Wednesday 24 November 2021 

The speaker on Wednesday the 24th of November was club president Mr Michael Cooney, who gave an illustrated talk on the Post-Renaissance artist, Merisi Caravaggio. Caravaggio was born in Milan but moved to the town of Caravaggio in 1576. In 1584 he began his apprenticeship to a painter who was a pupil of the artist Titian. It was during this time that he adopted a style of simplicity and attention to detail which set him apart from the Renaissance Masters whose style was one of formality and grandeur.

Following his initial training in 1592 Caravaggio left Milan for Rome . The young artist arrived in Rome extremely needy without fixed address and without provision.  However his talent was such that he soon found work with the highly successful Guiseppe Cesari, the Pope’s favourite artist, painting flowers and fruit.

In Rome there was a demand for paintings to fill the many huge churches and palaces being built at that time. It was during this period that Caravaggio developed the style which was to become his hallmark. Known as chiaroscuro it is a style in which there is a shift from light to dark with little intermediate colour.  Michael illustrated his talk with images of some of the artists best known works, such as “The Beheading of John the Baptist”, “David with the Head of Goliath” and a “Boy peeling fruit”

Michael was thanked for an interesting and informative talk by Club Member Eamon Cunningham.

New Start October 2021

New Start October 2021

Omagh Men’s Probus Cub met in Omagh Golf Club at 10.30 am on Wednesday 6th October for the first time since restrictions were imposed in March 2020. The decision to resume meetings was taken cautiously in light of the continuing need for social distancing and the advice to wear masks in enclosed spaces.  However the fact that all members had been vaccinated twice and were in good health, it was felt that the time was opportune to get going again.

The main business of the first meeting was that of receiving reports about how members had fared during the pandemic and paying tribute to those who had passed away since the club had last met.   A minute’s silence was observed in memory of Art Kelly, Billy Caldwell, Pat McCaul and John Greening. The death of Maura Gallagher, wife of Past President, Paul Gallagher was noted with regret.

Looking to the future it was agreed that the Club would try to meet once a week at the usual time in the usual place, being every Wednesday at 10.30 am in the Golf Club.  The difficulty of getting speakers in the present circumstances was recognised and it was accepted that the club would have to draw on its own resources to create a programme for the Autumn session.  After discussion it was agreed to have a poetry reading session at the next meeting. Members were asked to bring a poem, which they liked and be prepared to read it for others to enjoy.

In the event this made for an engaging meeting with contributions spanning the genre from Nursery Rhymes to selected poems from “The Pageant of English Verse” – a publication which bought back memories of O-Level English Literature. President Michael Cooney, read “Shandon Bells” by Francis Sylvester Mahony while others contributed light-hearted pieces reflecting the comical side of marriage and courtship.  Club Member, Felim O’Neill, [photographed above with President Michael Cooney]  composed a poem specifically for the occasion and generously gave permission for it to be published as part of this press report.

There is a tradition in Omagh Men’s Probus Club that when a new member joins, he is invited to give a talk on the theme of “My Life and Times”.  On Wednesday 27 October Mr Tom Timoney entertained members with colourful reminiscences from childhood on the family farm to his retirement from the Staff of the Christian Bothers Grammar School in Omagh where he taught Physics. One of his earliest memories was age 4 witnessing a Navy Spitfire crash in the field next to where the family was stooking corn. In later life he taught for a time in Zambia and Thailand, experiences which remain fresh in his memory.

By Felim O’Neill

The Omagh Golf Club meeting room
Has finally replaced the zoom
And we who shun the Internet
No longer set at home and fret

While screens and keyboards have their place
We much prefer the “face to face”
Suitably masked we do not mind
Close encounters of the third kind

Our Golf Club meetings have the knack,
Of keeping friendships right on track,
While shaking hands still verboten
A show of hands will pass a motion

So let us learn to live with Covid
And once more make our meetings jovid
Remembering in every instance
to maintain a social distance

Probus Wreath

Remembrance Sunday 08 November 2020: Probus Wreath

The Remembrance Day parade to the Cenotaph for the laying of poppy wreaths in memory of the fallen was cancelled in 2020 as a result of restrictions imposed by Government in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.   This year those organisations and individuals that would normally have attended a church service 10.00am and afterwards paraded to the War Memorial were advised by the British Legion not to attend at 11.00 am but to bring their wreaths to the cenotaph sometime during the course of the day.   This was done to avoid congestion and any possible spread of the virus.  The photos below show President, Mr Michael Cooney, laying a wreath on behalf of Omagh Probus Club.

