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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - April/May 2004
Clan Cunningham Events in France and Scotland

Clan Cunningham Gathering 2003 at Balgonie Castle

by Larry A. Augsbury, High Commissioner of Clan Cunningham.

Members of the Clan Cunningham Society of America (CCSA) from the U.S., Scotland and France gathered together with their British cousins from the newly formed Society of the Earl of Glencairn of Cunningham (SEGC) at Balgonie Castle - hosted by Laird Balgonie, his wife, and son Balgonie the Younger - on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2003, for the first Clan Cunningham Gathering in well over 200 years to celebrate the ties that bind and unite this ancient Clan of Scots together.

The gathering included a Thanksgiving feast in the Great Hall and a tour of the castle and grounds. The clan meeting in the chapel included the presentation of awards by both SEGC and CCSA. A basket-hilt sword was awarded to Frances Powers for first place in the contest on Scottish history. Another sword went to Daniel and Christine Cunningham and Alva Shoemaker. A sword was also presented to Laird Balgonie. The Preceptor’s sword from SEGC was presented to Larry Augsbury for his service to Clan Cunningham. CCSA Clansman and Clanswoman of the year awards went to Alec Cunningham and Frances Powers for their exemplary service, dedication and commitment to Clan Cunningham. Following the awards, the SEGC Preceptor’s Address focused on the theme of involvement for 2004. The High Commissioner’s Keynote Address touched on the past, present and future of Clan Cunningham and CCSA. An excerpt from that address follows: “All organizations face difficult choices and must cope with change in order to grow, prosper and continue to deliver the services for which it was created. Clan Cunningham Society of America is an all volunteer, non-profit institution formed for the purpose to discover, promote and share our history and traditions in order to educate, inform and increase our membership so that we may encourage and inspire participation in, enhancement of, and most importantly, enjoyment of our common heritage for present and future generations. In April of 2002, following inactivity and management setbacks, CCSA underwent a reorganization to reestablish our commitment and service to our society and its members. As an all volunteer organization, it is an ongoing challenge to meet the demands of managing our active society, in a timely and responsive manner, with the level of service and quality that our members deserve, and to meet the standard of excellence which is the legacy left to us by the centuries of exemplary service to God, country, and kin, by our dignified ancestors, the Earls of Glencairn, and their forefathers before them. This challenge is met by dedicated Cunninghams who invest their invaluable time to discover their rich heritage and share it with their extended Cunningham family world-wide.

There is much more for us to do on behalf of Clan Cunningham. Whatever we accomplish, at whatever pace it is achieved, depends on all of you. Just a few years ago, I decided to volunteer some of my time to Clan Cunningham. I was astonished by how much I enjoyed my involvement, which started out slowly and steadily grew. Early on, I thought I was too busy to volunteer. But as I began to interact within our society, within our Cunningham Clan, and within the Scottish Community at large, many lasting friendships have developed. As I continue to learn about our heritage, and continue to meet fascinating people from around the world, I realize that Clan Cunningham is so much more than just an amusing distraction, a pastime, or a hobby. It is my extended family. As such, I look forward with pleasant anticipation to future collaboration with the Society of the Earl of Glencairn of Cunningham, who have done a brilliant job of organizing this Gathering. I’d like to thank members François and Marie-Thérèse Redien for the marvelous St Andrew Soirée at the Château de Cherveux, and members Jim and Julie Hutchison of Villeneuve, France for their generous hospitality and participation. I look forward with eager anticipation to a future of interacting with the members of our global and united Cunningham family, and dare I hope, under the direction of our next rightful and recognized Clan Chief. And, I am especially delighted to share the pleasure of the company of all of you here at Balgonie Castle for this International Clan Cunningham Gathering 2003.”

The evening’s Balgonie festivities concluded in the Great Hall with entertainment provided by the Piper Leslie MacKinlay, Magician Steve Lindsay and Highland Dancers Claire and Melonie Reekie.

