MIchael Cooney “Grave Matters”

Meeting of Wednesday 27 November 2019
Speaker; Michael Cooney, Probus Vice-President. Topic: “Grave Matters”

Probus Vice-President, Michael Cooney [on the right] with Probus President, Oliver Loughran 

Having made a superb job of arranging a programme of speakers throughout the year, Michael filled the last slot in the 2019 calendar himself.   The title of his talk was a play on words as he shared with his fellow Probians fascinating snippets of information gleaned on guided tours of Glassnevin cemetery in Dublin and Belfast City Cemetery.   In the 19th century both Belfast and Dublin grew rapidly as people moved into the cities in the wake of the Irish famine, drawn by need to escape rural poverty and the lure of paid employment in factories. Death rates were high, and cemeteries were soon overflowing. At times things were so bad that corpses were laid on the surface of the ground and simply covered with earth.  The City Cemetery is thought to contain over a quarter of a million bodies, many in unmarked graves. In Dublin there are some 30.000 Celtic crosses dating from the 1860’s.  Michael illustrated his talk with some 20 photographs of headstones grand and modest, each with a story about the person they were erected to commemorate.  These included a memorial to Samuel Scott, a 15-year-old lad who fell to his death from the gantry in Harland and Wolff during the building of the Titanic.  Another is to Richard Kane, Grand Master of the Orange Order and a fluent Irish Speaker.   Rinty Monaghan who died in 1984 was the undefeated world flyweight boxing champion. In Glassnevin an elaborate headstone in the form of an angel sheltering four little ones beneath its wings marks the resting place of a mother and her four children poisoned by eating sewage-contaminated mussels.   These and many more in the same vein, all added up to an surprisingly engrossing bit of social history.   Michael was thanked for his talk by Probus Honorary President, Bob Lingwood.

Ann Donaghy OH & PCC

Meeting of Wednesday 20 November 2019
Speaker; Ann Donaghy. Assistant Director Western Health Care Trust
Topic: Update on Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex [OH&PCC]

Mrs Ann Donaghy with Probus President, Oliver Loughran

The Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland. The aim from the outset was to bring together under one roof all the services which previously had been scattered in various locations around the town.   All were in need of improved facilities and the new hospital has achieved that.   Mrs Donaghy listed all the services now operating from the new building, starting with four GP Practices and associated Treatment Rooms.   In addition, there is a full range of support services including Radiology, a CT Scanner with room for an MRI Scanner when money becomes available.   Members were keen to acknowledge the excellence of the arrangements for Out-Patients and those being cared for in the Rehabilitation Unit.   There were compliments about the new Pharmacy and Café.   It was of no surprise to those present that following an inspection by the Department of Health, the hospital was given the highest rating.   Plans for the future focus on integrating the services available in OH&PCC and SWA – the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen – to provide total care for people living in the west without the need for referrals to hospitals outside the region.   Mrs Donaghy’s presentation gave rise to many questions and a lively discussion ensued.   She was thanked for a fascination insight into the work of the new hospital by Probus President, Oliver Loughran.

Aiden Quinn: My Life and Times

Meeting of Wednesday 13 November 2019
Speaker: Club Member Aiden Quinn – My life and times

Aiden Quinn [Left] with Probus President, Oliver Loughran
Aiden’s family home was in the townland of Drumfad, two fields away from the President’s Grant’s historic homestead near Ballygawley. He attended Killeshil Primary School and Omagh Tech before progressing to Loughry Agricultural College in Cookstown. On a visit to Balmoral show in 1963 he was recruited by Fullwood’s who had a stand demonstrating the latest in milking machines. This was the start of a lifetime engagement in the milk industry which led to him setting up his own business in the fitting and maintenance of dairy parlours. Aiden illustrated his talk with slides which showed how milking technology has evolved in the past 50 years. Starting from the time when a bucket plant was installed in the byre, he showed how things had moved on to Herringbone parlours capable of milking large herds of dairy cattle. During his career Aiden did work in France where he fitted out a Goat Milking Parlour and in Saudi Arabia where he installed a Camel Milking Parlour. Today dairy farmers are installing Robot Milking Machines and monitoring the health and wellbeing of each cow using bluetooth technology. Throughout his talk Aiden made constant reference to the loving support he had had from his wife Jean, to whom he accredited much of business success. He was thanked for an engaging and informative talk by Probian Felim O’Neill.

Rotary President addresses November Meeting

Rotary President addresses Annual General Meeting
The AGM of the Club on Thursday 7th November in the Library was well attended. Mr John Robson, Rotary Club Liaison Officer, chaired the election of officers for 2020. The following were elected; President, Audrey Hodge, Vice-President, Margaret Cummings, Treasurer, Pamela McClelland, Assistant, Marjorie Greening, Secretary, Hazel Richards, Press Secretary, Anne McBain, Health and Safety Officer, Lisa Bullick and Pastoral Care, Cate McCrory and Margaret Scott.
The speaker was Mr John Bimson, President of Omagh Rotary Club, who took as his topic “A 50 year journey though houses we have lived in”. John gave a fascinating insight into “his journey”, from infancy in Newport, Monmouthshire, to childhood years in Yorkshire, to University life in Liverpool and to Northern Ireland where he met his wife Joan. Together they moved to Chorley, near Preston to a property built in the 1860’s with ample space for his love of gardening and being outdoors.
Their most life-changing move was to Wellfield House, Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders. The property dated from 1750 and had been remodelled in 1904. Following extensive renovations John and Joan were approached by the tourist board in nearby Kelso to build on their love of entertaining and accept paying guests in their luxury country home. John vividly recalled many humorous stories from this time. Joan shared with the meeting letters of appreciation from visitors from all over the world. Judging by the comments, guests were very well entertained indeed, enjoying Edwardian Breakfasts lasting well into the day as well as large dinner parties.
Their present home in Newtownstewart is more restful but they continue to enjoy life to the full and continue to enjoy contributing to community life.

