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 and at the time 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 New Lodge area 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.
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.