Robert Cunninghame Graham


Doughty deeds: an account of the life of Robert Graham, 1735–1797
Biographical subject


Michael Morris has written on Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham's biography of his great great grandfather in 'Don Roberto on Doughty Deeds: or, Slavery and Family History in the Scottish Renaissance', which sets out many of the themes of the Historical Legacies strand.

'My chapter looks at the Cunninghame Graham family's connections with slavery. In 1925, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (known as Don Roberto) published a biography of his ancestor Robert Graham of Gartmore 1735-1797 (known as Doughty Deeds) who was a slave owner in Jamaica. He was involved in putting down Tacky's Rebellion (1760); he married Annie Taylor, sister of Simon Taylor- 'the richest man in the British empire'; he was also close to Tobias Smollett and Hector MacNeill before returning to his estates in Scotland 'with several West Indian negroes'.

This chapter seeks to improve our understanding of what happened to slavery in Scottish national memory, in particular amongst writers on the left, in the crucial period around the Scottish Renaissance of the 1920s. In particular, it considers the dual role of the genre of family history, reading Doughty Deeds alongside Tom Johnston’s subversive Our Scots Noble Families (1909). Slavery is present yet absent, constantly being turned up only to be re-buried again. In the current context of calls for social and cultural, as well as financial, reparations for slavery, it is now a key task for Scottish cultural studies to engage the buried potential of such accounts and develop a fuller critical discussion.'

Further Information

Robert Bontine Cunnighame Graham