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Significant Scots
Graham, Robert Bontine Cunninghame


Graham, Robert Bontine CunninghameRobert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (Born - London, 24 May 1852 – Died - Buenos Aires,20 March 1936) was a Scottish politician, writer, journalist and adventurer. He was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP); the first-ever socialist member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom; a founder of the Scottish Labour Party (1888-1893); a founder of the National Party of Scotland; and the first president of the Scottish National Party in 1934.

He was the son of Major William Bontine of the Renfrew Militia and formerly a Cornet in the Scots Greys with whom he served in Ireland. His mother was Hon. Anne Elizabeth Elphinstone-Fleeming, daughter of Admiral Charles Elphinstone-Fleeming of Cumbernauld and a Spanish noblewoman Doña Catalina Paulina Alessandro de Jiménez. The first language Cunninghame Graham learnt was his mother's maternal tongue, Spanish. He spent most of his childhood on the family estate of Finlaystone in Renfrewshire and Ardoch in Dunbartonshire, Scotland. After being educated at Harrow School in England, Robert finished his education in Brussels before moving to Argentina to make his fortune cattle ranching. He became known as a great adventurer and gaucho there, and was affectionately known as Don Roberto. He also travelled in Morocco disguised as a Turkish sheik, prospected for gold in Spain, befriended Buffalo Bill in Texas, and taught fencing in Mexico City, having travelled there by wagon train from San Antonio de Bexar with his young bride, Gabriella Chidiock de la Balmondiere.

During his life Graham had a large number of books and articles published. Subject matter included history, biography, poetry, essays, politics, travel and seventeen collections of short stories. Titles include, Father Archangel of Scotland (1896 in conjunction with his wife Gabriella), Thirteen Stories (1900), Scottish Stories (1914) "Brought Forward" (1916) and Doughty Deeds (1925) a biography of his great-great-grandfather, Robert Graham of Gartmore. His great-niece and biographer, Jean, Lady Polwarth, published a collection of his short stories (or sketches) entitled Beattock for Moffatt and the Best of Cunninghame Graham (1979) and Alexander Maitland added his selection under the title Tales of Horsemen (1981). Professor John Walker published collections of Cunninghame Graham's South American Sketches (1978), Scottish Sketches (1982) and North American Sketches (1986) and in 1988 The Century Travellers reprinted his Mogreb-el-Acksa (1898) and A Vanished Arcadia (1901), the latter being, in part, the inspiration for the award-winning film The Mission. More recently The Long Riders Guild Press have reprinted his equestrian travel works in their Cunninghame Graham Collection and Kessinger Publishing have reprinted 16 titles to date. He helped Joseph Conrad, whom he had introduced to his publisher Edward Garnett at Duckworth with research for Nostromo. Other literary friends included, Ford Madox Ford, John Galsworthy, W. H. Hudson, George Bernard Shaw (who openly admits his debt to Graham for "Captain Brassbound's Conversion" as well as a key line in "Arms and the Man") and G. K. Chesterton, who proclaimed him "The Prince of Preface Writers" and famously declared in his autobiography that Cunninghame Graham had "achieved the adventure of being Cunninghame Graham".

Here is a wee flavour of his writings which are in pdf format...

Our thanks to John Henderson for sending this into us.

Portrait of Cunninghame Graham (pdf)


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