John Cunningham (poet and dramatist)

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John Cunningham (1729 – 1773) was a Dublin born playwright, poet and actor, who spent much of his life in, and according to Allan, "whose name and fame will for ever be identified with Newcastle."


John Cunningham was born in 1729 in Dublin, Ireland.
His parents, who were of Scottish descendants, had won a lottery, risen up the social ladder, become bankrupt, and moved back down the social ladder.
John went to Drogheda Grammar School, Drogheda, but had to leave when his father’s wealth disappeared.
He was attracted towards the stage and the acting profession.
He started to write in the age of twelve and at the age of 17 wrote his first play “Love in a mist” which was performed in Dublin.
The play was later performed at Newcastle, where John Cunningham decided to settle, working as a member of the dramatic company, which was traveling around Northumbria. He was also fortunate to attract the friendship and patronage of Mr. and Mrs. Slack, the owners of the Newcastle Chronicle, and supplemented his income by writing articles for publication.


John Cunningham gave his last performance in Darlington on 20 June 1773.
He returned to Newcastle, was taken ill, and died on 18 September 1773 at the age of 44, at his lodgings in Union Street, Newcastle.
He was buried at St John’s Churchyard, a monument being placed at his grave by Mr. Slack, of the Newcastle Chronicle. This monument was restored in 1887 by public subscription, after falling into decay. In 1891 The Chronicle’s current proprietor, Joseph Cowen, placed a memorial window in St John’s Church in his memory.


His works include the following :-
The play – Love in a mist
A book of Poems – published 1766

Extract from an Elegy on a pile of Ruins
Search where Ambition raged with rigour steeled
Where Slaughter like the rapid lightning ran
And say, while memory weeps the blood-stained field
Where lies the chief? And where the common man?
Newcastle Beer – A lyrical poem with classical illusions, aimed at the moneyed class
Holiday Gown

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