Then in the new year 1919, with the war over,
we find Hector emigrating on his own to British Columbia where he trained as a telephone linesman. In
Vancouver in 1927 he married Florrie May Bedford who had been born in Massachusetts of Yorkshire
parents. Hector and Florrie had five children during a difficult time which became known as “The Great
Depression”, a worldwide phenomenon which hit Canada (and Hector) particularly hard in 1930. By 1933,
30% of the country’s labour force was out of work and a fifth of the population were on Government
assistance. Unemployment demonstrations, serious protests and riots were frequent events for a decade.
There was a sit down strike in Vancouver in 1938 which ended in Bloody Sunday . This was a long hard
period for Canadians. It has uncomfortable similarities to our present financial problems which have us all
searching for growth among severely depressed markets. It was ended after ten years, but only by the arrival
of the Second World War

Hector Cunningham, alias Don Collin; with wife Florrie 1930s;

circa 1950.

|| Son: Robert Charles Collin

Throughout ‘the Depression’, Hector (three photos above) and his growing family fared better than most. He was
fortunate in retaining his work as a telephone linesman in Vancouver and, on the side, he and Florrie bought and
repaired old cars for resale. Nevertheless as the years passed they felt the pressure to improve what had become a
wearisome situation. Hector was a devotee of ‘Numerology’ [belief in the mystical significance of numbers to foresee
or change the future] and in 1937 he, Florrie and their three daughters changed all their names. On advice, they took
on the surname of Collin, Hector became Don Collin and Florrie became Roslyn Collin. Their daughters’ new first
and middle names show every sign of them having been the children’s own choice! By 1943 they had four daughters
and a one year old son Robert Charles Collin (photo above right), and the family moved to Chilliwack on the Fraser
River, 60 miles east of Vancouver, where Don opened a furniture and piano store. The couple separated four years
later when Roslyn moved to Denver in Colorado with the younger children, while Don went to Calgary in Alberta
where he opened a building contract agency. Despite Don being set back by a serious car accident near Spokane (State
of Washington) in 1950 and by subsequent health issues, his agency prospered hugely, and he was living with Ida
(‘Penny’) Adam by whom he had a daughter in 1952. When he died suddenly two years later he left an estate of over
200,000 Canadian Dollars. ‘Penny’ with her baby daughter Shannon Lea Collin left Calgary soon after.
Thirty years later Shannon with her red hair had become a prominent campaigner for women of the streets and their
welfare in Winnipeg. When in 1990 the Collin family received bequests from the estate of their Aunt Eileen
Cunningham who had died in Belfast, Shannon could not be found. It was not until 23 years later, as a result of the
work of our researchers, that Shannon was discovered in Winnipeg and was able to benefit from the fortune which had
been waiting for her in Ireland. Robert, who helped in the search, now lives at Windsor in Ontario where he was in
business for 29 years, and his surviving sister, Diane Grace Collin lives at Reading in Pennsylvania.
For other details of this family see “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 3, at:
Three of the six Cunningham “spinster” Aunts and their Belfast home

Linda Cunningham – born 1899. Lilian – born 1902

Violet 1904-34


Claremont, 30 Hampton Park, Belfast

Being a small boy in a large boisterous and quarrelsome family is seldom a comfortable place to be, as many
younger sons have found. Hector Cunningham (who liked to be called “Harry”, and later became “Don
Collin”) probably suffered in this way and perhaps his departure, aged 17, from Liverpool for the other side
of the world was the result. This may also have been a factor in his younger brother John Leslie’s situation
which, according to reports, was exacerbated by his mother’s unrelenting hostility to the girl, Agnes Smyth,
who in 1929 became his wife, and by whom he eventually had six children. However he and Agnes stayed
put in Belfast despite the rift with his mother and his sisters which never really healed.
John Leslie joined the Army as a motorcycle despatch rider and in May/June 1940 he was part of the British
Expeditionary Force which had been cut off on the north coast of France at Dunkirk. It was the result of the
sudden fall of Holland and Belgium in the face of a rapid German advance towards Paris and the Channel
ports. An ‘armada’ of over 700 small boats from the south-east of England were assembled and over five
days, despite aerial attacks by the Luftwaffe, 200,000 British and 140,000 French troops were rescued,
among whom was John Leslie – but without either his motorcycle or his violin. Over 70 of the small boats
were lost, the Navy lost six destroyers, and the Army all their equipment, and some 29,000 British soldiers
were marched into Germany as prisoners of war. It was dubbed “the greatest seaborne rescue of all time” –
or at least since Noah’s Ark. John Leslie’s children were unimpressed and only remember that their mother,
Agnes, found her husband’s long absences during the war a severe strain especially when the family had to
move out of Belfast to find accommodation in the countryside. Misfortune struck again when John Leslie on
discharge from the Army in 1946, returned home with TB which he passed onto his youngest daughter, Iris,
who has vivid memories of spending a year in hospital. Her father was away in hospital for over two years.

