Two Cunningham towns

The land confiscated by the Crown after the departure of the Earls in 1607 was allocated to specially chosen undertakers * from the Scottish lowlands and the northern English borders. The most important region designated for the plantation was the Laggan Valley of East Donegal; this area had prime farmland running south from the Foyle and Swilly estuaries. It was divided into the two precincts of Lifford and Portlough, and awarded to the Cunninghams and Stewarts from Ayrshire, Scotland. Both these families brought over their own tenants and leased them farms at low rent.

The village of Manorcunningham, originally named the Manor of Fort Cunningham, takes its name from its first proprietor, James Cunningham and his relatives. Between them they received 5,000 acres in the Portlough district of Raphoe, Co Donegal. No less than five Cunninghams were among the fifty Scottish undertakers of the Ulster Plantation; all were granted lands in Co Donegal. Their descendants remained in the area, and are still included among the most familiar surnames in the area. John Cunningham, brother of James, whose lands bordered on Lough Swilly is still remembered in the names of the towns of Manorcunningham and nearby Newtowncunningham.

* UNDERTAKERS were those who undertook to bring over settlers to farm the newly-acquired lands.

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