Omagh Ladies hear about History all around us

History All Around Us


Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus had their monthly meeting on Thursday, 7 February in Omagh Library.  Their guest speaker was Frank Sweeney.  Frank is no stranger to Ladies’ Probus, having spoken on a prior visit about Street Art in Omagh.  His topic on this occasion was Historic Monuments and Sites in Tyrone.

He gave an illustrated and very interesting talk about local ancient sites in the local area.  These included Beaghmore Stone Circles, Dun Ruadh, the Creggandeveskey Court Tomb, Cregganconroe Burial Site, Aghascrebagh Ogham Stone and  Dunmisk Fort.  Even those of us who had visited some of these sites learned so much from Frank’s very entertaining and informative talk.

He brought us closer to our own time and discussed places of interest such as Dunmullan Church and Graveyard, Donaghanie Graveyard and the local legend associating it with St Patrick,  and Drumragh Old Church and Graveyard.

His talk provoked many questions from those in attendance.  On behalf of those present, Rosemary Clements thanked Frank for addressing the meeting and for his extremely interesting talk.

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 Dr Patrick Fitzgerald who will be speaking on Emigration & Genealogy.  This meeting will be at 2pm on Thursday, 7th March in Omagh Library.

Omagh Ladies challenged to “refire” for the year ahead

President Zoe Reid, Speaker Rev Ian Linton and Pauline O’Hagan who expressed thanks

At the opening meeting of the new year, members of Omagh and District Ladies’ Probus were addressed by local Church of Ireland Rector, Ian Linton. In his challenging message for 2019, he reflected on the experiences of John Mark as described in the book of Acts in which John Mark appeared to have given up in his work of mission, but he soon found that he was inspired to take up the challenges facing him and continue his work with Paul and Barnabas. Rev Linton reminded members that while we may feel dispirited or held back by our past experiences, that there is always hope. We do not have to be defined by our past but, instead, we can step out in faith which will lead us to the one in whom our hopes and fears are met. The Scriptures do not have a word for retirement and all were encouraged to look forward to 2019 and to be “refired” to work for good purposes in all that we do. Thanks were expressed to Rev Linton by Pauline O’Hagan.

Earlier in the meeting, President Zoe Reid had shared a poem entitled “The day that is in it” which she had written for the new year. It reminded everyone of resolutions made and then not fulfilled and reflected how most feel at the beginning of a new year.

The club members meet again on first Thursday in February in Omagh Library when Frank Sweeney will talk about Omagh Past and Present and visitors are welcome.


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.



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.

Probus Ladies hear of one local girl’s experiences in First World War

Claire McElhinney shows her grandmother’s war medals to Vice President Zoe Reid

Probus Ladies hear of one local girl’s experiences in W.W.1 when she travelled ‘From the Plum to Pau.’

The October meeting of Omagh and District Ladies’ Probus, which was held on National Poetry day, commenced with Vice Chair Zoe Reid sharing the poem  ‘Phenomenal Woman’ by Mya Angelou.

This proved to be a very apt choice as guest speaker Claire McElhinney a local historian, shared the story of her phenomenal grandmother who as a young girl left her familiar surroundings of Plumbridge to nurse wounded French soldiers in Pau, Southern France.

Claire became intrigued about her maternal grandmother’s life story after being given a photo of newly trained nurses outside the home of Mr.W.J. Millar JP in Newtownstewart and another of a Field Training day for the Ulster Volunteer Force Nursing Corps. Her grandmother was in both photos.

Research showed that Edith Harkness had joined the UVF Medical and Nursing Corps in March 1914 and had trained locally with mock battles and training camps. When World War1 broke out in Europe these young women were ready to put this training into practice. Their offer of help was gratefully received by the French authorities and fundraising started for a French Military Hospital. In October 1914 a group of Tyrone UVF nurses including 20 year old Edith set off, travelling by boat from Belfast via Liverpool to Bordeaux.  Their destination was Pau, a mountainous region in Southern France chosen for its healthy climate and its safe distance from the front.

Using a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate her talk, Claire gave a fascinating insight into the nurses’ experiences there. Slides showed the ‘Villa Beaupre’, a previous school which was converted into a 50 bed U.V.F. Military Hospital, its grounds where patients were often nursed outside, the converted ‘goods trains’ which brought the wounded from battle and the amazing ‘trench art’ created by these recuperating soldiers.

Edith nursed in Pau Military Hospital until 1916 when it closed due to huge numbers of casualties needing treatment nearer the front.

Following the battle of the Somme the British Army began to evacuate its wounded back to England. Edith responded to an urgent call for nurses and was promptly recruited to nurse in a large military hospital in Ripon, Yorkshire where she stayed until 1920.

After the war, Edith returned to her native Plumbridge where she married and raised a family of eight children.

Despite this local girl being awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, back in her familiar home environment, she was very reticent to talk about this period of her life!

Claire was thanked for her very interesting and enlightening talk by club member May Bothwell.

The next meeting will be held in Omagh Library on Thursday 1st November at 2pm when the guest speaker will be Geraldine Fitzpatrick on “Practical First Aid Tips.”

Members are also reminded of this club’s 25th Celebratory    Lunch on Thursday 22nd November 2018.





An afternoon of Wit and Wisdom at Omagh & District Ladies Probus

Anita Robinson with Vice President Zoe Reid

After listening to the guest speaker at the meeting of Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club, which was held on Thursday 3rd May, a spokesperson commented “I along with many others I suspect, am recovering from a severe bout of Robinson’s Disease, a disorder caused by the repeated tickling of the funny bone to the point where the patient ends up doubled over with laughter.” This particular bout was caused by the eponymous Mrs Anita Robinson well known throughout Northern Ireland for her wry musings on life here.