Rotary President, John Bimson,with outgoing President, Zoe Reid

Sean Fitzgerald, Small Boat Surveying

Wednesday 06 November 2019
Speaker, Sean Fitzgerald. Topic: Small Boat Surveys

Sean Fitzgerald [left] with Probus President, Oliver Loughran

Sean Fitzgerald is captain of a Stena ferry operating on the Irish Sea.   Approaching retirement as a Senior Master he undertook a further course of study to become a qualified ship surveyor.   Today he runs his own business [JMF Survey] specialising in small boat surveys.   Sean compared what he does to buying a house. Having seen a property few people would proceed to purchase without a survey.  The same applies to boats;  the cruisers that ply Lough Erne can range in price from £20k to £400k and require a pre-purchase survey to get insurance. Without insurance a boat owner cannot get a berth in a marina and may even be debarred from certain waterways.   Being drunk in charge of a boat is punishable by fines of up to £20k and 2 year’s imprisonment.   To allow a full inspection of the hull, a boat can only be surveyed when out of the water, this being only one of a long list of structures, fixtures and fittings that form part of each survey. Sean also does work for marine insurance companies, surveying boats following collisions and accidents to assess the damage.  More information can be found on the company website https://jmfsurvey.com   He was thanked for his very interesting talk by Probian boat owner, Michael Cooney.

Clare Johnston, Terex – Finlay

Meeting of Wednesday 30 October 2019
Speaker: Clare Johnston from Terex – Finlay

Clare Johnston with Probus President, Oliver Loughran

Clare is based at the company’s manufacturing plant in Omagh where she is Group Operational Training Manager.  Having explained that TEREX is a global company headquartered in the USA with sales in 2018 of 5.1 billion dollars, she showed slides to illustrate its reach. More than half its income is from sales of Arial Work Platforms [cherry pickers], the other big product line being machines for crushing, screening and washing.   The Omagh plant manufactures some 600 crushing machines per year.   Members of the club recalled how it all started when John Finlay began making block-making machines in 1953, priced at £14/10 shillings in Scarffe’s.   In 1976 a specialised screen production unit was opened in Omagh and the first tracked mobile crushers were produced in 2005.  Since then the history of TEREX in Omagh has been one of continuous improvement and development.   “Telematics” were introduced in 2016; this enables the company to keep track of all its machines wherever they may be working in the world, monitoring performance and wear and tear.   Clare’s fascinating account of her work generated much interest, many recollections and lots of questions.

Sonia Slevin “Drink wise – Age well”

Meeting of Wednesday 23 October 2019
Speaker, MS Sonia Slevin. Topic “Drink wiser – Age Well”

Ms Sonia Slevin with Probus President, Oliver Loughran

Sonia began by distributing evaluation sheets to determine if knowledge about, and attitudes towards, alcohol changed during session. Her over-arching message was that healthy ageing requires a controlled approach to diet, exercise and alcohol use combined with varied social activities to stay outward looking and mentally alert. Starting with the current recommended Government guidelines of 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women, she challenged members to guess how many units there were in a number of popular measures, for example, a pint of beer, a glass of wine, a single measure of spirits.   Sonia further explained that it takes one hour for a unit of alcohol to clear the body and it is not speeded up by cups of coffee, eating a meal or an Ulster fry for breakfast the morning after the night before. The reasons for alcohol consumption rising with age were examined, as were rates of dependency and sources of help.   Sonia’s talk provided  scope for lots of witty banter but members nevertheless took seriously the importance of her message.   She was thanked for an engaging talk by Probian Eamon Cunningham

Amy Burns RSPB

Meeting of Wednesday 16 October 2019
Speaker, Ms Amy Burns, RSPB

Probus President, Oliver Loughran, with Amy Burns RSPB

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 Peewits, thrive in hay meadows which these days are artificially created by strimming.   Curlews need longer grass in which to nest and hide their chicks and wetland in which to forage. 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 a few 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 Harman Scott.


Liz Weir and Club President, Zoe Reid

The members of Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus were honoured to have Liz Weir as their guest speaker at their October meeting on Thursday, 3rd October. Liz started off as Children’s Librarian in Belfast where she discovered the healing power of stories. She is now Storyteller in Residence for the city of Belfast. She is involved in a number of storytelling organisations including The Early Years Organisation, where she talks to children about racism, anti-bullying and respect for the elderly.

Liz works around the world and we were delighted that she took time out of her busy schedule, especially on National Poetry Day, to come to speak to us in Omagh. She entertained our members and also representatives from Dungannon Ladies’ Probus who were our guests on this occasion. |She spoke movingly about her work and the effect that it has had on children through more turbulent times in our history; and at the other extreme when she has been working with people with Alzheimers.

Lilian Collins expressed a vote of thanks to Liz on behalf of our members. Rae Gallagher, President of Dungannon, spoke to thank Omagh for their invitation to join them for the afternoon and to thank Liz for her witty and poignant tales.

Our group will have their AGM on November 7th. Our meetings are held at 2pm in Omagh Library and, if you are interested, please come along and join us.