Mrs Mavis Thompson

Meeting of Wednesday 31 October 2018  “The Life and Work of Mrs Mavis Thompson”

Probian, Albert Allen [left] with Oliver Loughran. Probus Vice-President

Mavis Thompson is a native of Omagh and the elder sister of club member Albert Allen. However, for the past 50 years she has lived and worked in Enniskillen where she enjoys a reputation as a skilled and innovative artist. A member of the Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) since 1986 she told her story to a local television reporter who recorded the interview and produced the DVD. The film was introduced by brother Albert who pointed out that some of the Probians present had been at school with Mavis when she was growing up in Omagh. At that stage in her life her first love was music and she became an accomplished pianist who also enjoyed art. A visit to the Ulster Art Gallery ( now the Ulster Museum) at the age of 13 opened her mind to the wonder of water colours and took her to the 1974 Turner Bi-centenary Exhibition in London, an experienced she recounted as “inspirational”. Encouraged by her mentor Derek Hill she began to enter painting competitions and in 1978 had one of her works selected for display by the RUA. Since then she has pursued her passion for water colours, taking her easel and palate into the Fermanagh Lakeland to capture light-filled landscapes with soft shades and deft strokes. Her reminiscences included the frustrations of sudden squalls of rain, being eaten alive by midges on the lough shore, muddy fields and wellie boots and brief encounters with otters, foxes and cattle. In more recent times she has found inspiration on the coastline of Ulster, beachcombing for drift wood and anything else that fired her imagination. Back in her studio these objects were formed into elaborate three-dimensional works of art, often with a musical theme. A trip to Japan was another creative a spur and a formative influence in the development of her style and technique. The film was much appreciated by members and gave rise to many anecdotes about the Allen family and its connections with Omagh

Mr Ciaran McCreanor

Wednesday 24 October 2018 Mr Ciaran McCreanor, Dalradian Gold Ltd

Probus President, Paddy McGowan with Ciaran McCreanor, Dalradian Gold Ltd

In a wide-ranging 75-minute talk Mr McCreanor addressed a number of issues including local employment, waste management, gas emissions, gold reserves, environmental impact, tunnel tours and the future of the company. He stressed the measures in place to minimise the effects of mining operations on the landscape and the planning in place to restore the area to its former state when mining ceased. Concerns about waste water were raised because cyanide is used in the process that separates the gold from the rock. It was explained that much of the water is recycled and what is ultimately released back into the rivers is treated to the point that it is purer than water coming into the plant from Sperrin streams. There are no lakes or lagoons from which polluted water might leach into the soil or seep into water courses. On-going testing of the river system showed no harm to any fish or the micro-organisms on which they feed. The speaker was up-beat about the future of mining in the region, quoting estimates of over 6 million ounces of gold in the Sperrins with the potential to generate over £5 billion worth of business over the lifetime of the operation – a period of time he described as “generational”. He was thanked for his detailed talk and invitation to visit the mine by Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran.

Mrs Cathy McCaul

Wednesday 17th October 2018  Speaker: Mrs Cathy McCaul.  Topic: “My life and times”

Mrs Cathy McCaul with Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran

Cathy McCaul [nee O’Reilly] is a native of Omagh. Her father was much involved in the town’s Rotary Club and her mother was founder member of “Inner Wheel”. A former pupil of Loreto Convent Grammar School she was the first female to take a degree in Computer Science at Queen’s and on graduating joined ICL then the UK’s premier IT company. After a few months writing code in a London basement she realised that a life as a computer programmer was not for her and moved into Project Management with the IT company “Digital”. When Digital was acquired by Compaq in 1989 her job was to integrate the two companies and give them a global reach. This involved a lot of travelling but after her losing her luggage a few times on inter-continental flights she learned how to travel the world with only hand luggage and [in her own words] with the bags under her eyes.  After Compaq she worked for a time in London before being recruited by Mastercard to help the company improve customer relations globally. Her success in the role earned her promotion to the Board of Management of Mastercard with the title of President – one of only three females on the Board of Directors. Now working towards retirement, she divides her time between Omagh and New York while doing some consultancy work in the world of global finance. Mrs McCaul’s talk generated many questions and much appreciation.

Probus Ladies hear of one local girl’s experiences in First World War

Claire McElhinney shows her grandmother’s war medals to Vice President Zoe Reid

Probus Ladies hear of one local girl’s experiences in W.W.1 when she travelled ‘From the Plum to Pau.’

The October meeting of Omagh and District Ladies’ Probus, which was held on National Poetry day, commenced with Vice Chair Zoe Reid sharing the poem  ‘Phenomenal Woman’ by Mya Angelou.

This proved to be a very apt choice as guest speaker Claire McElhinney a local historian, shared the story of her phenomenal grandmother who as a young girl left her familiar surroundings of Plumbridge to nurse wounded French soldiers in Pau, Southern France.

Claire became intrigued about her maternal grandmother’s life story after being given a photo of newly trained nurses outside the home of Mr.W.J. Millar JP in Newtownstewart and another of a Field Training day for the Ulster Volunteer Force Nursing Corps. Her grandmother was in both photos.