British and French troops at Dunkirk waiting for rescue.

Small boats negotiating shallow water at La Panne

The dynamics of a family the size of our Belfast Cunninghams make it difficult to be sure what forces were
at work on those who decided to desert their home for foreign lands far away. Of John Leslie’s three
brothers, Herbert, the eldest, left Queen’s University, Belfast, aged 20 in 1914, joined the Army Service
Corps in 1916 and thence transferred as a Flight Cadet into the Royal Air Force on its formation in 1918;
Hector, aged 17, sailed for Canada, while Sydney Cecil remained to help his father run the family business.
John Leslie, the youngest son, was separated from his wife and children in Belfast, not only by the war but
by the years he then had to spend recovering from TB. Agnes and he maintained their family home in the
city (92 Knockvale Park) while one by one their children left the country. In 1950 their only son, Norman,
left to join the Merchant Navy. Then Lillian Ann in her early twenties worked her passage to Canada “for
adventure” (and possibly for the husband she found there), quickly followed by Veronica with her husband and
children. Then in the 1960s Iris and Evelyn with their husbands and children left for Canada in successive years
because of lack of work in Belfast. The herd instinct may have been active because all these families finished up in
rainy Vancouver (Toronto was said to be too hot), where they were joined by bachelor Norman when he left the
Navy, and finally by their parents in 1969. Only one sister, Jean, returned to Belfast when her husband could
not find work abroad; without her we would never have discovered all our Canadian relations.

Samuel and Elizabeth Cunningham of Carnaveagh & Mount Lodge Demesne
Samuel went to Canada in 1883 for the best part of seven years where he at first worked on a railway
construction project in Manitoba (also a land of lakes and rivers) where a branch line for future transcontinental trains was being built. The company he worked for was buying up other tracks aiming to
compete for the coast to coast route from Quebec over the Rockies to Vancouver via Ottawa and Winnipeg.
It eventually became established as the Canadian Northern Railway, but Samuel was in at the start of this
process and proved so valuable that when he eventually went back to Ireland he was put under contract to
return for six months each year, which he did even after his marriage.
By 1890 Samuel was temporarily back in Ireland farming at Carnaveagh and it was in that year he married
the 28 year old Elizabeth Anderson McBride who lived at Cleeve. Her father, Joseph McBride, had been in
the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the Crimea where he was wounded at the battle of Inkerman 1854 and invalided
out with a pension after only six months service. Elizabeth gave birth to six daughters and a single son,
Arthur John born in 1898. By 1911 the family had moved to Mountain Lodge Demesne, two miles southwest of Aughnamullen, where Samuel had bought some land on which he built his new house. Unfortunately
for reasons unexplained a few local people had decided to boycott Samuel’s use of this plot. But he was a
determined man who had been laying rail tracks through the forests and mountains of Canada and was in no
mood to withdraw. When he received death threats from the boycotters, he employed a guard on the
property and eventually got his way. And the family settled happily in their new house: 9 Mountain Lodge.

The Cunninghams of Carnaveagh at home c.1920. L-R: Aunt May (Pu) Cunningham, c.1870-1955;
Arthur John 1898-1923; Mabel 1900-91; Sylvia 1904-33; father Samuel Cunningham 1861-1942.


