Mrs Margaret Mitchell

Meeting of Wednesday 22 May 2019
Speaker: Mrs Margaret Mitchell. Topic: “My Galapagos Trip”

[L – R] Carol Simpson, Margaret Mitchell, Oliver Loughran, Probus President.
Margaret’s trip to the Galapagos Islands required four flights – Belfast to London – London to Madrid – Madrid to Quito and Quito to the Galapagos. In Quito, capital of Ecuador, she was joined by her daughter Suzanne, son-in-law, Dom and seven-year-old, Imogen.   Together they spent some days sight-seeing in Quito before flying on to Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands. There they boarded a luxury yacht for a memorable cruise around the archipelago.  Although they form a cluster in the Pacific Ocean the islands differ significantly one from the other in terms of geography and wildlife; some are covered in lush tropical vegetation while others are barren.   This has given rise over millennia to the unique array of plants and animals, birds and marine life, which in 1835 inspired Charles Darwin to develop a theory about “The Origin of Species”.   Since the wildlife has evolved in isolation animals and birds show little fear in the presence of people and Margaret had many wonderful close-up photos of sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, albatross and penguins – to name but a few. Snorkelling with green turtles and close encounters with giant tortoises which can grow to 1.8 m and weight 400 kg were among the highlights of this extraordinary trip of a lifetime. She was warmly thanked for her talk by Probus Vice-President, Michael Cooney

Mr Michael Stinson

[L – R] Vice-President, Michael Cooney, Michael Stinson, Probus President., Oliver Loughran.
Meeting of Wednesday 15 May 2019
Speaker: Mr Michael Stinson, Ulster Wildlife Trust. Topic: Red Squirrels

Michael began by explaining that he was nearing the end of a three-year project, sponsored by the Ulster Wildlife Trust, into the Northern Ireland’s red squirrel population.   Using camera traps four strongholds for red squirrels had been identified in the Province – The Northwest around Limavady, The Glens of Antrim, The Mourne Mountains and Fermanagh and West Tyrone.   Grey squirrels were introduced to Ireland in 1911 when six pairs were presented to a newly married couple in Co Longford as a wedding present.   Released into a walled garden they soon escaped, multiplied and are now common in the central and eastern counties of Ireland but less so in the west where forest habitats are replaced by bogland.   The impact of the” greys” on the “reds” has been a dramatic decline in the native species due to the greys more aggressive foraging behaviour and the fact that they carry a disease – squirrel pox – to which the reds have no immunity.   However in certain parts of Ulster the tide is turning.   Pine Martens, hunted to near extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries are now protected and making comeback.   Surveys have shown that as the population of Pine Martens grows the population of grey squirrels declines.   This in turn helps the reds which can co-exist with Pine Martens.   Michael was thanked for an informative and engaging talk by Probian Hugh Ward.

Red Cross First Aid

[L – R] Probus President, Oliver Loughran, Rebecca Donnelly, Geraldine Fitzpatrick, Michael Cooney [Probus Vice-President] and Gary Nugent
Geraldine demonstrating CPR

The talk opened with a challenge.   Could you provide First Aid in an emergency?   All present hesitated because they admitted they would be unsure what to do and fretted that they might do more harm than good and end up being sued.   Mrs Fitzpatrick assured her audience that everyone can do something and in the space of 50 minutes proved her point with a convincing demonstration in which she was supported by her two Red Cross colleagues, Rebecca Donnelly and Gary Nugent.   The first response to an emergency is to shout for help or dial 999.   If the patient is bleeding an article of clothing can be used to apply pressure to the wound.   The acronym F.A.S.T. is a good guide when called upon to help someone who has had a stroke – Face, Arms, Speech and Time – the most important thing being to get the person into hospital in the shortest TIME possible.   If someone has had a heart attack and stopped breathing it is essential to begin CPR right away. Geraldine demonstrated the correct technique on a mannequin before showing an attentive audience how to use a defibrillator.   Having taken many questions along the way she and her team were warmly thanked for an excellent talk by Probian Eamon Cunningham.

May meeting focus on “Wit & Wisdom”

Speaker, Audrey Hodge with President Zoe Reid

Our speaker for our May meeting was Audrey Hodge.  Audrey spoke on the topic of “Wit and Wisdom”.   She opened her entertaining talk with the quote that “inside every older person is a young person wondering what happened”   – a sentiment we all agreed with!  We agreed that as long as we were fit and healthy (and able to use our bus passes), all was well.


Audrey recommended a few things to help us to stay well, including minimizing multi-tasking, exercising regularly, learning something new and taking the time to embrace boredom and look around you.  Amid laughter, she concluded by saying “Time is a great healer, but a poor beautician”


Zoe Reid spoke for us all when she thanked Audrey for her most enjoyable talk.


There will be no formal meeting in June as the club members are going on a trip to Whitehead.  Our next formal meeting will be held in Omagh Library on the first Thursday in September (5th).  On that occasion our guest speaker will be Dr Eamon Phoenix, political historian and broadcaster and former head of life-long learning at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.  This is an open meeting and we will be pleased to welcome anyone who is interested to that meeting.  Further details will be published before that meeting.