With the All-Ireland Rally in the offing and a number of matters arising from the A.G.M. held 11.01.17, the morning was devoted to Club Business. Members were welcomed by President, John McCandless who asked that the best wishes of the club be conveyed to Probians not able to be with us. He had encouraging words for those taking up office for 2017 and who were new to their posts in the Club. Following the roll call, the minutes of the previous meeting were read and adopted. Since here were no matters arising the President reported on a meeting of the Club Committee held on Monday 23.01.17 to address some issues which had arisen at the A.G.M; he was pleased to record that all had been readily resolved. The next business was that of receiving a progress report from the Steering Committee set up to organise the 2017 All-Ireland Probus Rally to be held in the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh 17th – 18th May, hosted by the Probus Clubs of Omagh. Kenneth Collins, Chairman of the Steering Committee, reported on how preparations were being taken forward by a number of sub-committees and Jim McBain, in his capacity as Secretary of the Steering Committee provided an account of arrangements already in place and work to be done over the next four months. However, planning for the Rally was on course, on time and within budget and the prospects for a successful event were excellent.
Following their regular Wednesday meeting in Omagh Golf at which the speaker was Deborah Maxwell, manager of Omagh Leisure Centre, members moved on the “The Grange” for a reception hosted by Mrs Mary Garrity, Chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
At the regular meeting Deborah Maxwell was introduced by President John McCandless who outlined her career from her days as a pupil in Omagh Academy, through the University of Ulster at Jordanstown, employment in Canada before a spell in charge of visitors to Lough Derg. In 2014 she was appointed Manager of Omagh Leisure Centre with the challenge to maximise the benefit of the new £7.5 m extension. In a compelling talk Deborah spoke of the benefits of regular exercise and the myths which are often used to avoid exercise, for example, afraid of doing oneself an injury or claiming to be past it. She quoted several instances of people enjoying and benefiting from regular exercise well into retirement, with many taking up Leisure Centre activities in retirement. Using photographs she illustrated the wide range of activities on offer and the various membership schemes available. Today Omagh Leisure Centre is one of the finest in Northern Ireland, regularly hosting events that draw in visitors and competitors from all over the Province. She was thanked for her talk and congratulated on providing an excellent service to the community by Probian, Jim McBain, himself a regular user of the facilities provided by the Leisure Centre.
At the close of the meeting members made their way to the Grange, where Mrs Mary Garrity hosted a reception in celebration of the Club’s 40th Anniversary. With members of Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club also present Mrs Garrity praised both clubs for providing a focus for retired members of the Professional and Business Community, noting that the Ladies Club would be 25 years in existence in 2017. [The word PROBUS comes from the PRO of Professional and the BUS of Business]. With 135 Probus Clubs in Ireland and thousands worldwide it was, she said, a truly global organisation with the capacity to enrich the lives of many people in many countries. To mark the occasion she unveiled a banner to celebrate the founding of the Omagh Club in 1977 and shared her pleasure that the the Probus Clubs of Omagh had come together to host the 2017 All-Ireland Probus Rally. She welcomed the fact that some 350 delegates from all over Ireland would be coming to Omagh in May 2017, seeing it as opportunity to showcase the town and encourage tourism. To this end she endorsed Council support for the event and accepted an invitation from the organisers to give the Welcome Address at the Rally in the Silverbirch Hotel on Thursday 18th May. Before leaving “The Grange” members were invited to inspect the new Council Chamber where they were properly impressed by the state-of-the-art debating facilities which have been installed to accommodate the new enlarged Council.
Wednesday, 11th January 2017: Annual General Meeting
The Club held its Annual General Meeting in Omagh Golf Club on Wednesday 11th January 2017 with 23 members present. In keeping with custom and practice Vice-President, John McCandless, was elected President for 2017 and received his Chain of Office from out-going President, Paul Gallagher. In his final address to the club Paul thanked all those who had helped in 2016, especially club secretary, Gerry McGonigle. On taking the Chair John McCandless thanked members for electing him as President and congratulated Paddy McGowan on his election as First Vice-President and Oliver Loughran for accepting the position of Second Vice-President. There was some concern when Gerry McGonigle and Sam Bullock declined to be re-elected as Secretary and Treasurer respectively and much relief when Felim O’Neil and Albert Allen allowed their names to go forward in their places. Both were unanimously elected and warmly applauded. Gerry McGonigle accepted the role of Welfare Officer, taking over from David Haddow who had filled this important off office for some time. With other officers happy to say in post for another year, the club is well set for an exciting year in 2017. Arrangements are well advanced for events to mark the Club’s 40th Anniversary and host the All-Ireland Probus Rally in May.
Wednesday 4 January 2017: Rev Donal Bennett: Reflections on New Year
Rev Donal, a native of Omagh, is a missionary priest who spent 40 year in the Philippines before returning to his home town in 2001. In his talk to Probus Rev Donal reminisced about events as people gathered to see in the New Year. He recalled being in the plaza outside his church when the local Governor arrived accompanied by well armed body-guards in two jeeps. As the bells rang out to welcome in the New Year the soldiers celebrated with several bursts of automatic gunfire, making everyone in the square dive for cover. It was during a period when local governors and their militia were virtually a law unto themselves, a time which he hoped had passed but which showed signs of returning in the modern era with summary executions of alleged drug users and traffickers. Seared in his memory is the road traffic accident to which he was called out in the small hours of a New Year’s morning. Six bodies lay strewn across the road, one decapitated by the force of the collision. In early January the Philippines often experience severe weather in the form of typhoons blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. During the years of his ministry many people died in floods on land and in storms at sea as ferries moved between the islands of the archipelago. Yet in the face of loss and suffering Rev Donal found the people to be more willing to look forward than look back, sustained by faith and their own gentleness of character and culture.