Arthur John Cunningham 1916,
9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. Died of his
wounds in 1923 five years
after the war

Irish troops on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme offensive.
Cunninghams of the family who fought in the war also included
two Australians: James Henry (Harry) who was badly wounded,
and Cyril James (husband of Ruby) who was tortured.

Then came the Great War, and so keen was Arthur John, then only 16, to join up that he pretended to be 18
in order to enlist in the Army. His father dragged him home, but in March 1916 he successfully enlisted in
the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was severely wounded by shell fire in 1917 but recovered after some
wonderful treatment in hospital, although one of the pieces of shrapnel could not be extracted and had to
remain in his chest. He was eventually discharged in early 1919 with all the other surviving volunteers from
his battalion. But four years later when he was just 25 and working on his family farm, that piece of shrapnel
killed him. This is why Samuel and Elizabeth’s descent is devoid of Cunninghams. Samuel and the family in
their grief left the farm and moved to Clontibret soon after Arthur’s death. His medals are shown below. His
service and the circumstances of his death are recorded with photographs in a book originally intended as a
history of the 9th Battalion which was led by Lt Col Blacker. Known as “Blacker’s Boys”, Arthur’s Battalion
lost 820 men killed in action or died of wounds, so the book is also a memorial to all those young Irishmen
who volunteered so cheerfully to go to war, and the fractured families they left behind. See "Blacker's Boys"
and Arthur’s record at the Imperial War Museum .


The Cunninghams of Australia
John and Eliza Cunningham née Mitchell, and their family.
It is interesting to conjecture what John Cunningham (1859-1940), the eldest son of James and Mary, and
brother of Samuel, did before 1885 when he sailed away from his home in Ireland to Australia. He was 20
when his father James died and it is likely he and Samuel took over the farm on Carrickatee. Then when
Samuel left for Canada four years later John may have been tempted to go with him (or perhaps he did, and
came back after a year?). With James and William Henry still young teenagers we think on balance John
will have stayed at his post. But then two years later what made him at the age of 26 leave his home and his
55 year old widowed mother behind for ever, while his brother Samuel was still committed in Canada? He
probably thought that, with his sister Jane (27), his two younger brothers, James (20) and William Henry
(17) were old enough to fill his role, and this perhaps salved the conscience of this sensitive man. He was
certainly reluctant to say goodbye and his feelings are expressed in a poem he wrote out with the title “My
old Irish home”. Two of its eight verses read:3. They came and left me at the gate,
Their faces strained and white,
They stood and watched me down the road
’Till I was out of sight.

4. And just before I turned the bend
That hid them from my view,
I turned and saw my mother’s face
So patient kind and true.

This family group was taken in 1919 on James Henry (Harry’s) return to Australia following WW1.
Back row, L to R: Alice Cunningham (née Couper), Eliza Cunningham, Ruby James (née Cunningham), Harry (uniform),
William Cunningham, May Rushton (née Cunningham), John (Junior), John Cunningham.
Front row, L to R Dorothy Rushton, Samuel Cunningham, Charles Cunningham, Ernest Rushton, William Rushton


John arrived in New South Wales in October 1885 and became a boot maker, a trade much in demand in
those frontier days. He was followed two years later by his sister Jane Madeline accompanied by their
youngest brother James aged 22. We know no more of James but Jane settled in Sydney where she married
John Hill by whom she had three children. Meanwhile her brother John Cunningham had married Eliza
Mitchell in Melbourne, remaining there for some ten years while their first three children, May, Samuel
and Harry were born. They moved to the Sydney area in about 1897 where they remained and where their
five other children were born: Jack, Ruby, William, Lilly and John - the last two died young.

Left: John and Eliza Cunningham in Melbourne 1890 with Samuel and May.
Right: Samuel about 30 years later with his violin.

