Cunningham, James (1749-1791) (DNB00)

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CUNNINGHAM, JAMES, fourteenth Earl of Glencairn (1749–1791), the friend of Robert Burns [q. v.], was the second son of William, thirteenth earl, and the eldest daughter of Hugh M'Guire, a violin player in Ayr, and was born in 1749. Through the death of his elder brother, unmarried, in 1768, he succeeded to the earldom on his father's death in 1775. In 1778 he was captain of a company of the West Fencible regiment. He was one of the sixteen Scotch representative peers in the parliament of 1780–84. Glencairn was introduced to Burns by his cousin-german, Mr. Dalrymple of Orangefield, soon after the publication of the Kilmarnock edition of Burns's ‘Poems,’ to which his attention had been called by his factor, Mr. Dalziel. In a letter dated Edinburgh, 13 Dec. 1786, Burns numbers him among his ‘avowed patrons.’ Through Glencairn Burns was introduced to William Creech the publisher [q. v.], who had been Glencairn's tutor, and Creech agreed to publish the new edition of his ‘Poems.’ From the beginning of Burns's acquaintance with Glencairn he was strongly impressed by his ‘worth and brotherly kindness,’ and admitting that he owed much to Glencairn, he affirmed that the ‘weight of the obligation’ was a ‘pleasing load.’ In 1787 Burns composed ‘Verses to be written below a Noble Earl's Picture,’ which he wished to be allowed to insert in the forthcoming edition of his ‘Poems,’ to tell the world how much he owed, but apparently the earl withheld his consent. It was through Glencairn that Burns, at his own request, obtained a situation in the excise. In 1786 Glencairn disposed of the estate of Kilmaurs to the Marchioness of Titchfield. In 1790, owing to declining health, he was advised to pass the winter in Lisbon. The change failed to effect any benefit, and having decided to return, he died 30 Jan. 1791, soon after landing at Falmouth, and was buried in the church there. He was unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother John, on whose death, in 1796, without issue, the title became dormant. Burns wrote a ‘Lament’ on his death, concluding with the following stanza:

The mother may forget the child
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee,
But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
And a' that thou hast done for me.

In memory of his patron, Burns named his fourth son, born in January 1794, James Glencairn Burns.

[Douglas's Scotch Peerage (Wood), i. 640; Works of Robert Burns.]

T. F. H.