Mr John McGuinness

Wednesday 28 November 2018.  Mr John McGuiness.  Inter-schools Historical Society

Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran [left] with John McGuiness
The final speaker of the year was Mr John McGuiness, formerly Vice-Principal of the Christian Brothers Grammar School, Omagh in which some 50 years ago he founded the Inter-schools Historical Society.  The moving spirit behind the initiative was Br Newell of CBS supported by the Heads of History in Omagh Academy and Loreto Convent, namely Mr Ross Henderson and Mrs Mary McCaughey.   The aims of the society were to foster community relations and encourage an appreciation of  history.  During the decade from 1969 and 1979 – a period of considerable unrest in the Province – the society flourished, inviting speakers from the Ulster American Folk Park, The Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra and the History Departments at Queens and University of Ulster.  Day trips to the Beetling Mill at Wellbrook and the Spade Mill at Ballyclare paved the way for trips further afield to places such as Wexford and Galway.   With two coach loads of Sixth Formers in tow there were many anecdotes to be shared and enjoyed.   The society continued through the 1980’s with trips to the battlefield sites on World Wars I and II in Flanders and Normandy and has left all of those who participated with treasured memories of their school days.

Ladies’ Club Celebrate 25th Anniversary

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Photographs of guests at the luncheon: clockwise from top left – Founder member, Ethel Cuthbertson cuts the cake with President, Zoe Reid; Chairman of FODC, Howard Thornton and Club Secretary, Pauline O’Hagan; Rotary President, Michael McCrossan, Club Treasurer, Pamela McClelland, Men’s Club President, Paddy McGowan; Jack Reid and guest Speaker, Anita Robinson.

Last Thursday (22nd November), the members and guests of Omagh and Ladies’ District Probus Club gathered together in the Silverbirch Hotel for a celebratory lunch.  Also present were Howard Thornton, Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh Council,  Paddy McGowan, President of Omagh Men’s Probus, Michael McCrossan, President of Omagh Rotary Club and Anita Robinson, columnist for the Irish News and Guest Speaker for the occasion.


Omagh was the first Ladies’ Probus Club in Ireland and was founded at the instigation of Marion Mitchell.  At the lunch, the cake was cut by President Zoe Reid and one of the founding members, Ethel Cuthbertson.


Following an excellent lunch, Howard Thornton spoke to those present and reflected on their achievements throughout the years, mentioning, in particular, the very successful All-Ireland Probus Rally hosted by the Omagh Clubs in 2017.  Speaking on behalf of the Council, he passed on their congratulations and wished Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus Club every success for the future.  These sentiments were echoed by Paddy McGowan and Michael McCrossan in their speeches.


Zoe Reid then outlined the history of Omagh and Ladies’ Probus and thanked Mary Keane, for all her hard work in maintaining the archives of the club.  She then introduced our guest speaker, Anita Robinson.  Anita has spoken to the members before at one of their monthly meetings and everyone was looking forward to her return.  Her witty and wry observations on life in general are always highly entertaining.  On this occasion, she reflected on Christmases past, the build-up to Christmas and how Christmas can often be in reality.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.


If there is anyone who is interested in joining Probus, or coming along to a meeting to see what it is  all about, the next meeting will be on Thursday, January 3, 2019.  Please feel free to come along.  A warm welcome waits for you.



Julie Corry, Biodiversity Officer

Wednesday 21 November 2018, Julie Curry, Biodiversity Officer, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council 

Julie Corry with Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran

Julie’s talk to Probus began with an overview of her role as Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Biodiversity Officer. When visiting primary schools, she is keen to explain that “biodiversity” relates to all living things in the world around us and the responsibilities we all have to maintain the environment. Much of what she does comes under WANE – the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act [Northern Ireland] 2011. This imposes a duty on local councils to develop policies to safeguard habitats such as Wetlands, Bogs and Heath, Woodlands and Hedgerows. Species in need of protection include bats, bees, red squirrels, eels, newts, damsel flies and wild orchids. She explained how members of the public can help by reporting sightings of endangered species via the website The threat posed by alien invasive species was also examined, with the spread of Rhododendron on our hillsides being cited as a highly visible example. Today  over 2000 alien species are already established in the UK.  Locally there are grey squirrels in our gardens, zebra mussels in our waterways and everywhere non-native pests such as rats and flatworms. Julie’s discourse about how to control Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam gave rise to much discussion as members shared their experiences of trying to get rid of these invaders.