May married William Rushton in 1911 in Melbourne and had three children. She was a brilliant pianist and in
the 1920s graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (photo below). Neither Harry nor Jack married.
Harry, who was aged 19 in 1914 when ‘the Great War’ started, joined the Australian Infantry and went to
the Western Front in France where he was severely wounded and debilitated for the rest of his life. On his
return he was able to work for the NSW Tramway Service. Ruby (photo) married Cyril James in 1914.
Cyril was captured by the enemy during the same war and suffered extremes of torture during his captivity
as a result of which he and Ruby were unable to have children. So the Cunningham family in Australia share
with their cousins in Ireland the sadness and grief over lives damaged by this most costly of all wars.

May Rushton: Sydney music
graduate 1920s (piano)

Ruby James in Sydney 1940,
wife of Cyril, a POW in WW1


Samuel and Jack Mitchell
Cunningham c.1930

Charles Thomas
Cunningham 1916-60

Circa 1956, L-R: Joan Howlett née Cunningham (born 1929); ‘Harry’ (James Henry) 1895-1965;
Alice Cunningham née Couper 1894-1959; Charles Thomas Cunningham 1916-60

Samuel and Alice Cunningham née Couper, and their family
Samuel Robert (1890), who married Alice Couper (above) in Sydney, was a boot maker like his father, but
he was also a professional violinist. It is not clear where this musical gene came from, probably from Alice,
but it has persisted. Their son Charles Thomas, who served in the artillery during World War II, was also a
violinist, and their grandson David is described as ‘a skilled trombonist’. David is the youngest of Charles’
three sons, the others being Peter, a property valuer, and John, an engineer and helicopter pilot who did
aerial stock mustering and scenic tours in the Northern Territories (next page). In the next generation there is
just one boy, Phillip the son of Peter, to carry on our Cunningham name in Australia. Charles Thomas had
two sisters, Joan (photo above) who married Howlett, and Jean (below) who married Lindsay Miller.

Jean Cunningham (1920-2003), aged 21.

Jean Miller née Cunningham in 1986


Scenic tours and stock mustering in the Northern Territories was the work of John Cunningham, pilot and engineer

Joan Howlett with Laura and Jeremy Marsh c.1990

Lindsay and Jean Miller, Canberra 1990

Brothers Peter, David & John Cunningham at David’s home in Sydney 1990 with their children:
L-R Anna, Susan, Jane, Phillip (behind), Emily & Kate


Jean & Lindsay Miller’s 50th anniversary May 1992. Their ‘children’ L-R are Susan (USA),
Meredith, Kathryn, Lindsay (Junior) and Janet Lowde


1952: CUNNINGHAM & JAMES families at Will and May RUSHTON’s home at Avalon, a beachside suburb
35 miles north of central Sydney, to welcome Margaret Watson, Bill Cunningham’s fiancée over from New Zealand.
(Later that day Margaret almost lost her life surfing without a board and was rescued by Ernest Rushton and her fiancé!)
ADULTS L to R: Will Rushton, David?, Bill Cunningham, Margaret Watson, May Rushton, William Edward
Cunningham, Ruby & Cyril James, Dorothy Rushton, Marie & Ernest Rushton.
CHILDREN L to R: Bill, John, David, Rosaline, John, Ken, Ernest, James


William and Laura Cunningham née Reidy, and their family
For pedigree details of the Australian and New Zealand branches of the Cunninghams
see “PART 2: Pedigrees” pages 2 and 4, at:
William Edward Cunningham was the youngest son of John and Eliza, our immigrants from Ireland.
William followed his father John and his brother Samuel into the boot maker’s trade in Sydney. Unlike his
brother Harry and brother-in-law Cyril James, who both suffered severely in the First World War, he was
just too young to be called up for that, and later too old for the second war. In 1920 William married Laura
Gwendoline Reidy, born in Yass (75 miles north of Canberra), the eldest of the twelve daughters (nine
survived to be adults) of John Joseph Reidy, a newspaper editor and his wife Edith.
Today William’s choice of a wife with eleven sisters, when the Cunningham name in the male line looked
close to dying out, might be considered rash! In the event it was clearly a happy union: the distaff side of the
family today describe him as “a delightful man: full of life and fun with a great sense of humour, taking a
joy in his children, to whom he often recited poetry, witty rhymes, making fun with words”. William died in
his seventies from a heart attack, typically putting up decorations on their Christmas tree. By chance two of
his and Laura’s five children were boys, but both were lost to them as parents: William John (Bill) went to
New Zealand, and Robert did not marry. After her children had left home, Laura found employment at a
factory at Leichardt in Sydney making ‘Robins Shoes’, where it is said that her sisters (all nine?) joined her.
William’s son, Bill in New Zealand, recalls aspects of life in the Cunningham family of those days. Among
siblings, the boys were baptised as Anglicans and their sisters baptised as Catholics (this unusual separation
may be a hangover from the religious strife of the Ireland from which the family came). It certainly applied
in William Edward’s family so that his sons Bill and Robert are Anglicans while their three sisters Ruby,
Rita and Betty are all Catholic and have brought up their children as Catholics. Bill also recalls that when
the family lived nearby it was the custom for grandchildren to visit their grandparents, John and Eliza,
every Sunday for the evening meal when the children were asked to perform their party pieces. The
grandparents were both well read, and music was always part of their household. Neither of them lost their
Irish brogue, and Eliza never forgot her homeland and spoke of it often.

