CUNNINGHAM, JOHN [SSNE 1497]
- CUNNINGHAM, til GJERDRUP, KONIG, KONNINGHAM, KONINGHAM
- First name
- JOHN, HANS
- Social status
John Cunningham was born in Scotland c.1575, and died in 1651. He was recommended by James VI and I for Danish service and for promotion. Cunningham received his appointed a naval captain, 'skibshovedsmand' of the Danish fleet on 7/6/1603 with effect from 20/1/1603. He was taken on due to his knowledge of the Atlantic ocean, particularly the waters around Greenland, As part of his duties he was to muster the peasants in vicinity of Gers and Villands for naval service at the end of 1604. Cunningham's main role was however in the field of naval exploration. He led the voyage of exploration to Greenland by the Danish navy in 1605 and was appointed commander of Trøsten on 19/4/1605 A ship bulit by fellow Scotsman, David Balfour [SSNE 1474]). During this mission, one of his ships was lost, but they made landfall in Greenland at 67 degrees north at "Denmarks Havn", south of a place known as "Cunningham's Mount", now called Qaqatsiaq. In his fleet he was joined by John Knight [SSNE 1357] as captain of Katten and Alexander Leyell onboard [SSNE 1137] as Knight's mate. James Hall [SSNE 1316], an experienced English navigator, served as Cunningham's pilot.
Cunningham also took part in the exploration of Greenland's coast in 1606 as commander of Den Røde Løve to which he was appointed on 27/5/1606. Cunningham held several commands during his 'voyages of inspection' especially in the Western and Northern Seas between 1609-18. During the Kalmar War with Sweden, 1611-1612, Cunningham took part in operations against the Swedes in the Baltic in command of the ship, The Leopard. A few years after the war, Cunningham gained promotion to 'Lensmand', or regional governor of Vardohus with Finnmarken' until the end of 1650. In 1622 he requested an received permission to spend his winters in Bergen rather than the north, which he appears to have done. From January 1651 it was decreed that Cunningham should receive 200 rigsdaler per annum until his death. In February the king commanded Cunningham to hand over the region, his residence, the forts and all military equipment to his successor Jorgen Friis. Cunningham was something of a military innovator and suggested on 21/6/1632 that the inhabitants of Finnmarken ( Sami ) should pay taxes instead of furnishing boatswains in order to avoid shortage of manpower in the region. This suggestion was accepted and allowed the recruiting of a more professional navy for Denmark-Norway. Cunningham is known to have married twice; the first wife's name is unknown, the second was Ellen Hundermark. Cunningham had two natural children, Jakob/James Hansen Cunningham, who went on to become rector of Horslunde in Lolland and a daughter called Christine Hansdatter Cunningham. He owned the manor Gerdrup and a house at Elsinore, which he let out in 1648. In the 1640s, Cunningham devolved many of his military duties to his cousin Tamis Cunningham [SSNE 2472].
John Cunningham was one of only a handful of Britons ever to become ennobled in Denmark-Norway, and all were Scots. In many Danish sources, John Cunningham is recorded as 'Hans Konning'. Compiled by STEVE MURDOCH and RUNE HAGEN
Sources: A. Thiset and P.L. Wittrup 'Nyt Dansk Adelslexicon', p.157; Letters of King James I, ed. Meldrum, pp.40-1, 18/2/1605; DBL, vol.4; Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto, 1966), I, p.243; O. Ovenstad, Militærbiografier: Den Norske Hærs Officerer (Oslo, 1948), p.299; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.58; Norske Rigsregistranter, vol.10, (Christiania, 1887), pp.145, 158 and 491; R. Fladby, Norske Kongebrev (6.vols., Oslo, 1962), V, p.78; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.29, 139.
- DENMARK-NORWAY, NAVY
- Arrived 1603-01-20, as CAPTAIN
- Departed 1651-12-31, as ADMIRAL
- Capacity OFFICER, purpose NAVAL
- DENMARK-NORWAY, VARDOHUS [FINMARK, NORWAY]
- Arrived 1619-01-01
- Departed 1651-12-31
- Capacity GOVERNOR, purpose MILITARY, TRADE, COMMERCE
- DENMARK-NORWAY, BERGEN, NORWAY [WINTERS ONLY]
- Arrived 1622-10-08
- Departed 1650-12-31
- Purpose COMMERCE