Mr John Paysden: Spanish Armada

Wednesday 23 May 2018: Mr John Paysden.  The Spanish Armada

Probus President, Paddy McGowan, with Guest Speaker, John Paysden

On 25 September 1588 three ships from the Spanish Armada foundered off the Irish coast at Streedagh Beach, Mullghmore, Co Sligo.  Discovered by divers in 1985 lying in water just 15 -30 ft deep they have been identified as La Lavia, a merchant ship with 25 guns, La Juliana, a Catalia Merchant with 32 guns and the Santa Maria de Vision, a Ragusa merchant with 18 guns.    In recent times a monument to commemorate what happened has been erected close to where the ships were attempting to shelter.  Unfortunately the severity of the storm was such that the three ships were washed ashore and completely destroyed within the space of an hour.  Not all drowned; 140  made it to shore, only for most to be massacred by English troops garrisoned in Sligo.  A small number of sailors did survive, thanks to a mixture of good fortune and assistance from some of the Irish chieftains of the area.  John’s informed talk included much interesting  information about the Armada, including the fact that a typical Spanish galleon was 100 ft long, 36 ft wide, had a speed of 3.5 knots and was constructed from the timber of 2000 trees.  The English Navy under the command of Sir Francis Drake had fewer ships but because they were faster, more manoeuvrable and had canon of greater range and accuracy they put the Armada to flight sending it on an ill-fated voyage back to Spain round the North of Scotland and down the west coast of Ireland.  And “the rest is history” .



All-Ireland Rally 2018 Tralee

All-Ireland Rally 15 – 16 May, hosted by the Probus 97 Tralee

Omagh Probians who attended the All-Ireland Rally in Tralee.    [L – R] J im Alderdice, Kenneth Collins, John Greening, Harman Scott, Jim McBain and John McCandless

Omagh Probus was well represented at the All-Ireland Rally.  In all 14 persons travelled south – the six members of the Club in the photo above accompanied by their respective wives along with Miss Audrey Hodge and Ms Hazel Richards from Omagh Ladies Probus Club.  Following a wine reception on Tuesday evening the Rally got off to an uplifting start with a wonderful concert featuring the Opus 96 Chamber Choir supported by the Realtain Nua [New Stars] Traditional Music Group.  On Wednesday Mr Liam Sawers, Chairman of the Rally Steering Committee introduced Ms Norma Foyley, Mayor of Tralee, who warmly welcomed delegates and guests, in an address seconded by Mr Gareth Arnold, District Governor of Rotary International, Ireland.   The Chairman then called upon Jim McBain to give a brief report on the 2017 Rally in Omagh.  He was followed to the podium by Dr. Darragh Naughton who gave a very interesting and informative talk on “Audiology Medical Services” in the Republic of Ireland.

Next onto the stage was a Kerryman with such strong local connections that a road in Tralee is named after his father.  Mr Dick Spring, former Irish International Rugby Player and Tanaiste in the Dublin Government, was greeted as an old friend and spoke in a  humorous and affectionate way about his connections with the area.  The Edwin Dunlop Trophy for the Probus club which had travelled the greatest distance with the greatest number of delegates was awarded to Lurgan Probus.  After an excellent lunch efficiently served to 320 delegates in the Conference Centre of the Brandon Hotel the programme continued with a talk by Mr Justin Moran from Age Action Ireland.  The final speaker of the day was Ms Mary O’Rourke, a well known member of Dail eirann, who spoke engagingly of her life and times as parliamentarian and political activist.  The Rally was officially brought to a close by the playing of the Rally Anthem, a lovely piece of music specially composed for the 2018 All-Ireland Rally in Tralee, Co Kerry.  Members of the Omagh party were in no hurry to leave and on Thursday enjoyed a coach trip round the Ring of Kerry, before returning home on Friday.

Mr Victor Loughran: Local dances in the 50’s and 60’s

Wednesday, 9 May 2018.  Mr Oliver Loughran: Local dances in the 50’s and 60’s

[L – R] Probians  Ron Burch, Desmond Smart, John McCandless, Oliver Loughran and Eamon Cunnigham

Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran, was member of a local dance band during the 50’s and 60’s and has many memories.  He recalled how males and females arranged themselves on opposite sides of the dance floor and it was the task of the dance band to get the lads across the floor to get things going.  The answer was usually an old-time waltz.   Dancing in parochial halls was mainly on a Sunday night – when the pubs were officially shut.  In most cases that only applied to the front door with ready access round the back, but you had to be quiet !  As times moved on commercial ballrooms began to appear in the rural west.   One of the first was the Gap Ballroom in Mullaslin, near Carrickmore.  Large by local standards it lasted only a few years before losing out to newer venues with a drinks licence and meals, the Royal Arms being a good example.    The dance bands of the day had to be in tune with political leanings of the management, it being customary to play an anthem at the end of the evening – either “God Save the Queen” or “The Soldier’s Song”.  Another custom of the day was for a young man to say to a girl, “Save the last dance for me”.   In the conversation which followed Oliver’s talk, one member recalled asking a girl for the last dance early in the evening, only to be told, “You’ve had it”.

