George Cunningham (civil servant)

Sir George Cunningham
1st Governor of North-West Frontier Province
In office
14 August 1947  8 April 1948
Monarch George VI
Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Preceded by None (office created)
Succeeded by Ambrose Flux Dundas
George Cunningham
Date of birth (1888-03-23)23 March 1888
Place of birth Broughty Ferry, Scotland
Date of death 8 December 1963(1963-12-08) (aged 75)
Place of death West Byfleet, England
School Fettes College
University Oxford University
Rugby union career
Position(s) Fly-half
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1907 - 1909
1909 - ?
Oxford University RFC
London Scottish F.C.
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1908-1909 Scotland 8 (11)

Sir George Cunningham GCIE KCSI OBE (23 March 1888 – 8 December 1963)[1] was an administrator in British India who in his early years was a notable sportsperson, representing and later captaining the Scottish national team at rugby union.

Rugby career

Cunningham came to note as a rugby player when he played for Oxford University RFC while a student. He was selected for the 1907 Varsity Match against Cambridge, winning the first of three sporting caps. Cunningham played at half-back, partnering Rupert Williamson, and the agilty and quick thinking of both players allowed the good scrummaging play by Oxford to release the backs. Oxford won, scoring five tries to nil.[2] The next year Cunningham was selected for the Scottish national team, and played in the 1908 Home Nations Championship whilst still a student at Oxford. His first cap was an away game to Wales at Swansea. Partnered with Louis Greig in his favoured half-back position, Cunningham ended on the losing side after a narrow 6-5 win by the Welsh. The Scottish selectors kept faith with Cunningham and Greig for the next game of the campaign, against Ireland, but both men were dropped for the final game of the tournament after a second loss.

Although out of favour with the Scottish team, Cunningham was back in the Oxford University team in the 1908 Varsity Match. Partnered again with Williamson, who was also made an international in 1908, after being selected for England. Cunningham and Williamson had another excellent game, and Cunningham set up Oxford's only try after he drew out the defence to allow Martin to score.[3]

The next season Cunningham was back in the Scotland team and played in the first game of the 1909 Home Nations Championship, again facing Wales. Cunningham scored his first international points in the game against Wales, with a penalty goal. This score was the only points for Scotland that game, and they lost 3-5. Cunningham missed the next game to Ireland, but was back in the team for the final game of the Championship, his first Calcutta Cup encounter with England. Cunningham was given the Scotland captaincy for the England match, and he spearheaded the Scotland team to a convincing win.[4] During the England game, Cunningham converted three of the four Scottish tries. At the end of the year, Cunningham played in his final Varsity Game for Oxford. In the build-up to the match Oxford were on good form, losing just three matches, and it was noted that Cunningham was absent from the side in each of these loses.[5] The Varsity Game was an extremely heavy win for Oxford, and was known as "Poulton's Match", after Ronald Poulton who scored five of Oxfords' nine tries.[6]

Cunningham retained the captaincy of Scotland for the 1910 Championship, which was now known as the Five Nations Championship with the inclusion of France. Cunningham led the team in a win over France, but then was unavailable against Wales. When he returned for the Ireland game, he led his country for the third time and his third win as captain. His winning streak was broken by his final captaincy match, the final game of the 1910 campaign, against England. Cunningham played just one more match for Scotland, now playing club rugby for London Scottish, a loss to England in 1911. No longer captain, Cunningham was moved to centre, and despite one final conversion for his team, he never represented his country again.

Civil service career

Cunningham joined the Indian Civil Service in 1911 and was appointed an OBE in 1921 and a KCIE in 1935. Cunningham served as governor of the North-West Frontier Province three times, twice during the British Raj[7] and once after the creation of Pakistan. He was appointed a GCIE in 1945.[8]


  • Griffiths, John (1987). The Phoenix Book of International Rugby Records. London: Phoenix House. ISBN 0-460-07003-7. 
  • Marshall, Howard; Jordon, J.P. (1951). Oxford v Cambridge, The Story of the University Rugby Match. London: Clerke & Cockeran. 


  1. George Cunningham
  2. Marshall (1951), pg 121-123.
  3. Marshall (1951), pg 125.
  4. Griffiths (1987), pg 2:16.
  5. Marshall (1951), pg 126.
  6. Marshall (1951), pg 129-130.
  7. Provinces of British India
  8. Provinces of Pakistan since 1947
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Ralph Edwin Hotchkin Griffith
Governor of the North-West Frontier Province
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Edward Broadbent Parsons
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Edward Broadbent Parsons
2nd term
Succeeded by
Sir Olaf Kirkpatrick Caroe
Preceded by
Sir Robert Lockhart
3rd term
Succeeded by
Sir Ambrose Dundas Flux Dundas
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