Mr Alfred Fleming Cunningham

Belfast-born member of the "Guarantee Group"

Mr Alfred Fleming Cunningham was born at 25 Upper Meadow Street in Belfast, Ireland (modern-day Northern Ireland) on 25 November 1890.

Coming from a Presbyterian household, Alfred was the son of James Cunningham (b. 1854), a linen overlooker (supervisor or foreman in a linen mill) and Elizabeth Brooks (b. 1860), both residents of Belfast who had married in that city on 4 September 1885. His mother hailed from Derry but his father's exact origins remain uncertain1.

His siblings were: James (b. 19 September 1886), Robert (b. 16 February 1888), Lily Margaretta (b. 4 September 1892), Thomas (b. 14 December 1894) and Martha (b. 14 January 1897).

His father died from a fever on 30 August 1896; at the time he was described as a foreman yarn dresser. He left behind several children and a pregnant wife and was later buried at Belfast's City Cemetery.

Alfred appears on the 1901 census of Ireland living at 4 Spamount Street in the Dock Ward of Belfast City with his widowed mother and siblings. When the 1911 census was conducted Alfred and his family were resident in the same street, albeit then at number 96 and he was described as an unmarried apprentice ship's fitter.

Alfred was one of the nine-strong "guarantee group" of Harland and Wolff employees chosen to oversee the smooth running of the Titanic's maiden voyage. 

Alfred Cunningham, like the rest of his counterparts, died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. Initially reported amongst the saved, his mother received word of his safety:

BELFAST YOUTH ANNOUNCED AMONG THE SAVED

Mrs Cunningham, 4 Spamount Street, Belfast, has received the following messages from Messrs. Harland & Wolff:-

"The following telegram was received from Southampton:- 'Name of A. Cunningham amongst the saved.'"

Cunningham was an apprentice at the Queen's Island, and was one of the party from the shipyard that went out with the liner.  Larne Times, 27 April 1912

The joy of his survival, however, was short-lived and it soon became apparent that he had been lost. He had been confused with surviving steward Andrew Cunningham and the news spread around Ireland.

THE FATE OF ALFRED CUNNINGHAM

Messrs. Harland & Wolff received a telegram yesterday to the effect that their apprentice Alfred Cunningham was not amongst the survivors of the Titanic disaster, In other words, this brief message conveys the terrible news that not a solitary member of the Queen's Island staff has been saved. It is extremely sad that the family of the boy Cunningham should now have their hopes dashed, but the statement that he was saved appears to have arisen through a confusion of names. - Northern Whig, 26 April 1912


HARLAND & WOLFF'S STAFF

Messrs. Harland & Wolff have received a telegram to the effect that their apprentice Alfred Cunningham is not amongst the survivors; consequently not one of their staff appears to have survived.

Cunningham was reported on Saturday to have been saved. He was an apprentice fitter, living at 4 Spamount Street. - Dublin Daily Express, 26 April 1912

His brother Robert later lost his life whilst serving in the Merchant Service aboard SS Castlebar which was sunk on 13 March 1918.

His mother lived at Spamount Street for the rest of her life and she died on 29 November 1922. She is buried with her husband in City Cemetery, Belfast.

His sister Martha later married labourer James Bailie in October 1920; she died in Belfast on 30 September 1952 and was buried with her parents.

Notes

  1. He was the son of James Cunningham, a servant.
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2008) 
WHAT TIME DID THE FIRST LIFEBOAT DEPART THE TITANIC?
The Times (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Paul Clarke said:

    Hi I'm trying to track down death notices for Harland and Wolff's nine man Guarantee group. I'm particularly looking for anything relating to Alfred Cunningham who was one of the young apprentices who lost his life doing his duty on board.

  2. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    I don't know if anyone has added any such to the database here on ET, but you might try checking out period newspapers from the places where they lived.

  3. avatar

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    Paul, All I can add is this: Cunningham, Mr. Alfred. Apprentice fitter. Missing. (From: Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklet, March 1913) Number 702. Cunningham, mother. Grant £60. Named on the Belfast City Hall Memorial, Belfast. Hope it helps? Cheers Brian

  4. avatar

    Robby House said:

    Regarding the Guarantee group, I'm curious to know if any member of this group were present or seen assisting Andrews during his damage assessment of Titanic after impacting the iceberg. So far my own research into Titanic hasn't yielded any information about the activities of the Guarantee Group other than what we know of Andrews. Robby (I see this thread is dead but maybe someone will see my question.)

  5. Robert T. Paige said:

    An interesting point. I don't know about books and other movies. But in ANTR and the 1997 movie the only person from the Gurantee Group we see is Andrews. Of course Andrews isn't even included in the 1953 "Titanic." Not sure which details each individual of the Guarantee Group would be involved. Is there any information on the other members of the Guarantee Group ? Would each person be assigned a specific duty or area of the ship ?

  6. avatar

    Emilie said:

    Well I.don't think they even were assigned to particular tasks. Guarantee Group was a classical policy in H&W of following the ships they built. The group was mainly here to assist the crew and train them with new equipment, and to check after possible changes/improvements.

  7. Coleen Large said:

    Does anyone know if this man was a member of the Orange Order?

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK

References and Sources

Northern Whig, 26 April 1912, THE FATE OF ALFRED CUNNINGHAM
Larne Times, 27 April 1912, BELFAST YOUTH ANNOUNCED AMONG THE SAVED
Dublin Daily Express, 26 April 1912, HARLAND & WOLFF'S STAFF
Belfast Newsletter, 22 April 1912, Queen's Island in Mourning
Search archive Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Alfred Fleming Cunningham (ref: #390, last updated: 31st May 2018, accessed 5th June 2020 07:33:48 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/alfred-fleming-cunningham.html