Dr. Archibald “Ian” Cunningham was born in Welland, Ontario on the 17th of December, 1929. Dr. Cunningham’s parents were John Cunningham and the former Esther Elizabeth Gordon Figgins and he had a brother named David Cunningham.
Dr. Cunningham graduated from The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1953. He spent 5 years in the Bhil field of India. Dr. Cunningham returned to Canada and he earned a diploma in Public Health.
Dr. Cunningham married Irene Williams in July of 1954. Mrs. Cunningham was born in Tack’s Beach, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in 1929. By the time she was 16 years old she was teaching school. She went on to nursing school in St. John’s, Newfoundland and after completing her training she joined the navy as a nurse. Mrs. Cunningham obtained her teaching certificate at the University of Toronto and Dr. and Mrs. Cunningham were married a short time later. She accompanied her husband to India where Dr. Cunningham ran the hospital in the Bhil field. Mrs. Cunningham was instrumental in the development of the school of nursing in Jobat, India. After returning to Canada she continued to teach nursing.
Dr. and Mrs. Cunningham had 3 children; Sheila, Robert and Catherine.
Dr. Cunningham was appointed as the Medical Officer of Health for the County of Kent in 1962. Dr. Cunningham was particularly interested in making the schools in Chatham-Kent safe for the pupils and the staff. Dr. Cunningham inspected 174 county schools in 1963. He submitted a report that the county schools had more safety concerns than the schools in urban areas of Chatham-Kent. He noted that half of the county schools had unsafe and/or unhygienic conditions that required immediate attention. Of particular concern was the sad condition of the water quality at a few of the schools. Some of the water samples showed traces of sewage and he noted that 5 schools still had outdoor privies. Approximately 35% of the county schools did not have a second exit in the case of an emergency. School boards across the county were forced to make significant improvements to provide safe learning environments. Discussions soon followed about centralizing schools. In December of 1964, the 134 school boards in Chatham-Kent transitioned to 10 township school boards. Soon new schools were under construction and the way of the one-room schoolhouse would soon become a distant memory.
While living in Chatham, Dr. and Mrs. Cunningham resided on Detroit Drive.
After he left Chatham in 1965, Dr. Cunningham served as the Medical Officer of Health in St. Catharines, Hamilton and Brantford.
Dr. Cunningham died on the 6th of January, 2012. His memorial service was held in Ottawa. Mrs. Cunningham died on the 21st of November, 2020.