Saint Andrew’s Night - Château de Cherveux
by Larry Augsbury, High Commissioner of the Clan Cunningham Society of America, Inc. (CCSA)

For the first leg of the Clan Cunningham International tour last November, I found myself arriving at the home of CCSA members François and Marie-Thérèse Redien, at their Château de Cherveux, about 11 pm to a flood-lit fifteenth century castle shrouded in a dense fog. I thought I could hear the faint pounding of hoofs approaching through the mist as though Robert de Conyngham, Captain of the Scots Guard and King’s Bodyguard for French Kings Charles VII and Louis XI, would lead his steed past us as we crossed the stone bridge that spanned the moat and led through the outer wall of the fortifications, past the Guard House and into the courtyard of the castle Robert de Conyngham built 533 years earlier. At that point the surreal mélange of past and present-day Clan Cunningham events began to intertwine and coalesce into an unforgettable series of momentous occasions.

The next morning we toured the château, its grounds and had an opportunity to briefly visit the town of Cherveux before a local television reporter arrived to film a piece on the St. Andrew’s Night Banquet and Ball which was taking place that evening, Friday, November 21st. About fifty reservations were made for the function including such dignitaries as the current Mayor of Cherveux, Georges Lair; the former Mayor of Cherveux for 12 years was François Redien himself; the former French Ambassador to the U.S., Jeanne Debenest; Academician, Author and Historian of the French Middle Ages Philippe Contamine; the President of "des Maisons Paysannes" of Deux-Sèvres, Madeleine Audebrand; the President of the “société d'assurance Groupama" of Deux-Sèvres, Joseph Godet; Marc Thébault, Municipal Councillor of Niort and Parlimentary Attaché of Senator André Dulait; and the Vice-President of the Conseil Général des Deux-Sèvres and Mayor of Saint-Maixent, Léopold Moreau. Even the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Senator André Dulait were invited, but had to decline due to prior engagements.

The Saint Andrew’s Night began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the Guard House. Then the guests were piped across the courtyard into the Great Hall and welcomed by François Redien. The Selkirk Grace was delivered by Tony Murdock. The dinner menu consisted of: Cockaleekie Soup, Smoked Scottish Salmon, Wild Boar filet, Scottish and French cheeses, Cranachan dessert

The Robert Burns poem “Lament to James, Earl of Glencairn” was read by Scottish CCSA member Jim Hutchison. There were three toasts proposed. Tony Murdock delivered the toast to Saint Andrew. François Redien gave the toast to the “Auld Alliance” between Scotland and France. I proposed the toast to Scotland which I delivered in both English and French as follows:

“Scotland has had a significant impact on both of the great nations of France and America. When over 1/2 of France was under English control during the fifteenth century, following the Scots defeat of the English at Vieil Bauge, Pope Martin V is said to have declared: “The Scots are an antidote to the English!” In the aftermath of a victory during the campaign of Joan of Arc to lead the Dauphin, Charles Valois, to Rheims for his coronation as King of France, she galloped her horse to the Scots and praised them with her famous line: ‘You Scots make good war!’ Scotland’s influence on America’s struggle for independence and the formation of the free government of the Unites States cannot be overemphasized. Well over 1/3 of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent. George Washington, Father of the United States, Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial Forces, first President of the United States of America, whose ancestry has been traced back to Scottish King Malcolm II, chose as his first cabinet, Edmund Randolph as Attorney General, Henry Knox as Secretary of War, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, all of Scottish descent. Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA, American Minister to France, a descendant of a sister of King Robert I of Scotland, was the author of the American Declaration of Independence, which bears remarkable similarities, in wording and aspirations, to a document written 456 years earlier, the Declaration of Arbroath of Scotland. Ladies and Gentlemen, charge your glasses and be upstanding. To Scotland.”

