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Neil Armstrong’s Go to to Langholm

Neil Armstrong’s Go to to Langholm

2023-12-09 01:22:49

Astonishing although it’s to these of us who keep in mind being allowed to remain up and witness the occasion on tv, on twenty first July 2019 will probably be 50 years for the reason that first moon touchdown. Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module with the phrases “One small step for man, one big leap for mankind” and entered the historical past books as the last word highflyer.

Whereas the world celebrated, one city in Scotland regarded Armstrong’s achievement as a private success story. Langholm, the Muckle Toon, could also be small in measurement however its coronary heart is mighty, and for generations the Armstrong household has performed a pre-eminent position in its story.

Even at present, the customer strolling alongside Langholm Excessive Avenue will encounter people who bear the well-known reiving names of Armstrong, Elliot, Johnstone, Irvine, Maxwell, Beattie and plenty of extra. Fortuitously, these descendants of the fierce warlords of the Anglo-Scottish border now have a good time their ancestry by their sharp wit and keenness for rugby and the Langholm Frequent Using, slightly than raiding the neighbours.

Border reivers
Border reivers using by Gilnockie Tower, from an authentic drawing by G. Cattermole

Probably the most well-known of Neil Armstrong’s forebears was undoubtedly the highly effective and rich Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie Tower, which stands between Langholm and Canonbie. Like most profitable males alongside the border, Johnnie most definitely made his fortune by a mix of truthful means and foul, typically appearing in an official or semi-official capability for the crowns of both England or Scotland – and typically for each! In actual fact, Johnnie was just a little too wealthy and profitable for the younger King James V of Scotland, who drew him to his doom at Carlenrigg in Teviotdale to the north-east of Langholm.

Dressed of their finest and mounted on the best horses, Johnnie and his males have been greeted by the king with the slicing remark: “What desires yon knave {that a} king may lack?” The king was accompanied by an unlimited power of troopers, which far outnumbered the reivers. Johnnie appealed to the king for the lives of himself and his males however his pleas have been rejected. When he realised what was taking place, he spoke out bitterly: “I’m a idiot to ask for grace from a graceless face”. Johnnie and his males have been all hanged.

In 1969, native folks have been nonetheless discussing and singing ballads in regards to the complicated and infrequently acrimonious relationship between authority and the border reivers, simply as they do at present. Nevertheless, all that had develop into a part of a a lot greater historic image. The primary man on the moon was an Armstrong!

Neil Armstrong

The germ of a plan to ask Neil Armstrong to Langholm in all probability started virtually as quickly as he was chosen as commander of the Apollo 11 moon mission. It was clear that “the Moon Man”, as he’s recognized to at the present time within the city, was the plain option to be Langholm’s first created Freeman. This invitation was duly prolonged to him and he accepted.

Eddie Armstrong, Langholm’s City Clerk, and Grace Brown, Depute City Clerk, headed the crew organising the ceremony throughout which Neil Armstrong would obtain the vellum scroll awarding him the liberty of the city. It was greater than a ceremony; it was a homecoming.

In March 1972, Neil Armstrong arrived in Edinburgh to current the distinguished Mountbatten Lecture. From Edinburgh he travelled to Langholm and was overwhelmed by the heat of the welcome that awaited him there. Grace Brown recollects that the most important obtainable constructing was the Parish Church of Langholm, however it was nonetheless not sufficiently big to accommodate everybody who needed to attend.

As a mill city, Langholm’s speciality on the time was high quality woollen fabric. A novel Lunar Tartan was created for the event, a delicate mix of charcoals, browns and light-weight greys to signify the lunar floor, with purple working by to point the flames of the rocket. Langholm is a musical city too and a piper wrote a tune to have a good time the event: Commander Neil Armstrong’s Moonstep.

Pipe bands marched whereas the Muckle Toon was full of folks all hoping to get a glimpse of the Moon Man, and even higher, an autograph. One younger lad stood on the street with a placard spherical his neck that introduced: “My identify is Neil Armstrong”. The worldwide press gathered within the Muckle Toon and Armstrong’s go to was the cue for a lot hilarity amongst reporters over an obscure legislation which stated that any Armstrong getting into the city was to be hanged, by order of the king.

Neil Armstrong and his spouse Janet have been taken from the City Corridor to the Parish Church in a carriage drawn by gray horses. There, in a heat and emotional ceremony, he was awarded the Freedom of Langholm, the city’s first (and solely, up to now) Freeman.

Within the church, Armstrong took the oath of allegiance to the city. It was clearly a shifting second for Armstrong himself, for within the movie taken throughout the ceremony he says, in a voice full of feeling: “It’s stated that probably the most tough place to be recognised is one’s dwelling city; and I take into account this now my dwelling city”. These phrases have in all probability taken on larger fame in Langholm than his celebrated phrases uttered simply after touchdown on the moon!

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Gilnockie Tower
Neil Armstrong wanting throughout the countryside from the highest of Gilnockie Tower.

The scroll that awarded Armstrong his freedom was offered to him in a picket mannequin of Gilnockie Tower, the house of Johnnie Armstrong. Neil Armstrong had the chance to go to the tower whereas in Langholm and he ascended the spiral staircase to look out throughout the borderlands from the walkway that encircled the tower, simply as earlier Armstrongs had performed throughout troubled instances on the border.

On the time of his go to, Gilnockie Tower was an deserted destroy, its roof gone and its inside flooring in a collapsed state. In the present day, Gilnockie has been repaired and is a customer centre welcoming folks from all around the world. The walkway has been secured, so that when extra guests can stand the place each the reiver Johnnie Armstrong and Neil Armstrong the Moon Man stood to survey the borderlands.

Johnnie the warlord, could be ever looking out for threats to his safety, whereas the plaque that Armstrong positioned on the floor of the moon promoted a special message. It learn: “We got here in peace for all mankind”.

This 12 months, a collection of particular occasions in Langholm and at Gilnockie Tower will have a good time the fiftieth anniversary of the moon touchdown, in recognition of the Armstrong who rode to the moon and made it protected hame once more. “Secure oot, protected in”, because the Frequent Using saying has it, for this well-known freeman of Langholm!

Miriam Bibby BA MPhil FSA Scot is a historian, Egyptologist and archaeologist with a particular curiosity in equine historical past. Miriam has labored as a museum curator, college tutorial, editor and heritage administration guide. She is presently finishing her PhD on the College of Glasgow.

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