About Us

WELCOME TO CLAN CUNNINGHAM

Welcome to our home, the home of Clan Cunningham Global and Clan Cunningham US. As our older members will know, our international society was founded in 1984, which was in the now bygone era, when our Clan had no chief. During that early period, after careful research and following the advice from the only authority regarding armigerous Scottish clans (the Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland) on how best to represent our Clan in the absence of a chief, we were advised to represent our Clan in a manner in which our chief would approve. This we openly and publicly aspired to do – and we thus named our society, the Clan Cunningham Society of America to reflect the fact that our operations begab in America; and we also made the decision to operate as the global Clan Cunningham society from the moment of our inception in the year 1984. Today, with the recent shift to operate under Clan Cunningham UK, we now represent all Clan Cunningham. We, however, still take great efforts to undertake original research. So, if you are seeking the foremost resource for all things related to Clan Cunningham you have come to the right place. As the leader of Clan Cunningham Global, we take the Glencairn legacy very seriously, and we place a high value on integrity and holding ourselves and our society to the highest possible standards.

Name Origin

With no newspapers covering the beginning of our clan, during the troubles between King Duncan and King Macbeth, for a very long time we were left to guess where our name came from.

In the earliest attempts to decipher the meaning behind the name, most historians looked at the structure behind the two most distinct names that appeared at the beginning of our clan. These were the names Frisken and Warnebald, and because of their structure, most naturally assumed that the earliest ancestors of Clan Cunningham were probably Flemish.

However, this theory did not match the most common translation of the name Cunningham, which many believed was a simple combination of King and House.

Nor did it adequately explain another theory, which is the name must mean the home of the rabbits, as two hares or rabbits appear prominently in our coat of arms as supporters. Here the problem is a powerful Flemish family would probably bring their own name to Scotland.

Thankfully, recent research by Derek Cunningham is now slowly peeling back those many layers that have covered the trails that our ancestors left; and with Derek Cunningham finally recovering the original records of the 17th century historian, Frederic van Bossen, it is now clear that our understanding of the beginning of our clan was wrong. The very first Frisken, this being Frisken I, was named Malcolm at birth, and it was only later, presumably when he was an adult, that he took the name Frisken. This Firsken the First was the ancestor of the de Middletons and the de Innes (Inges) families, and the brother of Kenneth the first Lord (or Thane) of Cunningham.

It is also now argued, through analysing the works of Frederic van Bossen, that we descend from the Kings of Strathclyde.

Concerning the origin of the name Cunningham, though many historians did realize there were many different languages in 11th century Scotland some of these languages have since become extinct, and others were not considered in any substantial depth.

It has to be remembered that in the 10th century and also at the beginning of the 11th century, Scotland was occupied by various forces.

There was the Britons of Strathclyde, the Scots who occupied North and Eastern Scotland, and there were sseveral different “Viking” groups (these being the Vikings from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland) who lived throughout Scotland.

This brought to Scotland a large array of dialects and languages. Then, in the 11th century there was the invasion of the western part of the Kingdom of “Scot” by King Brian of Ireland, who brought Gaelic to Scotland, and after the conquest of England in 1066 there was an influx of Normans into Scotland; and within this already very complex melting pot, there still remained pockets within Scotland that retained memory of Pictish traditions and the Pictish language, this being most prominently seen in the appearance of the name Amfred within the early land records that surround Clan Cunningham.

So, with the ubiquitous presence of Latin, which was the primary language of the Lords and clergy, there were many, many languages upon which the name Cunningham can be built.

However, amongst all the options that have been offered to us over the centuries, there are now two that seem the most likely. These are; King’s Island and King Inge’s Island.

The argument that Cunningham (and perhaps the word England) comes from Old Swedish was first argued by the discovery by Derek Cunningham that the word Frisken is the Latin translation of the name Freystein, a name that was mostly use in Viking Sweden – in fact, Viking was the name of a Swedish King.

From Old Swedish dictionaries, it is found that the words “land” and “Holme” originates from the Swedish language; and the offered King Inge’s Island translation for “Cunningham” is based on surviving, late 10th century to early 12th century land records, which mention the de Somercotes and the de Cunninges-holme family – these early land records also mention the de Berkeley family, who appear in contemporary Scottish records for the family of Robert of Kilmaurs.

With the word “ham” originating from the Swedish Viking word Hølme (which means a small island in Old Swedish); and the fact the letter ø in Hølme is pronounced Halme in Old English, many elements now fit together, for the very first time. For example in Lincolnshire it was only in the late 12th century that some records began to show the Cunningham variant, with the first to bear this name being Petro de Guningham from around the mid 1170s to late 1190s

However, though this “King Inge’s Island, or King’s Island” translation might suggest that our ancestors descend from a Swedish Viking King, the latest data, from the recovered notes of Frederic van Bossen, now reveals that the original Freskin I of Clan Cunningham was a person who lived in the 10th century, and he was not Flemish, nor was he Swedish. Instead he was originally born with the name Malcolm; and his father was a direct descendant of the Kings of Strathclyde.