On behalf of Clan Cunningham, I then presented a gold foil-stamped, leather hard-backed bound French translation of the new edition of our Clan Cunningham Origins, Heritage and Traditions book, with a new chapter dedicated to the Scottish/French "Auld Alliance", as a gift to François for display and reference in the Château de Cherveux to inform guests of its Cunningham origins.

An evening of pleasant conversation in both French and English accompanied by music and dancing followed which went well into the wee hours.

John Cunningham,  15th Earl of Glencairn,  Memorial Dedication Ceremony

On Tuesday, November 25, 2003 the Clan Cunningham Society of America (CCSA) dedicated the granite memorial  that they designed, commissioned and had erected at his resting place to honor the memory of the last Clan Cunningham Chief and 15th Earl of Glencairn, John Cunningham, who was interred at St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard below Edinburgh Castle and adjacent to Princess Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 29, 1796. His original tombstone was inexplicably missing from the wall behind his grave and CCSA has now restored the dignity and honor of our last Clan Chief’s grave and established a focal point from which Clan Cunningham can rise and reclaim its rightful place among the contemporary clans of the twenty-first century.

Memorial Artist and Sculptor, Roger Seal of Denver, CO, carved the Glencairn Arms, which was commissioned from the Lord Lyon King of Arms, specifically for this monument whose dedication ceremony began at 10:30 AM.

The proceedings of the Memorial Dedication Ceremony presented by CCSA went as follows:

PIPER’S LAMENT  'Mist Covered Mountains of Home'  by Piper Keith Easdale.

OPENING COMMENT AND INTRODUCTIONS by MODERATOR, Larry Augsbury, High Commissioner, Clan Cunningham Society of America

“MALCOLM’S RIDE” A ballad of the origins of the motto and shake-fork charge on the Glencairn Arms of Clan Cunningham, performed by internationally renowned Celtic group CALASAIG: Keith Johnston, Kirsten Easdale, Keith Easdale, Celine Donoghue and Andy Webster.

HONORED GUEST’S ADDRESS, Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland, Right Honourable Robin Blair, LVO, WS:

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are here today on an important day for Clan Cunningham. The clan has been without a leader since the death of the fourteenth Earl of Glencairn in 1796. The clan of course is led by its present High Commissioner, but that is not the same as having a chief.

Of course there are a large number of other clans who do not have a chief at present. Any such clan has the disadvantage of not having a clear leader about whom the members of the clan can rally. The Cunninghams are better placed than many in having a clan society that is active and which serves to maintain the clan’s history, memories, and fellowship.

I wish you well at your International Gathering. What you are doing today is creating in Scotland a physical focus at the grave of the last clan chief. That will be a valuable point of reference for the future. It was for these reasons that I welcomed the initiative which Mr. Augsbury proposed when he wrote to me in August of last year, asking for my views on the possibility of having this memorial created which is being dedicated today. I am very pleased indeed that this initiative has come to fruition.

The title Earl of Glencairn is very ancient, dating from 1488, but we know very little about John Cunningham, the fourteenth Earl. We know that he was born on the 17th of May, 1750. As a young man he enjoyed the social life of an officer of the 14th Regiment of Dragoons. There is no record that he saw active service. He then took holy orders in the Church of England, but again there is no record of his having taken up a position within a parish of the Church of England. I was in contact recently with a repository of historical information about all ordained ministers in the Church of England, but they were unable to tell me of any parish where the Reverend Cunningham had served.

He was married to Isabella Erskine, daughter of the Earl of Buchan. He died in Coates in West Edinburgh, which had been the Glencairn home for many years on the 24th of September, 1796. He and his wife had no children.

John Cunningham was somewhat eccentric and had a mind full of fantasies. He is said to have been the author of a drama in twenty-five acts which was performed in Aberdeen. The play opens with Adam and Eve stark naked. So, it must have been something to remember. After his death, no relative was found to inherit the Earldom and the chiefship of the clan.