Rita Joyce Cunningham in the
Women’s Army Service 1942

William Edw Cunningham
with son Bill (right). 1950

Jack & Ruby Buchanan née Cunningham in Canberra

Of Laura’s three daughters, Alice May (Ruby) living in Canberra married Jack Buchanan who made cane
furniture, and they had three children and seven grandchildren. Rita Joyce, who like so many in the
Cunningham line had a musical ear, took up the violin and was taught by her cousin William Rushton. Her
eldest grandchild Robyn plays the Clarinet. Rita joined the Australian Women’s Army Service during
World War 2 and in 1944 married a professional soldier, Stanley Elliott who was in the Royal Australian
Engineers. They have four children and ten grandchildren. Their elder daughter Maree Georgina is married
to Bernard Wright who has worked for the Australian Parliament at Canberra for forty years, and in 2009

was appointed Clerk to the House of Representatives. Elizabeth (Betty) married Leslie Wiseman in 1944
and had four children, their eldest was Maureen (Mickey) born in 1945 and the youngest Maggie Ann born
in 1961 and now married to Laurie Marlow, base guitarist of the Sydney heavy-metal band “Heaven”, for
whom she sometimes sings.

Maureen (Mickey) on left, with parents Leslie & Betty
Wiseman née Cunningham in the early 1960s

Alice May (Ruby)

Rita Joyce
Elliott - in 1994

Maggie Marlow née Wiseman, married to the base guitarist
of the Sydney heavy-metal band “Heaven”. 2012

Wright family, Canberra 2012.
Bill Cunningham
L-R Catherine, Bernard, Maree, James early 1940s aged c.19

Laura’s elder son, William John (Bill) Cunningham, in his teens (photo above) became an apprentice sheet
metal worker. World War 2 was in progress and he made efforts to join the Army but due to his age he was
prevented by both the authorities and his mother from joining up. He eventually got into the infantry and in
1945 found himself on the troopship Kimbala destined for Japan. Their ship arrived off Honshu Island
where the Atomic Bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima City. Bill landed at the great naval base at Kure
only 20 miles south-east across the bay from the devastated city (photo below). The Kure base had been
under air attack by the Americans for five solid days during July and was in ruins. His regiment found
themselves guarding prisoners and helping with relief work where they could. Bill remembers particularly
the distressing sights and sounds at Kure hospital, full of maimed men, women and many children. The
smell was horrific, made worse by putrid fish from a ruined Sardine factory nearby. His regiment were
relieved when they were ordered to move 150 miles east to Kobe near Osaka city where they were deployed
in a peace keeping role working with a Sikh regiment from India.
Bill spent two years in Japan, not all of it on arduous duties. They were for instance able to visit Mount Fuji
which is also on Honshu Island but 220 miles further east, near Tokyo. Bill, being a great sportsman, learnt
to ski on the slopes of the Fuji volcano – no worries, it hasn’t been active for over 300 years! He returned
home to Australia in 1947/48 where he then helped in his father’s shoe repairing business. The experience of
seeing the horrific after-effects of the Hiroshima A-bomb has never left him.

