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Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham lived from 24 May 1852 to 20 March 1936. He was a socialist politician who became the first president of the Scottish National Party. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Cunninghame Graham was born in London before being brought up on the family estate in Renfrewshire. The eldest son of William Cunninghame Graham Bontine and Anne Elizabeth Elphinstone Fleeming, he was educated at Harrow School in England and in Brussels. He then went to Argentina where he became a successful cattle ranger. In 1877 he married Gabriela, daughter of Don Francisco José de la Balmondieri, and the two travelled extensively together, supposedly becoming friends with Buffalo Bill while in Texas and teaching fencing in Mexico City.
After inheriting the family estate in 1883, Robert returned to the UK where, despite his privileged background, he became a convert to socialism. He stood as a Liberal Party candidate in the constituency of North Lanarkshire in the 1886 General Election, on a ticket that included universal suffrage, home rule for Scotland, the abolition of the House of Lords, free school meals, and widespread nationalisation of industry. He defeated the Unionist Party candidate by 322 votes. He proved to be a radical MP. On 12 September 1887 he was suspended from the house for swearing during a speech. And on 13 November 1887 he was arrested and sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment for his part in a demonstration in Trafalgar Square. He was again suspended from the House of Commons in December 1888.
In 1886 Cunninghame Graham helped establish the Scottish Home Rule Association. He later helped establish the Scottish Labour Party with Keir Hardie and left the Liberals to stand in the Glasgow Camlachie constituency as a Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party candidate in the 1892 general election. He lost, but continued to work behind the scenes in the Labour movement. In 1928 he helped establish the National Party of Scotland and in 1934 was elected the first President of the Scottish National Party.
Throughout his active live, Cunninghame Graham was a prolific writer producing a wide range of titles including history, biography, poetry, essays, politics and travel, as well as seventeen collections of short stories. He died on 20 March 1936 in the Plaza Hotel in Buenos Aires. He was widely mourned in Argentina before his body was returned to be buried beside his wife, who had died in 1906, amid the ruins of Inchmahome Priory on the island of Inchmahome in the Lake of Menteith.