Despite the scarcity of our knowledge about him, it is good that this memorial has been created as a permanent reminder of the life of this gentleman and his importance to Clan Cunningham. I am most grateful to you for inviting me to make these remarks and for being here on this important occasion.”

Transcribed by Alec & Bill Cunningham

SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER Clan Chief George MacMillan of MacMillan and Knap of Finlaystone (former seat of Clan Cunningham)

“I think my brief is to talk about the Cunninghams and Finlaystone, which is where I live. It is a house now, but it was once a castle on the banks of the Clyde.

The Cunningham connection with Finlaystone is of course in someway peripheral to the grand history of the Cunningham clan. It was only one of many houses they owned and occupied at various times. I think the normal plan was to go around to your various houses eating up the rent. Finlaystone was regarded as one of the main ones.

I regret to tell you the Cunninghams were what we might call opportunists. In the west of Scotland the word "Chancellor" is often used for people who see an opportunity and take advantage of it. The two ways they did this was first by marriage, and the other one of course was by force of arms. I think on the whole they were more successful with their marriages, but they did occasionally venture into Scottish history at crucial moments and were extremely important in their field.

Who am I to talk about Chancellors because my father was a soldier and he gained Finlaystone by marriage, so I am very much in the mission of the Cunningham family. The first Cunningham of Finlaystone was William, who got it in 1404 from the Danzielstone or Danielstoun family, who must have owned vast tracks of Scotland, and who in fact had two castles, almost adjacent. One was called Finlaystone and the other was called "Nether Finlaystone," which is only about four miles away and is still more or less in its original form. So, when you come over to our side of the world, if you would like to go down to Nether Finlaystone, which is now called Newark castle, you will see what Finlaystone might have been like in the 15th Century.

Jane and I were in Machu Picchu not very long ago and we were very surprised to find that the great stones of Machu Picchu were only put in place about the same time Finlaystone and Nether Finlaystone were being built. There is sort of an historical perspective there to be born in mind.

I will not go through all the Earls because there are far too many of them, but one is quite worth touching on. We who live in Finlaystone always regard James, the patron of Burns as the Fourteenth Earl and John as the Fifteenth, and we recognize there is quite a bit of blather about all that. I think it happened very early on because rather sadly the first Earl, Alexander, was killed very soon after he was created Earl at the battle of Sauchieburn. Unfortunately, he was on the losing side. He had been badly wounded. [The battle was between James III and James IV of Scotland, and pitted] Father against son, sorry to say. The father lost. The son became James IV and deprived Alexander's son of his title, the Earl of Glencairn. I think it was from this that the numbering became so disjointed.

But anyhow, terribly more interesting than the numbers are the characters themselves. On the whole, it is the odd numbered Earls that seem to feature most prominently. The Fifth Earl I suppose you could call him the patron of John Knox. In 1556 John Knox visited Finlaystone and held the first formal communion in Western Scotland. That was a pretty bold thing to do at the time for the times were very tumultuous. One of Knox's predecessors had been slaughtered. I think the Earl took rather good care to get a few other Earls involved. Certainly one was of close relation by marriage, the Earl of Arran.

Just an illustration of how precarious things were, it was not very long before this that the Earl's father had been at odds with the Earl of Arran, and it sort of surprised everybody that Alexander actually married the Earl of Arran's daughter. The marriage was one example of many where a marriage was the cement joining the grand families of Scotland together. The Earls through marriage acquired enormous parcels of land. That was an example of how quickly they could change their allegiance, from hatred to marriage, and sometimes the other way around, I am sad to say.