An afternoon of Wit and Wisdom at Omagh & District Ladies Probus

Anita Robinson with Vice President Zoe Reid

After listening to the guest speaker at the meeting of Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club, which was held on Thursday 3rd May, a spokesperson commented “I along with many others I suspect, am recovering from a severe bout of Robinson’s Disease, a disorder caused by the repeated tickling of the funny bone to the point where the patient ends up doubled over with laughter.” This particular bout was caused by the eponymous Mrs Anita Robinson well known throughout Northern Ireland for her wry musings on life here.

While election apathy raged all around, members were right royally entertained to a series of vignettes ranging from Ladies who Lunch through to Ladies who Can’t Find Appropriate Underwear, stopping off at many points in between.

The gasps, giggles, grins and grimaces showed that most if not all present could recognise themselves in the woman driver (much better than the male version apparently), the swimmer reluctant to get her hair wet, the internet self diagnostician or the long-suffering woman “enjoying” a bank holiday trip to the seaside with her family.

In other words, Anita took her incisive scalpel of observation and wit to every woman you have ever known – every daughter, wife, mother and, most importantly, friend we have ever met and pointed out our common humanity in a tour de force of hilarious attention to detail.

While she used material which had by and large been written for her column in the Irish News or for one or other of her BBC Radio Ulster programmes, she was a consummate performer and the easy rapport which she established with her audience meant that the women who people her pieces came instantly to life; we know them, lunch with them, exchange minor grumbles and complaints and compare notes on the issues great and small which bedevil us all.

Moving seamlessly through her rogues’ gallery, Mrs Robinson held her audience riveted from start to finish and when club member Audrey Hodge stood to thank her for her talk it was clear that all present agreed that it had been a wonderful afternoon and a fitting way to bring our library based sessions to a close for the summer season.

The next meeting in Omagh Library Headquarters will take place on Thursday 6th September when the guest speaker will be a representative of Omagh Rotary Club who will examine the links between the two clubs.










Mr Gary Wilson, NI Air Ambulance

Air Ambulance
[L- R] Gary Wilson, Air Ambulance NI with Probus President, Paddy McGowan and Vice-President, Oliver Loughran
Wednesday 2 May 2018:  Mr Gary Wilson, NI Air Ambulance

In his capacity as Area Fund Raising Manager Mr Wilson described  Air Ambulance NI as Northern Ireland’s newest and most exciting charity.  The service, he explained, was 12 months in existence after 12 years of lobbying, championed by motor-cycling enthusiast, Dr John Hinds.  Its first rescue mission took place on 22 July 2017 on the day it was commissioned when the helicopter was called in to take to hospital a  young man who  had sustained severe crush injuries in a farm accident.  Based at the Maze it has been called out over 300 times since then and can reach any part of the Province in less than 30 minutes.   A second helicopter is based at St Angelo in Enniskillen where it is used mainly for training and exists as a back-up, in that the charity cannot yet afford to operate two helicopters.   The operating costs of the one helicopter are in the order of £2 million per year – a challenging target for the charity’s fundraisers.     Air Ambulance NI is a partnership between the Charity, Babcock Aviation and the NI Ambulance Service.   Although capable of taking people to hospital it is essentially an airborne A & E Unit, crewed by a pilot, a doctor and paramedic all of whom have undergone specialised training.   Gary’s talk gave rise to many questions such as why such a worthwhile service was not in receipt of any government funding – a question which only politicians can address. He was warmly thanked for a most informative talk by club member, Eamon Cunningham.

Mr Wesley Acheson, Tyrone Constitution

Wednesday, 25 April 2018: Mr Wesley Acheson, Editor, Tyrone Constitution

Wesley Acheson [Left] with Probus President, Paddy McGowan

Having congratulated Probus on being such a thriving club, Mr Acheson indicated that his talk would be about the Tyrone Constitution – its past, present and future.  The “Con” was established in 1844 by Mr John Nellis to serve the local community, a commitment which has withstood rapid advances in how newspapers are printed.  In the mid-nineteenth century the paper was produced on hand presses in Omagh;  today it is all done on computer and the paper is printed electronically in Belfast.     Wesley shared that he had joined the staff of the Tyrone Constitution in 1974 straight from school and recounted some of the stories he had covered as a cub reporter.   Regrettably “The Troubles” produced more stories that one would have wished for, the biggest being the Omagh bomb in 1998.   The paper’s coverage of this tragedy was so sensitively handled that the editorial team was honoured with a national newspaper award at a ceremony in London.  To show how the paper evolved down the years Wesley had brought with him copies of the “Con” from 1867 to modern times.   Early “Cons” cost 5 pence and were purchased mainly by well-heeled citizens who could afford the price.   The front page was filled with adverts, some of which would raise a smile if printed today.  However the “Con” remains focused on the local community in which it continues to enjoy trust, respect, and support.