CUNINGHAM FAIRLIE, Sir William, 7th bt. (c.1777-1837), of Robertland and Fairlie, Ayr

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1818 - 15 Feb. 1819
1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. c.1777, 1st s. of Sir William Cuningham (afterwards Cuningham Fairlie), 6th bt., of Robertland and Fairlie and 1st w. Anne, da. of Robert Colquhoun of St. Kitts. m. (1) 21 May 1818, Anne, da. and h. of Robert Cooper of Woodbridge, Suff., s.p.; (2)1 Marianne, da. of Sir James Campbell, 3rd bt., of Aberuchill, Perth, s.p. suc. fa. as 7th bt. 15 Oct. 1811. d. 1 Feb. 1837.

Offices Held


Cuningham Fairlie, an anti-Catholic with opposition sympathies, had been unseated on petition as Member for Leominster in 1819 because of his dubious English property qualification. This prompted changes in election law which ensured that Scottish property qualifications were recognized throughout the United Kingdom.2 He again defeated his erstwhile opponent John Harcourt to come in for Leominster in 1820.3 He stewarded at the Royal Humane Society’s anniversary dinners, 28 Apr. 1820, 28 Mar. 1821, and at a fundraising dinner for the Scottish Hospital, 12 May 1821, but contributed little to the business of the House.4 He divided with the Liverpool ministry against censuring their conduct of the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., but with opposition for repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821, and more extensive tax reductions to alleviate distress, 21 Feb. 1822. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822. He obtained leave to bring in a bill to amend Scottish entail law to facilitate improvements to estates like his own impoverished Robertland, 16 May 1822, and carried its first reading the next day, but the second reading was repeatedly postponed and timed out.5 In 1825 a radical publication noted that he ‘attended occasionally and voted in general with ministers’, but any votes he cast after 1822 were not recorded.6 He was expected to stand for Leominster at the 1826 general election, but gave his interest to the barrister Samuel Richard Guinness, who retired shortly before the poll.7

Cuningham Fairlie did not stand for Parliament again. However, he was the principal defendant in an appeal to the Lords (1831-3) by William Taylor, formerly the lessee of his coal mines at Nethermains, Ayrshire, against judgments in the court of session in December 1827, December 1829 and March 1830 that Cunningham Fairlie and his agents had acted lawfully when they sequestered Taylor and his brother’s property there.8 He died at Milltown of Culloden, near Inverness, in February 1837, survived by his wife Marianne (d. 1873), whose second husband was James Hathorn. Being childless, his estates and titles passed in turn to his brothers John (1779-1852), an army officer, and Charles (1780-1859), an official in the East India Company.9

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. The dates of death of Cunningham Fairlies’s wife Anne and of his marriage to Marianne remain unavailable. Dame Marianne is named as Campbell or Fairlie in litigation in 1819 and 1824 (NAS CS271/71796, 72046).
  • 2. Leominster Pollbook ed. F.J. Burlton (1819); U. Corbett and E.R. Daniel, Reports of Cases of Controverted Elections (1821), 1-25.
  • 3. Hereford Jnl. 8, 15 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1820), i. 463; The Times, 29 Mar., 12, 14 May 1821.
  • 5. The Times, 17 May 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 272, 276, 283, 297.
  • 6. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 463.
  • 7. Hereford Independent, 3 Dec.; The Times, 5 Dec. 1825, 7 June; Hereford Jnl. 7, 14 June; Globe, 8 June 1826.
  • 8. NAS CS271/65199, 70731; LJ, lxiii. 411, 731, 968, 982; lxiv. 69, 122; The Times, 7 Mar. 1833.
  • 9. Glasgow Herald, 13 Feb. 1837; Gent. Mag. (1852), i. 405.