William John Cunningham, pictured at the rudder with Hawbowline Lighthouse behind. He made a decision to become a Pilot and would eventually become attendant to the lighthouse as well. Both professions would be handed down to his sons and Grandsons.

1916 – Present Day

The name Cunningham has a special connection with the sea that goes back to the 1880’s. In 1894 a published list or registered pilots for Carlingford Bar lists Patrick and William Cunningham as Pilots for the Greenore area. Now in 2011, Cunninghams are still very much at the fore of piloting in Carlingford Lough, but operate from their base at Greencastle, where their different roles on the sea have made them guardians of the Lough, ensuring safety for all those on the water.
Willie John Cunningham, son of Frank started working as a Pilot during the Second World War. He in turn worked with his sons Sean, Christopher, Thomas and Leo in the Pilot Business. Another son Peyton is also a seaman and runs a Sea Angling business. Sister Philomena has also heard the call of the sea and works with Leo on the Pilots boats and does some fishing with Sean. Philomena is named after her Mother, who was born in Magheragh, and greatly enjoyed going out to sea, and joined her husband on some fishing trips.

Two other daughters of Willie John Rosemary and Helen did not go into the family business. Sean has been working as a Pilot for over 40 years, while Leo has also been a Pilot for 26 years. Thomas also holds a pilot licence and works for the Carlingford Lough Commission to maintain the lights and buoys on the Lough.
A cousin of the Pilots, Terry Cunningham is a son of Danny Cunningham and is a well known face around the Harbour as he is one of the net-menders in the area. Terry has spent many years at the harbour, helping the fishermen gather as much in their nets as possible. Terry’s father Danny was a brother of William John and the two worked together in the Pilot business.

Willie John, son of Thomas is also a skiff fisherman, taking part in the great Mourne tradition of herring fishing in September. Also not so prevalent these days, the dedicated locals can still be seen in the small boats at this time of year.
The family bond is unmistakeable and the family connection with the sea is set to continue with Leo’s sons Michael and Paul following him into the business.  Michael spent nearly four years in Glasgow Nautical College gaining his Pilot qualifications. The Cunningham family have a long established connection with the sea which looks set to continue with the continued success of Warrenpoint and Greenore Port. They form another part of this portrait of Mourne’s maritime history which shows them very much as a family of the sea.