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Towns bond over shared astronaut link

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Towns bond over shared astronaut link

AN official kinship has been formed between Langholm and the American city of Wapakoneta.

It has taken five years of discussion between dignitaries in the Muckle Toon burgh and their counterparts in Ohio but the link has now been formalised.

And the two communities have come together to celebrate their joint connection with Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

On Monday evening, Steve Henderson, past mayor of Wapakoneta presented a Proclamation of Kinship to his successor, Dan Lee, while on the other side of the Atlantic, John Galloway, chair of Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk Community Council, did similarly to his fellow councillors.

The framed Proclamation marks ‘A day establishing a Kinship Connection between the Wapakoneta, Ohio area and the region surrounding the Burgh of Langholm, Scotland via the accomplishments of Neil Armstrong the first human to walk on the moon’ and is dated December 4 2023.

Steve said: “Today’s Proclamation of Kinship with Langholm is a statement of intent by both communities to exchange and support our cultural, educational and economic heritage. “The next step is for Langholm and Wapakoneta to engage with their respective communities and each to form their own kinship committee.”

John Galloway added: “Over the summer I expect there will be a lot of Zoom calls and discussions on how best to take the project forward, but the outcome should be a commitment to get to know each other better and explore the opportunities for exchanges and collaborations which this opportunity provides.

“We look forward to our first kinship visit to Wapakoneta and then to reciprocate and provide our friends from Wapakoneta with a true Muckle Toon welcome.”

The Kinship idea was originally put forward following Neil Armstrong’s visit to Langholm in 1972 but little happened until Greg Myers, from Wapakoneta, took the initiative in 2018.

Covid put discussions on hold and real progress was only made following the visit of Neil’s sons in September 2022. One of the organisers of that trip, Laura Jean Marquis from Nashville, was encouraged to use her Armstrong connections to kickstart discussions and get this agreement over the line.

Laura Jean said: “It’s wonderful to see international connections like this develop and foster lasting friendships through cultural exchanges. “Neil was so proud of both Wapakoneta and Langholm and he would have been delighted to see his two favourite communities coming together like this.”

Wapakoneta is the home town of the celebrated astronaut, who was born on his grandparents’ farm nearby in Washington Township. It is also the location of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum.

In 1972 Neil was made the first and only Freeman of Langholm which he also acknowledged as his Scottish home town.

Commenting on the new relationship, Councillor Denis Male this week said: “In Langholm, we are very proud of our connections with Neil Armstrong and welcome the opportunity to find out more about the culture, heritage and traditions of Wapakoneta, his other home town.

“Exchange visits will be a key feature of the kinship and our young people can be its main beneficiary.

“These visits can cover many areas of common interest – culture, heritage, the environment, education and young people, sport, arts, business, even jobs, the list goes on. “

However, I do wonder what our American visitors will make of Langholm Common Riding!”

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