Hiroshima City after the Atomic bomb was dropped 6 Aug 1945. 80,000 people were killed directly.
After 4 months, radiation and other effects increased the deaths by about half as many again

Bill Cunningham
in Japan 1946

The remnants of Kobe naval base on Honshu Island, some 20 miles from Ground Zero, where Bill landed in 1945 after the
destruction of the base by American bombing. The shell of a Japanese submarine is in the foreground (Oct 1945).

Mount Fuji 3776 metres, a stratovolcano, the highest mountain in Japan


The Cunninghams of New Zealand
William John (Bill) and Margaret Cunningham née Watson, and their
family in NEW ZEALAND
For pedigree details of the New Zealand branch of the Cunninghams
see “PART 2: Pedigrees” page 4, at:

Bill in the 1940s

Margaret in 1951

The tale of how the Cunninghams came from Australia to settle in the North Island of New Zealand is partly
a love story and partly shuttle diplomacy. The key player in this drama is a fifth generation New Zealander
named Margaret Ann Watson. Her great great grandparents, Inglis by name, came out from England
together with their parents in about 1830 and settled in the Waikito region of North Island. This stretches
from south of Auckland and the Bay of Plenty for 175 miles through the flood plains of the Waikito River
ending where the river rises in the huge volcanic Lake Taupo. The city of Hamilton, now the main centre in
Waikito, was then no more than a cluster of Maori villages. The Inglis family arrived here before the country
was established as a colony by the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and subsequently they survived during the
sporadic skirmishes between the settlers and the indigenous tribes in the late 1840s and in the 1860s. Called
the Maori Wars, most of the fighting took place to the south of the Waikito region but ‘Grandma Inglis’, a
midwife, ignored such disturbances travelling widely to help and sometimes live with the native women in
the tribal villages as they waited for “delivery”.

The Waikato River at the Huka Falls near Lake Taupo


Near Rotorua, the Mount Tarawera volcano
behind its lake last erupted in 1886.

Margaret’s grandfather, William Edward Watson, was another immigrant who arrived from Scotland
having worked his passage on a sailing ship, and then became an engineer at Auckland dockyards. Margaret
remembers his large home at Parnell in Auckland. She still lives in the vicinity in an area known as South
Auckland. It was not far away from there on Mount Eden that in May 1949 she went to a dance on her 18 th
birthday where she met young Bill Cunningham from Sydney. Bill, after returning from two years in Japan
in October 1947 and working for his father, had come over and arrived in Wellington for a break. He had
just spent six months working on barges and swimming in Wellington Harbour, and also making ice cream
and cakes for the Adams Bruce Company. Then he and a friend had hitch-hiked the 400 miles north to
Auckland and were boarding at Parnell when the chance encounter at Mount Eden occurred.
Afterwards Bill was invited to Margaret’s home having pleaded hunger and a need for home cooking. She
said “I don’t know if it was me or my Mum’s cooking, but he forgot to go home”. In Sydney, Bill was
expected back after his long break and his mother Laura became concerned about her elder son. However
she did not like sea voyages and so her husband William Edward was dispatched to bring Bill home.
Margaret only comments that Bill and his father “both really loved New Zealand and its people” so that their
return home was delayed such that Bill’s father got a job at Mudgways Shoe Factory while Bill was working
on sheet metal in Auckland. They did eventually return home to Sydney, but Bill wouldn’t settle and so
Margaret was invited to Australia. She stayed five months (see 1952 photo of her in the group at Avalon on
page 20). That was until she got homesick and then Bill accompanied her back to New Zealand. They
married there in 1953

