Distant Irish relatives mourn moonwalker Neil Armstrong
Cathal Magee recalls London meeting with astronaut
Neil Armstrong’s Irish family are quietly mourning the first man to walk on the moon after the death of the American legend.
The astronaut’s relatives in County Fermanagh have paid their own tribute to the history maker.
The moon walker's family have links to both Fermanagh and Tyrone and the astronaut was aware of his Irish heritage.
Distant relative Cathal Magee of Irvinestown told the Irish News in Belfast that he had a ‘brief conversation’ with him in London in 2001 and it was ‘one of the proudest moments of my life’.
A sound engineer by profession, Magee met Armstrong when he was working at a conference.
Magee added: “I was working at the Barbican where a big American company had booked the conference hall for a team-building exercise and they had Neil Armstrong booked in as guest speaker.
“I was aware we had family links to him on my mother’s side.” The paper reports that Cathal’s mother Una McElholm is a grand-daughter of Sarah McElholm and Sarah’s mother was Mary Armstrong from Clogher in Co Tyrone.
Mary married John McSorley from Trillick, Co Tyrone, who had a brother who emigrated to the US. Neil Armstrong was his grandson.
Magee admitted he had to build up the courage to speak to Armstrong at the conference.
He said: “I had spoken to Neil’s wife the night before and told her that I believed my family was related to Neil Armstrong.
“Then the following day I was backstage doing the gig. He had just given an hour-long speech which was fascinating and which I recorded on video.
“When he came up on stage, the crew were egging me on to speak to him so I did and he said his wife had told him about me and that he knew he had relatives in Northern Ireland.
“I had a brief conversation with him. I had a camera in my hand but I was too nervous to ask him to pose for a picture with me.
“It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. He was just the hero he has always been. He was about 70 then. I remember him referring to the people who said the whole Moon landing had been staged.
“He had said he wished they had walked in his boots - they would then know it was true.
“It was a fantastic experience and a great honour to meet and talk with Neil Armstrong, not just because he was related to my family but also for everyone in Fermanagh and Tyrone and of course because he was the first man on the Moon.”
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