Our Covid Story

Probus Magazine Contribution:  The piece below was submitted to the editor of PROBUS MAGAZINE on Wed 7 October for publication in a forthcoming edition.

Omagh Men’s Probus Club suspended all meetings and activities when the country went into lockdown at the end of March.  There is little doubt that members miss their weekly meetings in the Golf Club – not that anything very much ever happened beyond the enjoyment of each other’s company and occasional talks from visiting speakers. The club always had a “Telephone Tree” with which to get out urgent messages to members.   During the lockdown the telephone tree became a “Pals List”, with each member placed in a group with 4 – 6 others, the requirement that members of each group would stay closely in touch with each other. Our President, Michael Cooney, has taken an active interest in the activities of each group, sharing news via e-mail and the club website.

By these means the club has been able to keep in touch with its members to ensure that those who required help were being supported by family, friends and the wider community. Social contact between “Probians” was given an added dimension in June when the club started to hold ZOOM Meetings.  [See photo below].  These were held at the hour of Probus, being 10.30 am on Wednesday mornings and were open to all.   Members were encouraged to download Zoom and install it on their computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.  For some it was their first encounter with social media and all who were new to the medium were surprised by how easy it was.  Regular “zoomers” include 102-year-old Bob Lingwood, always keen to tell us about the fortunes of his beloved Chelsea Football Club.

Zoom has provided opportunities to begin planning for a resumption of activities when conditions improve, and the future looks brighter.   In the meantime, our Telephone Tree and Pals List ensures that no-one ever feels cut off from their Probus friends.

Club ZOOM Meeting 7 October 2020 with 12 members present.

 

Vincent Brogan: 19th Century

Meeting of Wednesday 4 March 2020
Speaker Vincent Brogan: Topic – “19th Century Omagh”

[L – R] Probus President, Michael Cooney, Vincent Brogan, Club Secretary, Alastair Orr
Vincent began by referencing a plantation map made in 1610 which clearly showed Market Street and the Road to Dublin. He recounted key events in the development of the town including the building of churches, the Courthouse and the Jail.   His first slide was a semi-comical postcard showing a horse kicking off a policeman’s helmet outside the police station where Curran’s Opticians now stands. The Pigot Directory of 1824 lists all the businesses and buildings in the town and records that coaches ran three times a week to Dublin. Members were amused to learn that in 1840 Omagh had 34 pubs for a population of 3000.

Vincent elaborated on the development of Omagh as a garrison town in the 19th century for the Royal Tyrone Fusiliers and later the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers.  The population of Tyrone fell dramatically from 1841 to 1901 but the population of Omagh town grew as people moved into the town for work. The arrival of the railways enabled people, goods and animals to be transported more easily and Vincent with the aid of postcards spoke of the development of hotels in Omagh and places of entertainment such as the Ulster Hall. He informed members that maps of old Omagh were available on the PRONI website to download free of charge.

Vincent was thanked by Probian John McCandless for a detailed and informative talk that was much appreciated by members.

Social Services 10.02.20

Meeting of Wednesday 19 February 2020
Speakers: Shauna Patterson and Tom Flanaghan from Social Services
Topic: Social Services and Assistance for the Elderly – both practical and financial.

[L – R] Probus Vice-President, Hugh Ward, Shauna Patterson, Tom Flanaghan

Shauna spoke on the practical elements of elderly care stating that after a person is referred to Social Services, usually by a GP, an assessment is made to determine what is required, e.g. occupational therapy or some other form of support.   The individual has an element of choice in this and the options include respite care.   Mr Flanaghan explained the financial aspects of residential care on a long-term basis. Income in excess of £14,250 and /or assets over £23,500 mean that the costs may have to be met either wholly or in part by the patient.   A patient in permanent residential care may well lose out on some pre-existing benefits such as attendance allowance.   Where the patient is the owner of property the Health Care Trust may apply to have a charge registered over the property.   Mr Flanaghan strongly recommended that all those with assets and next of kin should take out an “Enduring Power of Attorney” to help avoid some of the problems which can arise in such circumstances. The team dealt with several questions from members and received praise from those who had first-hand experience of the services that were available to elderly people in the community.

