Knox Cunningham

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Sir Samuel Knox Cunningham, 1st Baronet, QC (3 April 1909 – 29 July 1976) was a Northern Irish barrister, businessman and politician. As an Ulster Unionist politician at a time when the Unionists were part of the Conservative Party, he was also a significant figure in United Kingdom politics as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Harold Macmillan. His nephew was Sir Josias Cunningham.

Early career[edit]

Cunningham was from an Ulster family. His father was Samuel Cunningham, and his elder brothers were Colonel James Glencairn Cunningham, Josias Cunningham stockbroker, Dunlop McCosh Cunningham owner of Murrays tobacco works, Belfast. He was sent to the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and then to Fettes College in Edinburgh. He then won a place at Clare College, Cambridge - where he was heavy-weight boxing champion.

From 1931 Cunningham went into business in Northern Ireland. He married Dorothy Enid Riley JP on 2 July 1935. Later in the 1930s, Cunningham studied law and was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1939. During the Second World War he served in the Scots Guards although he continued his legal studies, and called to the Bar in Northern Ireland in 1942. He fought the Belfast West byelection in 1943 and the same seat in the 1945 general election.

After the war Cunningham mainly lived in Orpington, although he retained membership of the Ulster Unionist Council. His religious faith led him to be involved with the World Alliance of YMCAs from 1947, and he was Chairman of the National Council of the YMCA in 1949. In 1954 he was elected to Orpington Urban District Council.


In the 1955 general election, Cunningham was chosen as the new Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim. He was a delegate to the Council of Europe and Western European Union Parliamentary Assembly from 1956 to 1959. He also served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Jocelyn Simon, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, from 1958. In 1959 he was made a Queen's Counsel.

After the 1959 general election, Cunningham was picked by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as his Parliamentary Private Secretary, responsible for the Prime Minister's relations with backbench Conservative MPs. He was also a member of the National Executive of the Conservative and Unionist Party. When Macmillan resigned, he awarded Cunningham a baronetcy in his resignation honours.[1]

Post-Parliamentary career[edit]

Cunningham remained on the backbenches, known as one to the right of Ulster Unionism and a friend of Ian Paisley,[2] through the rest of the 1960s, but decided to retire at the 1970 general election. He was Master of the Drapers Company in 1973-74. He was a member of the Apprentice boys Club in Londonderry and attended the 275th Anniversary of the shutting of the gates.


  1. ^ "No. 43164". The London Gazette. 22 November 1963. p. 9515. 
  2. ^ Fernhill House History[dead link]


  • M. Stenton and S. Lees, Who's Who of British MPs, vol. IV (Harvester Press, 1981).
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
(of Crookedstone, Killead)
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Prof. Sir Douglas Savory
MP for South Antrim
Succeeded by
James Molyneaux