Research showed that Edith Harkness had joined the UVF Medical and Nursing Corps in March 1914 and had trained locally with mock battles and training camps. When World War1 broke out in Europe these young women were ready to put this training into practice. Their offer of help was gratefully received by the French authorities and fundraising started for a French Military Hospital. In October 1914 a group of Tyrone UVF nurses including 20 year old Edith set off, travelling by boat from Belfast via Liverpool to Bordeaux.  Their destination was Pau, a mountainous region in Southern France chosen for its healthy climate and its safe distance from the front.

Using a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate her talk, Claire gave a fascinating insight into the nurses’ experiences there. Slides showed the ‘Villa Beaupre’, a previous school which was converted into a 50 bed U.V.F. Military Hospital, its grounds where patients were often nursed outside, the converted ‘goods trains’ which brought the wounded from battle and the amazing ‘trench art’ created by these recuperating soldiers.

Edith nursed in Pau Military Hospital until 1916 when it closed due to huge numbers of casualties needing treatment nearer the front.

Following the battle of the Somme the British Army began to evacuate its wounded back to England. Edith responded to an urgent call for nurses and was promptly recruited to nurse in a large military hospital in Ripon, Yorkshire where she stayed until 1920.

After the war, Edith returned to her native Plumbridge where she married and raised a family of eight children.

Despite this local girl being awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, back in her familiar home environment, she was very reticent to talk about this period of her life!

Claire was thanked for her very interesting and enlightening talk by club member May Bothwell.

The next meeting will be held in Omagh Library on Thursday 1st November at 2pm when the guest speaker will be Geraldine Fitzpatrick on “Practical First Aid Tips.”

Members are also reminded of this club’s 25th Celebratory    Lunch on Thursday 22nd November 2018.





Integrated Education

Wednesday 10th October 2018 : Topic – Integrated Education
Speakers: Mr Anthony Bradley, Principal of Omagh Integrated Primary School and Mr Nigel Frith, Principal of Drumragh Integrated College

[L – R] Mr Nigel Frith, Mr Oliver Loughran, Probus Vice-President. Mr Anthony Bradley

Mr Bradley began by tracing the origins of Integrated Education back to Martin Luther King’s famous speech – “I have a dream”. The theme was picked up by the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960’s and today some 22,000 children in the Province attend Integrated schools. Currently there 43 Integrated Primary Schools  and 20 Secondary schools, representing about 7% of the total. The first integrated school in Northern Ireland was Lagan College which opened in 1981 with 28 pupils. It had to wait another 8 years before the sector was recognised by the Department of Education and granted funding as part of the Education Reform Order of 1989.
Mr Frith introduced himself by telling members he had been born in Africa and in 1981 enrolled in the then New University of Ulster where he met a local lass who would in due course become his wife and later convince him that he should live and work in Northern Ireland. He was appointed Principal of Drumragh College in 2005 having been until them teaching in Comprehensive schools in Peterborough. Today Drumragh has an enrolment of 680 pupils and occupies a campus on the Crevenagh Road which it shares with the Integrated Primary School. The schools have shared goals in their vision of bringing together children and young people from both traditions and educating them together on the basis of equality and respect for each other’s traditions. Tributes from former pupils were quoted to show the success of the two schools in producing pupils committed to making the world a better place.

Mr Richard Scott, MAPS

Top Table 03.10.18 [L – R] Oliver Loughran [Vice-President], Paddy McGowan [President], Bob Lingwood [Centenarian], Alastair Orr [Secretary]
At the opening meeting of the Autumn session Bob Lingwood was invited to take the Chair as a mark of respect and affection for a member who had just celebrated his 100th birthday. As an old soldier awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Second World War it gave him great pleasure to introduce Mr Richard Scott MBE to speak about MAPS

Richard founded MAPS [Military and Police Support] in 2012, to provide support in the West for former service personnel who needed it, including a drop-in service, befriending, counselling, hospital attendance etc. It is an entirely voluntary organisation that receives some limited funding from Northern Ireland Victims Service. He himself had been in the Police and was at the Omagh Bomb scene minutes after it happened. A number of years later when he had to retire due to ill heath he realised there was little support for security force members who left under similar circumstances. MAPS received a citation from HM the Queen in 2017 and Richard was presented with an MBE by Prince William in 2018.
He also talked about his work as Chairman of Omagh British Legion and his visit to Belgium to lay a wreath as part of the Great Pilgrimage90 in 2018, when 1200 legion members and representatives from throughout the UK and Ireland paraded through Ypres to the Menin Gate with their Standards and wreaths.
The citation on the Omagh British Legion wreath was written by Honorary President Bob Lingwood. A number of members recounted their own family memories and history, including the use of photographs and the placing of Poppy Crosses on graves.

[L – R] Oliver Loughran [Vice-President] Paddy McGowan, [President] Richard Scott [MAPS] Bob Lingwood [Centenarian] posing before a poster of Bob carrying the Olympic Flame in 2006