Probus President, Michael Cooney with the Club wreath
The President adding the Probus wreath to the steps of the Cenotaph.

Our Covid Story

Probus Magazine Contribution:  The piece below was submitted to the editor of PROBUS MAGAZINE on Wed 7 October for publication in a forthcoming edition.

Omagh Men’s Probus Club suspended all meetings and activities when the country went into lockdown at the end of March.  There is little doubt that members miss their weekly meetings in the Golf Club – not that anything very much ever happened beyond the enjoyment of each other’s company and occasional talks from visiting speakers. The club always had a “Telephone Tree” with which to get out urgent messages to members.   During the lockdown the telephone tree became a “Pals List”, with each member placed in a group with 4 – 6 others, the requirement that members of each group would stay closely in touch with each other. Our President, Michael Cooney, has taken an active interest in the activities of each group, sharing news via e-mail and the club website.

By these means the club has been able to keep in touch with its members to ensure that those who required help were being supported by family, friends and the wider community. Social contact between “Probians” was given an added dimension in June when the club started to hold ZOOM Meetings.  [See photo below].  These were held at the hour of Probus, being 10.30 am on Wednesday mornings and were open to all.   Members were encouraged to download Zoom and install it on their computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.  For some it was their first encounter with social media and all who were new to the medium were surprised by how easy it was.  Regular “zoomers” include 102-year-old Bob Lingwood, always keen to tell us about the fortunes of his beloved Chelsea Football Club.

Zoom has provided opportunities to begin planning for a resumption of activities when conditions improve, and the future looks brighter.   In the meantime, our Telephone Tree and Pals List ensures that no-one ever feels cut off from their Probus friends.

Club ZOOM Meeting 7 October 2020 with 12 members present.


Vincent Brogan: 19th Century

Meeting of Wednesday 4 March 2020
Speaker Vincent Brogan: Topic – “19th Century Omagh”

[L – R] Probus President, Michael Cooney, Vincent Brogan, Club Secretary, Alastair Orr
Vincent began by referencing a plantation map made in 1610 which clearly showed Market Street and the Road to Dublin. He recounted key events in the development of the town including the building of churches, the Courthouse and the Jail.   His first slide was a semi-comical postcard showing a horse kicking off a policeman’s helmet outside the police station where Curran’s Opticians now stands. The Pigot Directory of 1824 lists all the businesses and buildings in the town and records that coaches ran three times a week to Dublin. Members were amused to learn that in 1840 Omagh had 34 pubs for a population of 3000.

Vincent elaborated on the development of Omagh as a garrison town in the 19th century for the Royal Tyrone Fusiliers and later the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers.  The population of Tyrone fell dramatically from 1841 to 1901 but the population of Omagh town grew as people moved into the town for work. The arrival of the railways enabled people, goods and animals to be transported more easily and Vincent with the aid of postcards spoke of the development of hotels in Omagh and places of entertainment such as the Ulster Hall. He informed members that maps of old Omagh were available on the PRONI website to download free of charge.

Vincent was thanked by Probian John McCandless for a detailed and informative talk that was much appreciated by members.

Amy Burns RSPB 05.03.20

Meeting of Thursday 5th March 2020Speaker, Ms Amy Burns, RSPB

Amy Burns [left] with President Audrey Hodge
Amy is the RSPB’s Estate Manager for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. She heads up a team of seven who collectively manage the bird life on 43 of Lough Erne’s 154 islands along with 210 hectares of wetland and 400 hectares of forest.   Essentially the work is about habitat management and maintaining a variety of environments for the particular needs of particular birds.   Lapwings, also known as Plovers and Pee-wits, thrive in hay meadows. Curlews need longer grass in which to nest and hide their chicks. Sadly, their numbers are in steep decline due to habitat loss.   The RSPB owns a herd of Highland Cattle which it moves from island to island to graze and keep the vegetation short. Amy showed slides and played recordings of the calls of several species monitored by the RSPB including snipe, redshank, terns and gulls. RSPB in Fermanagh also manages 600 hectares on Cuilcagh Mountain, home to red grouse, skylarks and hen harriers.   Amy’s work brings her into daily contact with all sorts of wildlife including huge array of butterflies and moths. Her talk prompted many questions and much interest, for which she was warmly thanked by Eleanor Lyden

Social Services 10.02.20

Meeting of Wednesday 19 February 2020
Speakers: Shauna Patterson and Tom Flanaghan from Social Services
Topic: Social Services and Assistance for the Elderly – both practical and financial.