In-house Quiz

Meeting of Wednesday 12 February 2020
In-House Quiz

Members participating in the In-House Quiz

At the Annual General Meeting in January the challenge of getting a different speaker each Wednesday was acknowledged and ready agreement reached that the Club should make more use of its own reserves of talent. In this field the President had led by example and prepared a quiz for the members. Five teams were quickly formed, with Hugh and Jim acting as scorers. President Michael then directed each team to give itself a name and the following titles emerged from the creative imaginations of the participants. The teams were Rainey’s Rascals, Bob’s Thickies, The Corner Boys, The Four J’s and The Town and Country team. After 6 rounds during which Probians looked alternately smug and mystified Rainey’s Rascals emerged as winners, just ahead of The Four J’s who were closely followed by Bob’s Thickies. President Michael’s teasers included – the opening lines of classical novels, Irish Folk songs, Food and Drink, Famous Faces, Geography and the Birth Names of stars of screen and stage. Whether or not members want more of the same remains a moot question but while it lasted it was good fun.

Women’s Aid, Omagh

Meeting of Wednesday 5 February 2020
Speaker: Ms Edel Fox Topic Women’s Aid

[L – R] Edel Fox, Senior Manager, Wonen’s Aid, Omagh, Oliver Loughran Probus President 2019, Tanya Barr. Admin Assistant, WA

The president welcomed Ms Fox, in attendance to receive a cheque from Oliver Loughran who had identified “Women’s Aid” as his nominated Charity for the proceeds of the raffle held at the Christmas Dinner. Edel thanked the club for its generosity and gave a most informative talk about the work of the charity in Omagh.   Based in Holmview Terrace Women’s Aid provides a range of confidential services for women and children experiencing domestic violence.   Domestic Violence is defined as “the intentional and persistent physical, emotional sexual or mental abuse of one person by another where they are, or have been, intimate partners or family members”.   The services provided by Omagh Women’s Aid include places of refuge, court appearances, accommodation, community-based support and children’s and young people’s services. The statistics which Edel quoted both surprised and appalled club members. There are presently over 2000 children in the Child Protection Register in Northern Ireland. The PSNI receives reports of Domestic Violence incidents on average 70 times a day while the Women’s Aid Helpline took over 25,000 calls in 2017 -18.  These, and other worrying statistics about the number of women and children living in refuge centres generated many questions about the underlying causes of Domestic Violence and ways to address an oft-hidden blight sadly pervasive in all walks of modern life.

Hugh Ward: Genealogy

Meeting of Wednesday 29 January 2020
Speaker: Probian Vice-President, Hugh Ward Topic: Genealogy

Vice-President, Hugh Ward [left] with Club Secretary, Alastair Orr

Over the years Hugh has become quite knowledgeable about researching the information needed to construct a family tree.  While most people can name the parents and grandparents typically things become murky when researching great grandparents and their parents.  For those whose forebears were born and raised in Ireland the website www.irishgenealogy.ie is an excellent starting point.  Its records include all registered births from 1864 – 1919, all marriages from 1864 – 1919 and all deaths from 1864 to 1969. To illustrate he logged on to Irish Genealogy via the Golf Club’s wi-fi network and opened up files containing civil records.   However in the midst of his demonstration the system crashed and Hugh was forced to continue with verbal descriptions of how to proceed.   Church records, he said, are worth investigating but are often incomplete because of poor book-keeping in the 19th Century.   He warned that it was quite usual for the spelling of surnames to vary over time – as with McCullough, McCullagh and McCulla.   The Griffith Valuation undertaken after the famine 1864 – 65 records the names of all persons resident in Ireland parish by parish, and district by district and is often a fruitful line of inquiry. Many questions brought this interesting session to a close.