Another good example of that was perhaps the most favorable of all, the Seventh Earl of Glencairn. He took part in a rather peculiar skirmish in Kilbarchan which is a small village just to the south of Finlaystone, and it in fact took place at the parish church. It was a rift involving the property of a Finlaystone neighbor, Mr. Porterfield. The Porterfields were a powerful lowland clan, and unfortunately for the Cunninghams, Mr. Porterfield failed to pay his rent. This I regret to say resulted in a skirmish, beginning in the churchyard of Kilbarchan parish church just after Sunday worship. Sadly, the Cunninghams had to run for it, about three miles, mainly up hill to Finlaystone. They managed to get home and barricade themselves in. But they were never terribly fond of the Porterfields and smarted over this skirmish and so they ransacked the Porterfield's stronghold Duchal House. It was not too long after that, so the story goes, that the same James was caught in a very bad storm not very far from Duchal and knocked at the door asking for refuge from the storm, which the Porterfield very generously gave him. So, you just never really knew where you were with anyone at all at any time.

A final story about James is rather ironic in a way because if you walk around Edinburgh, you will find opposite one another the Glencairn pursuivant and the Eglinton pursuivant (coat of arms).

The Cunninghams were the Earls of Glencairn and the Montgomeries were the Earls of Eglinton in Ayrshire. They had a rather long running dispute, a rather curious one that may appeal to the Lord Lyon. He probably knows about this anyway. A small landed Earl had a right to dispense justice in that area of Scotland. The Cunninghams it seemed were prepared to stop at nothing to gain this privilege. They actually murdered one of the Earls of Eglinton, Fat Hugh he was called. I am sure the fat part was a bit of spin to show how unworthy he was to sit on the bench.

Anyhow, he was murdered. James originally disclaimed any knowledge of the conspiracy, but there is no smoke without fire, as they say. So there was conflagration and marriage, and this went on through the next two or three centuries.

The 9th Earl is a very crucial one. He may well figure as the eighth in your history. He had a most difficult time because he was living during the time of the English Civil War. Things were complicated enough in England, but in Scotland, they were almost impossible because the church was involved in it. The Glencairns, as you may have realized by now were very generally speaking on the side of the Presbyterians, with John Knox and his side. The king, unfortunately, was on the rather High Anglican side.

Added to that, the ninth Earl wanted to support the church, but he also wanted to support the king because he thought it might suit him quite well. Besides that, the Earl of Argyll, whom everyone hated, decided to change sides halfway through, so everyone else had to change sides too. So, it was quite impossible to sort out who was on which side. The upshot of it was that the 9th Earl got himself locked up in Edinburgh Castle right at the end of the Times of Trouble and was in fact due for an untimely death when the bell rang and Charles the II was restored to the throne and out he (9th Earl) popped and became Lord High Chancellor of Scotland.

That was not quite the end of the story because he was then given the job of ousting Presbyterians, which he did not find very tasteful. It is said on his deathbed, after a slightly dubious sexual life, he offered to let some Presbyterians in to see him off to the next life, which prompted someone to say "a Scotsman, whatever he is during most of his life, is usually discovered to be a Presbyterian in the end." He found himself buried in St. Giles Cathedral, just up the hill there. Actually, forgive me if you will, under the car park outside.

May I just finish by thanking the opportunistic Cunninghams for their gracious hospitality, from one opportunist to another. Thank you very much.”

Transcribed by Alec & Bill Cunningham

SPEAKER, Edinburgh City Councillor, Bill Cunningham, Holyrood Ward.

MODERATOR’S ADDRESS, High Commissioner, Larry Augsbury, Clan Cunningham Society of America:



Procession piped to the tune 'March of the Cunningham's' written, piped and performed for the first time ever by Keith Easdale specifically for this occasion of the processional walk to the graveside and memorial of John, Earl of Glencairn and Clan Cunningham Chief.

PIPER’S LAMENT  'Sleep Dearie Sleep'  by Piper Keith Easdale

BLESSING OF MEMORIAL by Reverend T. C. Cuthell of St. Cuthbert’s Parish Church.

THE CITY OF EDINBURGH hosted a civic reception for Clan Cunningham at Usher Hall following the memorial dedication ceremony with music performed by Calasaig.

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