[L – R] Probus Vice-President, Hugh Ward, Shauna Patterson, Tom Flanaghan

Shauna spoke on the practical elements of elderly care stating that after a person is referred to Social Services, usually by a GP, an assessment is made to determine what is required, e.g. occupational therapy or some other form of support.   The individual has an element of choice in this and the options include respite care.   Mr Flanaghan explained the financial aspects of residential care on a long-term basis. Income in excess of £14,250 and /or assets over £23,500 mean that the costs may have to be met either wholly or in part by the patient.   A patient in permanent residential care may well lose out on some pre-existing benefits such as attendance allowance.   Where the patient is the owner of property the Health Care Trust may apply to have a charge registered over the property.   Mr Flanaghan strongly recommended that all those with assets and next of kin should take out an “Enduring Power of Attorney” to help avoid some of the problems which can arise in such circumstances. The team dealt with several questions from members and received praise from those who had first-hand experience of the services that were available to elderly people in the community.

In-house Quiz

Meeting of Wednesday 12 February 2020
In-House Quiz

Members participating in the In-House Quiz

At the Annual General Meeting in January the challenge of getting a different speaker each Wednesday was acknowledged and ready agreement reached that the Club should make more use of its own reserves of talent. In this field the President had led by example and prepared a quiz for the members. Five teams were quickly formed, with Hugh and Jim acting as scorers. President Michael then directed each team to give itself a name and the following titles emerged from the creative imaginations of the participants. The teams were Rainey’s Rascals, Bob’s Thickies, The Corner Boys, The Four J’s and The Town and Country team. After 6 rounds during which Probians looked alternately smug and mystified Rainey’s Rascals emerged as winners, just ahead of The Four J’s who were closely followed by Bob’s Thickies. President Michael’s teasers included – the opening lines of classical novels, Irish Folk songs, Food and Drink, Famous Faces, Geography and the Birth Names of stars of screen and stage. Whether or not members want more of the same remains a moot question but while it lasted it was good fun.

Women’s Aid, Omagh

Meeting of Wednesday 5 February 2020
Speaker: Ms Edel Fox Topic Women’s Aid

[L – R] Edel Fox, Senior Manager, Wonen’s Aid, Omagh, Oliver Loughran Probus President 2019, Tanya Barr. Admin Assistant, WA

The president welcomed Ms Fox, in attendance to receive a cheque from Oliver Loughran who had identified “Women’s Aid” as his nominated Charity for the proceeds of the raffle held at the Christmas Dinner. Edel thanked the club for its generosity and gave a most informative talk about the work of the charity in Omagh.   Based in Holmview Terrace Women’s Aid provides a range of confidential services for women and children experiencing domestic violence.   Domestic Violence is defined as “the intentional and persistent physical, emotional sexual or mental abuse of one person by another where they are, or have been, intimate partners or family members”.   The services provided by Omagh Women’s Aid include places of refuge, court appearances, accommodation, community-based support and children’s and young people’s services. The statistics which Edel quoted both surprised and appalled club members. There are presently over 2000 children in the Child Protection Register in Northern Ireland. The PSNI receives reports of Domestic Violence incidents on average 70 times a day while the Women’s Aid Helpline took over 25,000 calls in 2017 -18.  These, and other worrying statistics about the number of women and children living in refuge centres generated many questions about the underlying causes of Domestic Violence and ways to address an oft-hidden blight sadly pervasive in all walks of modern life.

Hugh Ward: Genealogy

Meeting of Wednesday 29 January 2020
Speaker: Probian Vice-President, Hugh Ward Topic: Genealogy

Vice-President, Hugh Ward [left] with Club Secretary, Alastair Orr

Over the years Hugh has become quite knowledgeable about researching the information needed to construct a family tree.  While most people can name the parents and grandparents typically things become murky when researching great grandparents and their parents.  For those whose forebears were born and raised in Ireland the website is an excellent starting point.  Its records include all registered births from 1864 – 1919, all marriages from 1864 – 1919 and all deaths from 1864 to 1969. To illustrate he logged on to Irish Genealogy via the Golf Club’s wi-fi network and opened up files containing civil records.   However in the midst of his demonstration the system crashed and Hugh was forced to continue with verbal descriptions of how to proceed.   Church records, he said, are worth investigating but are often incomplete because of poor book-keeping in the 19th Century.   He warned that it was quite usual for the spelling of surnames to vary over time – as with McCullough, McCullagh and McCulla.   The Griffith Valuation undertaken after the famine 1864 – 65 records the names of all persons resident in Ireland parish by parish, and district by district and is often a fruitful line of inquiry. Many questions brought this interesting session to a close.