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Philip Cunningham (c. 1770–1804)

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This entry is from People Australia

depiction of Philip Cunningham, in encounter with Quartermaster Laycock at the Castle Hill rebellion, 1804 [detail]

depiction of Philip Cunningham, in encounter with Quartermaster Laycock at the Castle Hill rebellion, 1804 [detail]

National Library of Australia, 5577479

Philip (Phil) Cunningham (c.1770-1804) Irish rebel leader, convict and insurrection leader 

Birth: about 1770 at Glenn Liath, Moyvane (modern parish of Molahiffe), near Listowel,  County Kerry, Ireland.  Marriage: 1798 at Clonmel, Ireland,to a woman named Black.  Death: 5 or 6 March 1804 at Windsor, New South Wales. 

  • Inspiring leader of convict rebels at Castle Hill, March 1804.
  • Publican, Clonmel, Tipperary and senior United Irish leader during 1798 Rebellion in Ireland holding rank of captain, and 'an articulate man who moved in high social circles'. Re-organised United Irish network in south of Ireland, 1799.
  • Captured and charged with sedition at Clonmel 9-11 October 1799. Death sentence reduced to transportation for life, upon technicality. In 1800 prominent in mutiny on the convict ship, Anne, bringing rebels to New South Wales and as a result sent first to Norfolk Island.
  • In 1802 attempted to abscond on ship from Parramatta. Of 'commanding appearance' and possessing a 'sharp mind', despite fractious ways Cunningham was, by 1804, overseer of Government stonemasons at Castle Hill and had spent twelve months building stone cottage.
  • Upon receiving news of Robert Emmet's uprising in Ireland, in March 1804 at Castle Hill, rallied troops with the call 'Death or Liberty', employing tactics used by United Irish in 1798 Rebellion of massing centrally controlled forces on high ground sites.
  • Castle Hill rebellion met with equally sanguinary result to 'Vinegar Hill' in Ireland. Cunningham was reputedly shot 'treacherously' in back during military encounter.
  • He was hanged at Windsor on 5 or 6 March 1804.

Sources
Ruan O'Donnell, Marked for Botany Bay, The Wicklow United Irishmen and the development of political transportation from Ireland, 1791-1806, (PhD thesis, ANU, 1996), pp 232-495 ; Anne-Maree Whitaker, Unfinished Revolution: United Irishmen in New South Wales, 1800-1810 (Darlinghurst, NSW, 1994).

Citation details

'Cunningham, Philip (c. 1770–1804)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/cunningham-philip-33227/text41455, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

depiction of Philip Cunningham, in encounter with Quartermaster Laycock at the Castle Hill rebellion, 1804 [detail]

depiction of Philip Cunningham, in encounter with Quartermaster Laycock at the Castle Hill rebellion, 1804 [detail]

National Library of Australia, 5577479

Life Summary [details]

Birth

c. 1770
Glenn Liath, Kerry, Ireland

Death

5 March, 1804 (aged ~ 34)
Windsor, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

executed

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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Convict Record

Crime: insurrection
Sentence: death
Commuted To: life
Court: Tipperary (Ireland)
Trial Date: 11 October 1799
(1799)