While election apathy raged all around, members were right royally entertained to a series of vignettes ranging from Ladies who Lunch through to Ladies who Can’t Find Appropriate Underwear, stopping off at many points in between.

The gasps, giggles, grins and grimaces showed that most if not all present could recognise themselves in the woman driver (much better than the male version apparently), the swimmer reluctant to get her hair wet, the internet self diagnostician or the long-suffering woman “enjoying” a bank holiday trip to the seaside with her family.

In other words, Anita took her incisive scalpel of observation and wit to every woman you have ever known – every daughter, wife, mother and, most importantly, friend we have ever met and pointed out our common humanity in a tour de force of hilarious attention to detail.

While she used material which had by and large been written for her column in the Irish News or for one or other of her BBC Radio Ulster programmes, she was a consummate performer and the easy rapport which she established with her audience meant that the women who people her pieces came instantly to life; we know them, lunch with them, exchange minor grumbles and complaints and compare notes on the issues great and small which bedevil us all.

Moving seamlessly through her rogues’ gallery, Mrs Robinson held her audience riveted from start to finish and when club member Audrey Hodge stood to thank her for her talk it was clear that all present agreed that it had been a wonderful afternoon and a fitting way to bring our library based sessions to a close for the summer season.

The next meeting in Omagh Library Headquarters will take place on Thursday 6th September when the guest speaker will be a representative of Omagh Rotary Club who will examine the links between the two clubs.










Ladies Probus members enjoy visit to Florence Court

Ladies pictured at front door of Florence Court

Since the April meeting of Omagh Ladies’ Probus fell during during Easter week this year, a Spring outing to National Trust Property Florence Court House was arranged.

The ladies enjoyed a walk through the grounds followed by a very interesting and informative guided tour of Florence Court House, an impressive 18th century residence which was formerly the home of the Earls of Enniskillen until 1973.

In addition to observing the classical architecture with exquisite Rococo plasterwork and hearing of the history of the building, they were entertained to snippets of the Cole family history and reflections of life above and below stairs in this impressive residence.

The outing concluded with a visit to the Estate tearoom for refreshments.

The next Ladies’ Probus meeting will take place on Thursday 3rd May in Omagh Library at 2pm when the speaker will be Mrs. Anita Robinson.


A focus on Food Allergies at Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus Meeting


Dr Ian Leitch with Vice President, Zoe Reid

“Would you gamble your life on a takeaway meal?” was the dramatic and thought provoking title of an audiovisual presentation shown to Omagh Ladies Probus members at the March meeting of the club.

Vice President Zoe Reid extended a warm welcome to guest speaker Dr. Ian Leitch whose interest in food allergens and the problems encountered by sufferers when purchasing food was sparked off at a Public Health conference in Canada many years ago and has led to many years of research on his behalf.

Dr. Leitch explained that for many allergy sufferers purchasing and eating prepared food without full knowledge of the ingredients used was indeed a gamble. Hidden allergens in seemingly suitable dishes had the potential to trigger a life threatening reaction and cases of deaths resulting from this have been documented.

In 2006, a N. I. Research Project highlighted this problem when samples of food purchased for peanut allergy sufferers showed that one in five of the catering premises visited provided meals which could possibly have triggered a fatal reaction!

Further research on the need for allergen controls being put in place led to awareness training programmes for Environmental Health Officers being set up.

Members were reassured to hear that much work has been done since then and more stringent safeguards are now in place. From December 2014 all food businesses have been required to provide allergy information on food sold unpackaged.

With restaurants needing to be able to supply up front information on allergens on menus etc. eating out is less of a gamble for many susceptible people.

In his very comprehensive talk, Dr. Leitch referred to the better known allergies, their symptoms and treatment options including the use of an EpiPen. With over 170 known food allergens and the number of allergen sufferers rising, it was encouraging to hear of the work done within the food industry to label ingredients clearly.

Club member Audrey Hodge thanked Dr. Leitch for being generous with his time and for his interesting and informative talk.

Omagh and District Ladies’ Probus Members will take part in a Spring Outing to Florence Court National Trust Property on Thursday 5th April.





Ladies Probus Members hear of the origins of Highland Costume



President Val Burch with Alistair Moran

With Burns Night and the 230th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s death recently past, it was very appropriate that Omagh Ladies Probus  guest speaker at the February meeting attended fully resplendent in  Highland dress.

Club President Val Burch warmly welcomed Alistair Moran from the Ulster American Folk Park who gave an animated and dramatic talk on the Scottish Highlanders, Highland clans and their way of life.


Speaking to an audience from which many could trace their Scottish ancestry Mr. Moran, who was born in Inverness, addressed the “issue of Scottishness” by describing his costume of muted MacDonald clan tartan kilt, socks, blue flashes, the obligatory Sgian dubh jewelled blade and a simple brown sporran. The ensemble was completed with a jacket and white lace jabot.

This costume, now favoured by many with Scottish connections for special occasion wear can be traced back to the practical, functional, costume of the Highlanders whose great plaid kept them warm, protected and dry in their harsh environment.


Members were held enthralled as Mr. Moran vividly described the harshness of the Highlands despite their majestic scenery. They heard of the difficult life of the clans as they coped with extremes of weather and terrain and a tumultuous period of Scottish history when their fierce loyalty to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobean cause led to the fatal battle of Culloden and ultimately the systematic destroying of their culture.

Although the Highlands became sparsely populated as a result, people’s intrigue with highland legendry figures, and the influence of Walter Scott, King George IV and Queen Victoria, cemented the romantic image of the area. The kilt and clan tartans came back into popularity with many now wearing them with pride.


Club member Anne McBain thanked Mr. Moran for his excellent, compelling talk.