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10 famous people with Irish family roots in Ulster

Graham Norton, with family roots in xxx (Picture: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Graham Norton has family roots in Ulster (Picture: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

THE Ulster Historical Foundation, established in 1956, has helped thousands of people trace their roots, including Graham Norton and Linda Martin, as well as famous astronauts and US Presidents.

Many notable figures drawn from a wide spectrum of society worldwide have their roots in Ulster from the northerly tip of Donegal to the southerly reaches of Co. Cavan — and all points in between.

We look at 10 of them:

Graham Norton

One of the highest-paid television celebrities in Britain, Norton was born in Dublin and raised in Cork. His father was from Co. Wicklow, his mother from Belfast.

 Linda Martin pictured at the HB Ice Cream 98FM Big Slide Home at Christchurch, Dublin, (Picture: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)
Linda Martin pictured at the HB Ice Cream 98FM Big Slide Home at Christchurch, Dublin, (Picture: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Linda Martin

A Eurovision Song Contest winner in 1992, Linda Martin has gone on to become a successful television presenter.

She is of Italian, Scottish and Irish ancestry.

The family name was originally Martini, and their journey from Milan to Ireland was via Dublin.

Martin’s maternal great-grandparents, William Green and Elizabeth Nangle came from a coal-mining background in Lanark, west Scotland. They emigrated to Belfast.

President George W. Bush — strong roots in Ulster (Picture: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
President George W. Bush has strong roots in Ulster (Picture: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Bush boys

The two Georges have roots in Northern Ireland – Co. Antrim and Co. Down.

William Gault, an ancestor on the Bush mother’s side was most likely born near Cullybackey in Co. Antrim, while another forebear is believed to have come from Rathfriland in Co. Down.

At any rate, William Gault along with his wife Margaret, emigrated and became settlers in Tennessee by 1796, the year that Tennessee became a state.

Some two centuries later two of their descendants achieved the unique feat of being the only father and son to serve as US Presidents.

Sir John Black of the Standard Motor Co at the wheel of a new Ferguson farm tractor, beside inventor Harry Ferguson. (Picture: J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Sir John Black of the Standard Motor Co at the wheel of a Ferguson farm tractor beside inventor Harry Ferguson. (Picture: J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Harry Ferguson

The ubiquitous grey tractors seen around the world are the brainchild of Harry Ferguson from Dromore in mid-Down.

This is an area famous for its drumlins, and these fields helped Ferguson usher in the technology which changed farming for ever.

A simple hitch system was required in restricted areas to make the tractor and its plough (or harrow etc) more manoeuvrable.

Ferguson’s invention was the forerunner of all subsequent tractor systems throughout the world, and in Europe heralded the slow decline of the working horse.

The landscape would never be the same again – although there is some irony in the fact that that Mid Down’s landscape, Ferguson’s homeland, has changed less than most.

Anne Robinson who has roots in mid-Ulster (Picture: Fergus McDonald/Getty Images)
Anne Robinson’s family roots lie in mid-Ulster (Picture: Fergus McDonald/Getty Images)

Anne Robinson

Quiz show host, TV presenter and personality Anne Robinson was born in Crosby, Lancashire and attended the Catholic convent boarding school Farnborough Hill.

Her mother, Anne Josephine (née Wilson), was from Co. Fermanagh.

Ms. Wilson inherited the family market stall in Liverpool and built it up into one of the largest wholesale poultry businesses in England.

Bill Clinton, one of the many US presidents with Irish roots (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
Bill Clinton, one of the many US presidents with Irish roots (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton has always been something of a Hibernophile – aside from personally intervening in the peace talks in Northern Ireland, he is reputed to have  learned to play the tin whistle.

He appears to be a relative of Lucas Cassidy, who left Co. Fermanagh for America around 1750.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong was aware of his Fermanagh / Tyrone roots (Picture: NASA/Newsmakers)
Astronaut Neil Armstrong was proud of his Fermanagh/Tyrone roots (Picture: NASA/Newsmakers)

Neil Armstrong

Like Bill Clinton, the first man on the moon could boast roots in Co. Fermanagh — as well as in Co. Tyrone.

Armstrong was aware of his family ties to the Magees from Irvinestown and the McIlholms of Clogher.

Astronaut Jim Irwin exploring the moon. (Picture: Keystone/Getty Images)
Astronaut Jim Irwin exploring the moon. (Picture: Keystone/Getty Images)

Colonel Jim Irwin

The Ulster Historical Foundation traced the family roots of Jim Irwin to Pomeroy.

Irwin was Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 15, the fourth human lunar landing.

President Richard Nixon pictured with Elvis Presley, 1970 at the White House. (Picture: National Archive/Newsmakers)
President Richard Nixon pictured with Elvis Presley, 1970 (Picture: National Archive/Newsmakers)

Richard Millhouse Nixon

The 37th US President had Irish connections on both sides of his family.

His Nixon ancestors left Co. Antrim for America around 1753, while the Millhouses came from Carrickfergus and Ballymoney, also in Co. Antrim.

Richard Nixon was a Quaker and his wife Thelma Catherine ‘Pat’ Ryan had Irish Catholic family connections.

Derry man William Massey was Prime Minister of New Zealand (Picture: US Library of Congress - Public Domain)
Derry man William Massey was Prime Minister of New Zealand (Picture: US Library of Congress – Public Domain)

William Massey

Bill Massey, who was born in Limavady, Co. Antrim, was the 19th Prime Minister of New Zealand, from 1912 to 1925.

He was also the founder of the Reform Party.

He is the second-longest-serving Prime Minister of New Zealand.

For further details about the Ulster Historical Foundation click here.

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Mal Rogers
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Mal Rogers is a columnist and reporter with The Irish Post

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