THE estate of Craigends in Strathgryfe, Renfrewshire, has
been held in direct succession by the same family since it was given by the
first Earl of Glencairn in 1479 to his second son, William Cuninghame. During
the four centuries that have elapsed since then, the Cuninghames of Craigends
have been intimately concerned in all the most stirring history of the West
Country. Twice the family has ventured into trade, and on each occasion with
conspicuous success. In the eighteenth century a Cuninghame of Craigends, who
had married a daughter of the great Glasgow sugar lord, Macdowall of Garthland
and Castle Semple, engaged in the same interests as his father-in-law, and
became owner of several prosperous estates in the West Indies. And
three-quarters of a century later another scion of the house, at the time of the
great development of the iron industry, joined the late Mr. Merry in founding
the well-known firm of Merry & Cuninghame.
Alexander Cuninghame was the second son of Cuninghame of Craigends, but in 1858 he purchased the family estate from his nephew Colonel Cuninghame, and built the handsome mansion which is now the chief seat of the family. His sister was Anne Cuninghame, who, as a widow in 1831, became the wife of John, seventh Duke of Argyll, and his elder son is the Laird of Craigends of the present day.
Mr. Cuninghame was born in Edinburgh, and educated at Harrow and Cambridge, and in 1876, ten years after his father's death, joined actively in the business of Merry & Cuninghame, in which he still takes a chief interest. He is also a director of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Co., and of the Standard Life Insurance Co. He has, besides, taken an active part in public affairs. For twenty-eight years he served with the Renfrewshire Militia, and retired in 1900 with the rank of Major. He also served for two terms upon Renfrewshire County Council, when that body was first instituted; and he has twice stood for Parliament. In 1885 he contested North-East Lanarkshire in the Unionist interest, losing by no more than 169 votes. And in 1906 he unsuccessfully contested West Renfrewshire against Sir Thomas Glen-Coats. He is also actively interested in rural affairs. Upon his estate of Upper Foyers, which comprises 13,000 acres, the sheep farm is in his own hands; and upon his estate of Dunragit in Wigtonshire, he carries on two dairy farms with an average stock of 150 cows. He is also a noted breeder of Clydesdale horses, and has been the owner of many prize-winners. The British Aluminium Company's works at Lower Foyers stand upon ground which he sold for the purpose, and the famous Creamery at Dunragit is upon ground feued from his estate.
Mr. Cuninghame has travelled a great deal in Europe, Australia, China, and Japan. He used to hunt with the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire and the Ayrshire hounds, and used to lease a deer forest for the season. To-day his chief recreation is shooting, and though he does not use the gun much at Craigends, he takes full advantage of the varied sport on his Wigtonshire estate, and of the grouse moors at Upper Foyers.
In 1901 he married his cousin once removed, Alison, daughter of the late Mr. Alexander L. Pearson, and grand-daughter of Commander Hugh Pearson, R.N., Kippenross Castle, Stirlingshire. He is a strong Unionist and advocate of Fiscal Reform, and one of the most recent memories of Craigends is the great political fête given there in 1907 by Mr. and Mrs. Cuninghame, at which Mr. Bonar Law delivered a notable address.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)