The Cunningham family of New Zealand




M argaret


Bill started work again as a sheet metal worker for D. Henry & Co who made stainless steel fittings. Then in
1960 he opened his own shoe repairing business. It proved highly successful, and in the next few years,
while their children Bruce William, David George, and Maryann Elizabeth were born, Bill and Margaret
built their own house at Papatoetoe in South Auckland where they live today. Both Bruce and Maryann are
now school teachers, the former is a headmaster, and David is General Manager of a timber joinery
Company. Margaret, who herself worked in Public Accounts, now has five grandchildren, and recently a
great granddaughter, Tegan, was born. Both Bill and Margaret love sport. Margaret excelled at cricket and
represented Auckland for many years, while Bill played for the local Papatoetoe team and has coached

children’s cricket, hockey and soccer teams. He is currently suffering from asbestosis, caught from a period
when he was travelling all over North Island lagging pipes with asbestos for Winstones, a building materials
company. Nevertheless both of them continue to be active in the community; Bill is a member of the local
Masonic Lodge, while Margaret is a thirty year supporter of the South Auckland Hospice and member of
numerous societies. The bells of their Papatoetoe church rang out when they celebrated their 50th wedding
anniversary in October 2013 (see Postscript at bottom of page).


Postscript: Sad to say, Bill Cunningham died in 2014 of the asbestosis which had afflicted his later life.

9th Lancers/Dragoons

Clan Cunningham

Royal Irish Fusiliers

Dragoon John Cunningham, born Aughnamullen 1775, was our earliest known ancestor. Originally a
weaver (probably in the linen trade), he enlisted at the age of 22 in the 9th Light Dragoons in Ireland. He saw
service with the regiment during the rebellion of 1798, the expedition to South America 1806-07, the assault
landing on Walcheren in Holland 1809, and the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain 1811-13 where his
regiment were part of the covering force for the successful siege and capture of Badajoz on 6/7 th April 1912.
On the regiment’s return to Ireland in 1814 he was discharged as being “nearly worn out with service”, and
on rejoining his family at Aughnamullen took up farming. The 9th Dragoons were later renamed the 9th
The full story of his eventful Army career can be read in a separate Scribd document entitled

A 9th Light Dragoon and the Badajos 1812 medal.

Arthur John Cunningham, Royal Irish Fusiliers 1916-19

During the Great War 1914-18 Arthur John Cunningham, born in Aughnamullen in 1898, tried to join the
Army in Ireland with his friends in 1914 by pretending he was aged 18 when he was only 16. His father
dragged him home, but in March 1916 he successfully enlisted in the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. The 9th
Battalion, led by Lt Col SW Blacker and known as “Blacker’s Boys”, were part of 36 (Ulster) Division.
With them in 1917 Arthur John fought in three major operations on the Western Front in Belgium and
France – at Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai, but was severely wounded by shell fire. He gradually
recovered after some wonderful treatment in hospital, although one of the pieces of shrapnel could not be
extracted and had to remain in his chest. He was eventually discharged in early 1919 with all the other
surviving volunteers from his battalion with whom he had enlisted. But four years after the Armistice when
he was just 25 and working on his family farm, that piece of shrapnel killed him. Of the 860 men of
Blacker’s Boys killed in action or died of wounds as a result of the First World War, he was the last. His
story, with that of many of the other fallen comrades of 9th Battalion who volunteered so cheerfully to go to
war, is in their memorial book at "Blacker's Boys" . Further details and pictures are at page 15. Also see his
illustrated record held by the Imperial War Museum .

An additional Scribd document, titled “CUNNINGHAM of AUGHNAMULLEN. Part 2: Pedigrees” and
consisting of the five pedigrees below, is at: .
PAGE 1. Cunningham of Aughnamullen, Carnaveagh, Ballybay, Carrickatee, Clontibret, Co. Monaghan,
IRELAND (continued on pages 2 and 3)
PAGE 2. Cunningham of AUSTRALIA (continued at page 4)
PAGE 3. Cunningham of Belfast, IRELAND, CANADA and the USA (continued from page 1)
PAGE 4. Cunningham of AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND (continued from page 2)
PAGE 5. Cunningham of Creeve, Ballybay, County Monaghan, IRELAND (A separate branch of the

THIS HISTORY WAS PREPARED BY Stella Little née Irwin of Freame Mount, Cootehill, Ireland, with
the help of members and friends of the Cunningham family of Aughnamullen, Australia, Canada, USA and
New Zealand.
E-mail: or
Revision date: December 2015


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