In keeping with the thinking that at least one meeting each month should be “Home-grown”, Vice-President, Michael Cooney, organised an In-House Quiz. Having divided those present into groups of 4 or 5 he then challenged members with 10 rounds of tricky questions covering topics such as Art, Geography, Music, Holywood stars of yesterday year and General Knowledge. In this he set the scene for the Inter-Club Quiz planned for Wednesday 10th April when 14 teams from Probus Clubs across Tyrone, Fermanagh and Londonderry will contest the James Eakin Cup in a tradition that goes back more years than most can remember.
Wednesday 20 March 2019: Mr Paddy McGrath: Chair Exercises
The President welcomed Mr Paddy McGrath from Omagh Leisure Centre where he routinely takes classes for Chair Exercises. Having re-arranged the seating to ensure everyone had enough space to fling their arms out he then led members in a half hour session of stretching, bending and twisting designed to improve fitness and well-being. It was the first such session in the club’s history but was so enjoyable that it may not be the last.
Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus had their monthly meeting on Thursday, 7 March in Omagh Library. The guest speaker on this occasion was Dr Patrick Fitzgerald from the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies.
Dr Fitzgerald focused his talk on the power of illustration. His interest in this began when he was organizing an exhibition called “Emigrants” in 1994 for the Ulster-American Folk Park which covered 2 centuries of emigration. It formed the basis of the book he co-authored with Brian Lambkin: “Migration in Irish History: 1607 – 2007”
Artists in the 18th century tended to focus their work on pastoral scenes as they worked for commission at that stage, so they tended to produce “pretty” scenes for their patrons. It was not until 1800 that work depicting Irish emigration was produced, and we were shown a painting by John James Barralet, himself an immigrant to America, which showed people arriving in America. The title of this painting was “Liberty welcoming the arrival of the Immigrants”.
Dr Fitzgerald then illustrated his talk on Irish emigration with paintings from a variety of artists, including Joseph Barbour+, Samuel Waugh, Elizabeth, Lady Butler, Jack Yeats and Sean Keating among others.
Lena Rutledge spoke on behalf of the members and thanked Dr Fitzgerald for his most interesting talk which kept everyone fascinated.
New members, or those who may just be interested in joining Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus would be welcome to attend our next meeting when our speaker will be Sir Bob Salisbury. This meeting will be at 2pm on Thursday 4th April in Omagh Library.
Wednesday 6 March 2019. Prof Mike Cowan: Topic “A Scotch – Irish Odyssey”
Mr Cowan was introduced by Probian, Eamon Cunningham, as a distinguished American academic and visiting professor at both Trinity and Oxbridge. Rather teasingly Prof Cowan stated that the purpose of his talk was to trace a line from King William of Orange to President Trump. In 1720 four Cowan brothers emigrated from County Down to settle in the Appalachian Mountains along with other Ulster emigres. Proud of their protestant roots and bound by a strong sense of community they called themselves “The Billy Boys of the Hills”. They were the first “Hillbillies”. Whereas Irish Catholics from the same era were keen to become a part of new world society, the “Hillbillies” never really availed of the opportunities which existed to get up, get out and get on. As a result, they languished at the bottom of the economic ladder working in the mines and in the heavy industries drawn to the coalfields. In this situation they acquired any number of unkind nick-names – Rednecks, Honkies, Oakies, Coonasses and Trailer Trash. In a series of slides Prof Cowan illustrated patterns of poverty in Appalachia, which mirrored patterns of ill-health, especially “Black Lung” – a condition resulting from working down the mines and inhaling coal dust. This in turn corelated with other socio-economic indicators which when overlaid with voting patterns in the last Presidential election showed that “hillbillies” voted solidly for Mr Trump. To demonstrate the hillbillies’ contribution to country music Prof Cowan ended his talk by singing a song about coal mining, accompanied by local guitarist Patrick Bradley.