Visit to Tara Centre, Omagh

Wednesday 29 November 2017: Visit to the Tara Centre, Omagh

John at Tara
Probus President, John McCandless with Sister Mary Daly [left] and Sister Maura Twohig. founders of the Tara Centre

On arrival members were treated to tea, coffee and scones in the dining room before moving into the Conference Room for the club’s regular meeting.   Business was conducted briskly to allow President John to introduce with minimal delay Sister Maura Twohig and Sister Maura Daly, co-founders of the Tara Centre.   Over the next hour they shared their story, relating how in 1996 on their return from study in Chicago they felt called to open a centre to provide counselling services for the people of Omagh.  Supported by their respective Religious Orders they were able to purchase 11 Holmview Terrace which, in the years since, has been extended by the acquistion of neighbouring properties.  The centre now comprises a suite of rooms and offices providing flexible accommodation for a wide variety of services including counselling/psychotherapy, art therapy, complementary therapies. meditation, life-enhancing workshops, yoga and support groups.

The founding vision was inspired by a holistic philosophy of life which cherishes a sense of the sacred in all aspects of life and seeks to build a society where diversity can be experienced as enrichment and pain can be engaged with as the raw material of deep personal transformation. Testimonials abound to the fact that at the Tara Centre peoples often find a new direction for their lives.   To learn more of what the Centre has done, is doing and its hopes for the future, drop in or visit their website


Mr Laurence Smith, Oilfield Engineer

Wednesday 22 November 2017,  Mr Laurence Smith, Oilfield Engineer

Larry and John
Probus President, John McCandless with guest speaker Laurence Smith.

Mr Smith began by describing his early career as an apprentice in Harland Wolf before joining British Steel in 1985 at a time when new oil platforms were being constructed in the North Sea. He recalled the gas “blowout” on the Ecofisk Field and how experience gained in controlling the resultant flare proved invaluable in extinguishing the fires in Kuwait following the first Gulf War. In 1978 he joined Solus Schall in the Middle East where his first job was the construction of 3 offshore Natural Gas Liquefaction complexes in Qatar. He stayed with this company until 2001 during which time he worked on numerous projects acquiring managerial responsibility for testing and quality control. The risks involved in pumping liquefied natural gas under high pressure from source to ship meant no compromise was ever made regarding the safety of personnel and equipment. In 2009 he joined the French petroleum giant Total and was posted to Nigeria where he was confronted by corruption at all levels in the oil construction industry. From 2010 – 2015 he was based in Yemen where a deteriorating security situation made the hazards of working on desert pipelines even more hazardous. Eventually it became too dangerous and the company was forced to evacuate its work force at short notice. Now retired and living in Kesh he has no objection  to fracking, satisfied that gas can be safely and profitably exploited in Fermanagh. Throughout Mr Smith enlivened his talk with entertaining anecdotes about his working life as an oilfield engineer.  A vote of thanks for his engaging talk was proposed by Probian Alex Cameron.

Bob Lingwood: Shoemaking

Tuesday 14 November 2017: Bob Lingwood:  Shoe-making

Bob Lingwood
Bob Lingwood, in his 100th year is still an active member of Omagh Probus Club

Probus member, Bob Lingwood, explained that the main part of his talk was a recording of a BBC 2 Programme “Inside the Factory”. It was both entertaining and informative and covered the manufacture of sports footwear, dance shoes, and lightweight flexible shoes with a fashion element for everyday wear.   Companies involved were Joe Foster & Sons, [Bolton], Reebok, New Balance [a USA based company], and Frederick Freed, [a London based company] making ballet dance shoes. Finally, the programme illustrated the education and training of shoe designers at Cordwainers’ Technical College in London. The story covered the development of the industry from cottage home based shoe-making to a factory production, comprising high tech machines controlled by computerised systems involving high capital expenditure.

After the film presentation, Bob gave a brief outline of his sixty years work experience in the industry and his involvement with various units shown in the film. After leaving state school at 14 years of age he enrolled at Cordwainers’ College for a two-year course on shoemaking which covered everything from foot measurement to completed footwear. On completion his first assignment was  with Frederick Freed, London based Dance Shoe [Ballet] Maker. In later years his own company Tyrone Shoes Omagh produced high tech parts for New Balance, based in Tralee, Ireland and Cumbria, England. After “retiring” at the of age 70, he worked on for a further five years with Reebok, employed as a Technical Consultant in production units worldwide.

