Cunningham, Josias (1819–95), stockbroker, was born 19 January 1819 at Rosemary St., Belfast, eldest son of Barber Cunningham (1787–1841) who was a partner with his brother Josias in the tobacco manufacturing and importing firm of Josias & Barber Cunningham, Belfast, and his wife, Margaret (d. 1835), daughter of David McClure, of Killead, Co. Antrim. His great-grandfather, Thomas Cunningham, had left Scotland during the troubles of 1670 and settled at Crookedstone, near Killead.
Having been educated at RBAI and Belfast College, Cunningham served a business apprenticeship with George Ash and subsequently opened his own account in the flax business and general agency in Donegall St. In 1843 he added share dealing to his business interests and thus became the first stockbroker in Belfast. He was a member of the managing committee of the Association of Belfast Stockbrokers and supplied the Economist with its Belfast reports. He subsequently moved his business to Waring St., and in 1870 he erected a new premises for his stockbroking firm. He also held the oldest account in the Northern Bank and was the first to transact business with the Ulster Bank. The firm celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1993 before being acquired by the Ulster Bank in 1998.
Cunningham was a supporter of Gladstone prior to the latter's conversion to home rule, but thereafter became an ardent unionist. He was a prominent member of the first deputation that went to Scotland to debate the proposed home rule bill.
A staunch presbyterian, Cunningham was a lifelong committee member of the Rosemary St. congregation. The last public meeting in which he took part was the jubilee of the Rev. William Park, over which he was called upon to preside, being the oldest member of the Rosemary St. congregation. He also founded an endowment fund for the poor of his native parish. He died 5 September 1895 at his residence, Glencairn, Ballygomartin, after a long illness.
He married (30 April 1855) Jane Agnes (d. 5 March 1901), daughter of James Davis, solicitor, of Belfast, and Elizabeth Peile; they had four sons and seven daughters. The eldest son, James Cunningham (1857–1924), became a senior partner in the family firm of Josias Cunningham & Co. The third son, Samuel Cunningham (qv), was a partner in the family firm, chairman of the Northern Whig newspaper and of the tobacco firm of Murray Sons & Co., and a member of the NI senate (1921–45). The fourth daughter, Mary Elizabeth Cunningham (1868–1939), FSA (I), was a pioneer of war work in Belfast during the first world war. She was a commandant of the St John's Ambulance Association VAD, founder of the Belfast Free Buffets, and joint-president, honorary treasurer, and secretary of the Welcome Home Fund after the war. In addition, she was a fellow of the RSAI. The youngest daughter, Sarah Catherine (‘Lallie’) Cunningham (1873–1937), also took part in war work: she was appointed quartermaster of St John's Ambulance Association VAD 696 in 1914, and helped to found the Belfast Free Docks Buffet. Mary Elizabeth and Sarah Catherine Cunningham were both made civil CBEs in 1920; both were also life members of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.