Chief Inspector, Roy Robinson, PSNI

Wednesday 14 November 2018:  Speaker Roy Robinson; Topic “Rural Crime”

Top Table [L – R] Chief Inspector, Roy Robinson, Probus President, Paddy McGowan, Club Secretary, Gerry McGonigle

Mr Robinson was introduced by Chairman Paddy McGowan as a life-long friend; they had grown up on neighbouring farms close to the border in Co Fermanagh. Roy began by talking about his life as a salesman before joining the PSNI. He was stationed in Omagh from 1995 to 1999 and was one of the first on the scene when the bomb went off in August 1998.   In his current role as Chair of the Rural Crime Border Committee he works closely with the Garda Sciohana in the fight against rural crime in the border counties. The worst offenders typically own some land with out-buildings where they can hide stolen cattle and sheep.  Then using tags and documents which have been fraudulently acquired the livestock is marketed across the border.  Happily the Police and Guards are getting on top of the racket with the number of successful prosecutions rising and the number of crimes reported falling. Machinery theft continues to be an issue but today’s farmers are very security conscious, many fitting concealed trackers and keeping valuable equipment in barricaded compounds over-looked by CCTV cameras. Chief Inspector Robinson’s talk gave rise to many questions and the appreciation of all present.


Mr Oliver Loughran

Wednesday 7 November 2018 Mr Oliver Loughran.  Topic Empires and their Aftermath

CBS Old Boys [Back Row L – R.] Michael Cooney, Hugh Ward, Eamon Cunningham, Oliver Loughran [Front Row] Billy Campbell, Pat McCaul, Gerry McGonigle, Felim O’Neill
Vice-President Oliver apologised that the speaker was not able to attend and filled the breach with an impromptu talk which he called “Empires and their aftermath”. His interest had begun in Latin class in the Christian Brothers Grammar School where he had studied Caesar’s Gallic wars. Having described the peculiar system of rewards and retributions imposed by his old teacher, Oliver then treated members to a brief idiosyncratic account of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. He then touched upon other empires that had come and gone including those of the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans and the British, concluding with the observation that today’s empires are those of Google and Facebook. His talk encouraged several members to speak of their own experience of being taught Latin in the CBS and the meeting ended with lively reminiscences of Junior and Senior Certificate.

New Committee at Ladies’ Probus

Red Cross demonstrator with President, Zoe Reid

Omagh and District Ladies’ Probus met in the library for their 2018 AGM on November 1, 2018.  Rotary Liaison Officer, John Robson, presided over the election of officers for the forthcoming year.  Zoe Reid has been elected President and Audrey Hodge is Vice-President.  Other officers are Pauline O’Hagan, Pamela McClelland, Hazel Richards, Marjorie Greening, Margaret Scott , Frances Beattie and Lisa Bullick.


The speaker for this occasion was Geraldine Fitzpatrick from the Red Cross.  She educated and entertained the group with quick practical solutions for any emergency they may find themselves in – using only items that may readily be found.  As she explained, most emergencies happen when we are out and about when a First Aid kit is not available.  Members were taught the appropriate action in many situations, including cuts, burns, broken bones, seizures, stroke, heart attacks and choking.  They were also taught how to perform CPR.


Hazel Richards thanked Geraldine for her informative and entertaining talk and presented her with a small token of appreciation.


Zoe reminded members of the plans for November and December.  These include a celebratory lunch to mark the 25th anniversary of the formation of the club in Omagh, the first in Ireland, and a trip to the Strule Arts Centre to enjoy a Feast of Christmas music.


New members are always welcome and the next meeting will take place on January 3rd 2019 in the library at 2.00pm.  If you are interested, you are more than welcome to come along and meet us all.