ON THIS week just over 50 years ago the people of Fermanagh gathered around their TV sets to watch one of their own take “a giant step for mankind.”
It’s been joked by comedians in the past that when astronaut Neil Armstrong came to Ireland people would ask him “are you one of the Fermanagh Armstrongs?”.
The thing is, the Apollo 11 commander, who took mankind’s first step on the moon on July 20 1969, was indeed a Fermanagh Armstrong!
According to local historian John Cunningham, who has written about Fermanagh’s space connections, Commander Armstrong’s local family ties are stronger than you might think.
“[The Armstrongs] came from Scotland to Ireland, came to Fermanagh, and among their decedents was Robert Armstrong of Lisnaskea, a brother of the grandfather of Neil Armstrong,” Mr Cunningham wrote. “In addition to Lisnaskea, he also has Irvinestown ancestors.”
Commander Armstrong isn’t the county’s only connection to space, either, with Fermanagh able to claim two other astronauts as its own – Christa McAuliffe (nee Corrigan) and Christopher Cassidy.
Sadly, Mrs McAuliffe, who had been a school teacher and captured the world’s imagination when she was selected for the ill fated Challenger mission, was killed along with seven crew members when the shuttle exploded shortly after take off on January 28 1986.
Mr Cunningham said Fermanagh could claim the former Ms Corrigan given the origin of her family name.
“The name Corrigan is a Fermanagh name centred to the south and east of Enniskillen, from whom all Corrigans in the world take their name,” he said. “If you are a Corrigan anywhere, you originate in Fermanagh.”
Finally, NASA astronaut Captain Christopher Cassidy, who has been in space on numerous occasions and was the chief of the astronaut office at Nasa from July 2015 until June 2017, is also a Fermanagh man. According to Mr Cunningham Captain Cassidy, who was the 500th person in space, is a Fermanagh Cassidy.
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