Leisure Centre Meeting

Meeting of Wednesday 22 January 2020

Probians present on Wednesday 22 January at the Leisure Centre
At the previous meeting on Wednesday 15th in the Golf Club it was announced that the next meeting on Wednesday 22nd would be in the Leisure Centre to participate in an event organised by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.   The speaker, Mrs Eva Clarke, born in Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria, on 29th April 1945, was to share her own personal story of the Holocaust and explore issues linked to prejudice, discrimination and the effects on society if hatred is not challenged.   Unfortunately, Mrs Clarke was taken ill and the event cancelled at the last minute with not enough time to get the word out.   And so it was that when members turned up at the Leisure Centre it was to be told that the session would go ahead but take the form of a business meeting.   Up-dated membership lists were distributed, and a useful discussion ensued about the club “Telephone Tree” and a revised approach to receiving welfare reports.   In preparation for the next meeting  Vice-President, Hugh Ward, handed out templates for the building of Family Trees, explaining that on Wednesday 29th he would demonstrate the use the internet for researching family history. He also announced the start of a project to publish a book about members childhood memories of growing up in Tyrone.

Omagh Men’s Probus Club A.G.M. 2020

Meeting of Wednesday 15 January 2020
Annual General Meeting

Club Officers 2020  Front row [L – R] Hugh Ward, 2nd Vice-President, Michael Cooney, President 2020, Oliver Loughran, Past President;   Back Row [L – R] Alastair, Orr, Secretary, Sam Bullock, Treasurer, Albert Allen Assistant Treasurer. ,

Omagh Men’s Probus Club held its Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 15 January in Omagh Golf Club with 23 Probians present.   Members were welcomed by Oliver Loughran who conducted the business of his last meeting as President with his usual efficiency and good-humour. After the minutes of the 2019 AGM had been read, club Treasurer, Albert Allen, presented his accounts for the calendar year 2019: these showed a healthy balance, obviating the need for any increase in the annual subscription.   The secretary’s report, delivered by Alastair Orr, took the form of a review of the year, highlighting significant events such as the Inter-Club Quiz in April and the Christmas Luncheon.
Out-going President, Oliver Loughran, offered sincere thanks to all who had supported him during his year in office before placing the Presidential Chain on the shoulders of Michael Cooney and inviting him to take the chair and conduct the election of officers for 2020. Hugh Ward was confirmed as 1st Vice-President and Felim O’Neill elected as 2nd Vice-President, which means the club can look forward with confidence to the next three years; Hugh will follow Michael into the Chair in 2021 and Felim in 2022.

 

Men’s Probus New Year Message

Meeting of Wednesday 8 January 2020
Speaker: Rev Eleanor Hayden Topic “New Year Message”

Probus President, Oliver Loughran with Rev Eleanor Hayden

Rev Eleanor was welcomed by Club President, Oliver Loughran, and thanked for coming at very short notice after Rev Sean Hanily had apologised on Monday for his inability to come and bring members a New Year Message.  In her capacity as minister of Omagh Methodist Church and an active member of Omagh Churches’ Forum, Rev Eleanor is well known and widely respected in the community.   She began by referring to the New Year message from the Right Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, who challenged people in 2020 to reach out to those around them – to people we often fail to notice in the daily round, such as the shop assistant, the person in the queue at the Post Office, the elderly person alone in the café.   She echoed his call for re-engagement with those around us and shared his view that a phone call, a text or a letter could be a changing factor in the life of some alone and lonely.   Reading from St Matthew’s gospel Rev Eleanor illustrated how Jesus reached out to the friendless as he passed along.   Jesus may have said to his disciples “Follow me” but to the rest of us he says, “Let me journey with you”.   Her message to members was simple; we are all journeying through life and as we pass along, we have opportunities to engage with those around us in ways which say, “You are important – you are not alone.”