Wednesday 28th March 2018: Stephen McKenna: The History of Omagh
Guest speaker Stephen McKenna took as his theme the history of Omagh. The name “Omagh” indicates a plain but the origin of Omagh is obscure. In jocular mood Stephen said a hermit resident in early Omagh described it as “a den of thieves and robbers” and a papal envoy travelling through the area was quoted as saying that he “couldn’t get out of it quick enough”. The early town had a Franciscan Friary located behind the Hogg’s Head pub. The 150 monks there provided various social services to the local community but with the collapse of the O’Neill dynasty the friary also came to an end. In 1768 Omagh became the county town of Tyrone. Construction of the Courthouse, completed in 1824, added to the importance of the town as an administrative centre. Also, in the nineteenth century, schools were established, hospitals built, and the town connected to the railway system. The 1880’s saw the first substantial buildings of St Lucia barracks constructed. Lisanelly camp was developed during World War II. Three of the main church buildings, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian Meetinghouse on the Dublin Road and the Catholic church were all replaced with new buildings close to their original sites. Stephen said Omagh can claim to be a cultural centre and he enumerated a number of writers, poets, musicians and actors of note who were or are from the town. It is a cosmopolitan and liberal town and has much to be proud of.
At the same meeting long-serving club member, Pat McCaul, was presented with his Honorary Membership Certificate, it being the custom of the Club to confer Honorary Membership on Probians who have celebrated their 90th birthday.