Claire McElhinney: “Tell them of us”

Wednesday, 8 November 2017:  Claire McElhinney:  “Tell Them of Us”

Claire John Amanda
[L – R] Claire McElhinney, Probus President, John McCandless and Amanda Porter

Claire’s talk, entitled “Tell Them of Us”, was about about her grandmother’s service as a nurse in France during the First World War.   In March 1914 Miss Edith Harkness from Plumbridge joined the Nursing Corps of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Formed in 1913  by the time war was declared on 4 August 1914 the UVF Nursing Corps numbered some 5000 persons.  When the call went out for nurses to serve the war effort Edith volunteered to go to France and was posted to a French military hospital in Pau where her ability to understand French served her well.  In the early days of the war wounded soldiers were transported 600 miles from the Western Front to Pau [near the Spanish Border] but as casualties mounted in 1916 the Ulster Volunteer Hospital moved to Lyons in order to be closer to the action.   Following the Battle of the Somme the British army began to evacuate its wounded back to England and put out an urgent call for nurses.  With her operational experience Edith was promptly recruited and spent the reminder of the war in a large military hospital in Ripon in Yorkshire.   On her return to Plumbridge she married Walter McFarlane and together they reared a family of eight children, one of the girls being Claire’s mother.   Claire was thanked by World War II veteran Bob Linwood who included in his remarks appreciation to Amanda Porter for showing the slides with which Claire illustrated her talk.

New Committee at Ladies Probus

new president
Audrey Hodge presents incoming President Val Burch with Omagh Ladies Probus chain of office

Guest Speaker Tiernach Mahon, Red Cross Neighbourhood Links Manager

After welcoming members to the Annual General Meeting, President Audrey Hodge gave an update on both recent events and planned forthcoming activities.

Concluding club business for the year, she thanked the outgoing committee and members for their work and support during her term of office, before welcoming John Robson, Rotary Liason Officer, to preside over the election of officers for 2017/2018.

Under his stewardship, a new committee was elected as follows: Val Burch (President), Zoe Reid (Vice President) Audrey Hodge (Past President) Pamela McClelland, Marjorie Greening, Pauline O’Hagan, Ann Orr, Lisa Bullick, Frances Beattie and Margaret Scott.

After refreshments, members were introduced to guest speaker Tiernach Mahon, Red Cross Neighourhood Links Manager.

Tiernach’s informative talk, supported by a Powerpoint presentation and interspersed with examples of real human need situations, expanded everyone’s understanding of the tremendous scale of humanitarian work being done by this organization throughout the world.

Commencing with a short introduction to the early origins of Red Cross and its vision of a world where everyone gets the help they need in a crisis, Tiernach shared the organization’s seven fundamental principles including humanity, impartiality and neutrality and interesting information of their life changing involvement in large scale relief projects being carried out throughout the world at present.

On a local level, members were given a comprehensive overview of a wide range of services provided here in Northern Ireland.

As well as emergency response to natural disasters such as the recent flooding in the North West, members heard of extended Refugee and International Family Tracing services, ambulance support services, loan facilities, independent living support etc. and their strong supportive links with other local organisations.

Tiernach was thanked for his interesting and inspiring talk by club member May Bothwell.

Members are reminded of Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club’s Festive Afternoon Tea on 30th November at 2.30pm in the Silverbirch Hotel.


Mrs Gwen Garrett: Riding for the Disabled

Wednesday 1 November 2017 : Mrs Gwen Garrett: Riding for the Disabled

Gwen John
Mrs Gwen Garrett, Chairperson Omagh RDA with Probus President, John McCandless

The Omagh branch of RDA [Riding for the Disabled] was founded in 1981 by a group of local volunteers and based in Old Mountfield House.  Today RDA has its own purpose-built equestrian centre at Arvalee, in a building opened in 1985.   From small beginnings it now caters for over 80 riders a week, with participants coming from all parts of Tyrone Fermanagh and Donegal.  It has no paid staff, depending on some 60 volunteers and 9 qualified riding coaches: it currently has 12 horses and ponies. RDA provides participants with not just the opportunity to learn to ride but also to work with the horses in ways which provide therapy, enjoyment and exercise. New skills are acquired within nationally recognised education programmes that lead to vocational qualifications.   For those who can feel isolated by disability it offers social interaction and inclusion.   Omagh RDA works closely with schools and social services offering enjoyable and challenging courses for children and adults with special needs, especially those on the autistic spectrum.  The benefits for both volunteers and participants are considerable in terms of acquiring enhanced confidence and self-esteem through working with the horses and each other.  The success of the enterprise has been such that many of the participants no longer consider themselves “disabled” and have adopted a new name  for their group.  Omagh RDA is now Omagh EPONA,  after Epona, the Celtic goddess of horses.