This new research by Derek Cunningham also discovered that the Freskin name is simply a latinization of the Swedish name Freystein, which suggests our ancestors made an alliance with the Swedish Vikings, who in the 10th century dominated the western regions of Scotland – and with the appearance of the Inge component, it is possible (but as yet still not proven) that he married into the family of one of the King Inges of Sweden.

This potential link to the Royal Family of Sweden is also consistent with Frederic Van Bossen’s notes, which argue our family descends from a King Duff, or more probably King Dyfnwal of Strathclyde; and in this mid 17th century account, the first Thane of Cunninghame in Ayrshire was not the mid 11th century Freskin of clan legend, but an earlier late 10th century Kenneth, who was the brother of the Malcolm who took the name Freskin. Their ancestry, through their descent from the King of Strathclyde, would then place both Kenneth and his brother Malcolm (Frisken) within the right level to be considered worthwhile sons-in-laws for a Swedish King.

However, no clan story can escape the links to legends; and amongst the more exotic stories there is one that attempts to link our family to the name King Arthur.

According to the theory surrounding this legend, the logic is King Arthur name comes from the Gaelic Cion Aodha; and Cionaodha is the Gaelic version of the Brythonic name Cunedda (which is arguable the origin for the name Kenneth) – see above for link to Clan Cunningham.

Aodha was the ancient Celtic Sun God and the God of Fire. It is thus postulated that both Cion and Cun (Kion and Kun), which appear in Cuning, means “King”, and also The “head” (or “The Chief”), as in Ken and Pen, and because this word “Ken” then overlaps with the records of Frederic van Bossen, who as just mentioned states the first Thane of Cunninghame was Kenneth, the brother of the Malcolm who took the name Freskin. this argues Cunedda and Cionaodha are variants of the name Kenneth, which would then argue the name Cunningehame is also linked to this name.

As you can see this is a convoluted argument, but it is also entertaining, and the links to ancient names is real. It was also argued that Cunedda and Cionaodha both translate as “head dragon”; and because Dragon is derived from Aodh, the God of Fire, and Aodha, with an “a” added at the end of the name, means the son of Aodh, the name Aodha then becomes the modern name Atha, which then became the name Arthur; which, if correct, must mean the name Arthur relates to dragons and not bears.

The Cunedda dynasty

Cunedda Wledig aka Edern ap Padarn

Cunedda ap Edern

Eternus ap Cunedda aka Emrys Wledig

Einion Yrth ap Cunedda

Cadwallon Lawhir ap Einion

Owain Ddantgwyn ap Einion

Maelgwn Gwynedd

Clan Chief

Today our clan is led by the very capable Sir John Christopher Foggo Montgomery Cuninghame, Baronet of Corsehill.

The aim of our charity is to continuously work to preserve our history, and whenever possible to preserve the ancient sites that are linked to our past.

Some of our projects include the granite monument to our last Clan Chief and 15th Earl of Glencairn, John Cunningham, which we commissioned, placed and dedicated on November 25, 2003 in Edinburgh; the Civic Reception was hosted by the City of Edinburgh for Clan Cunningham that same day to honor the contribution of that monument to Edinburgh by CCG; we also held the first International Clan Cunningham Gathering in over 250 years at Balgonie Castle on November 27, 2003; the 11 day Historical Sites Tour of France and the District of Cunninghame, Scotland which we organized and guided in November 2004; and the International Clan Cunningham Gathering at Stirling Castle on November 28, 2004.

We also sponsored the St. Andrew’s Night Banquet and Gala at the French Château de Cherveux built by Robert de Conyngham in 1470, a Captain of the Scots Guard for French Kings Charles VII and Louis XI, where our members gathered with Scots and the French to celebrate the Auld Alliance and the strong Clan Cunningham ties to the château and the region. These activities over the last several years have made impressive strides in creating awareness that the legacy of Clan Cunningham is well remembered and celebrated by our society in the USA and beyond. We continue to make our presence known by joining in friendship and common cause with Cunninghams from our own neighborhoods, to the land of our ancestors, and those to which they travelled, fought, loved and died. All that we do at Clan Cunningham Global serves to preserve, discover, restore, document, protect and share our rich Celtic history and Clan Cunningham heritage.Clan Cunningham Global distributes our informative and entertaining quarterly newsletter, packed with full-color original photographs of the District of Cunninghame in Scotland, to current members around the world. 

CCG also presented the current owners of Finlaystone in Langbank, Scotland with the Glencairn Arms as an historical marker. The Finlaystone Country Estate was the home of the Earls of Glencairn and the Clan Cunningham Chiefs for over 400 years and is currently owned and inhabited by George MacMillan, Chief of Clan MacMillan and is open to the public.

As you may have already seen, as part of the transition to the new ClanCunningham.uk website there is still much work to be done. At this moment we have not re-opened our store and we still do not have the ancestry page in a state that is ready for use. The information stored in the old Clan Cunningham website was retained in the Ellen Payne Odom Genealogical Library in Moultrie, Georgia, to act as a permanent repository. The Odom Library is recognized as a leading repository for Scottish clan organizations, and contains the genealogy and history of over one hundred clans.