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.


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.










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.


New year at Ladies’ Probus

Val Burch (President), Zoe Reid (Vice President) & Father Eugene Hasson

Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club members encouraged to address the busyness of life.

At the January meeting of Omagh and District Ladies Probus club, President Val Burch extended a warm welcome to guest speaker Father Eugene Hasson, Parish Priest in Drumragh Parish.

Father Eugene Hasson, in his New Year Reflection, encouraged members to take time to usher in the New Year.

He commenced his talk by referring to the Roman god Janus, pictorially depicted with two opposite facing heads, illustrating that a new year is both a time of reflection and expectation.

In self reflection, Father Hasson shared snippets of his ministry locally and in America, memorable experiences which had shaped his life, and how his work has evolved over the years.

Whilst looking forward to the months ahead, members were reminded that in the fast, ever changing technological world we live in, with so many time consuming distractions, it is all too easy to succumb to the modern day disease of ‘Chronic Busyness’ which saps enjoyment and productivity from our lives.
Father Hasson quoted the inspirational writings of Thomas Merton, a twentieth century Trappist monk, who highlighted the ineffectiveness of this, stating that “by allowing oneself to surrender to too many demands and to commit to too many projects, we destroy our own inner capacity for peace and destroy the fruitfulness of our work.”

Members were encouraged to look for balance in their lifestyles and identify ways they could free up time to enrich their lives and nurture themselves, body, mind and spirit, bringing joy into their lives this year.

Father Hasson concluded his message by putting forward a practical eight point planner in self care which included slowing down, paying attention to technological use, becoming more physically active, decluttering our lives, cultivating relationships, enjoying nature, and nurturing our relationship with God.

Member Mary Keane, thanked Father Hasson on behalf of the club for his inspiring message which would encourage members to focus on their wellbeing this New Year.

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 1st February in Omagh Library when Mr. Alistair Moran will speak on “Highland Costume.”

New Committee at Ladies Probus

new president
Audrey Hodge presents incoming President Val Burch with Omagh Ladies Probus chain of office

Guest Speaker Tiernach Mahon, Red Cross Neighbourhood Links Manager

After welcoming members to the Annual General Meeting, President Audrey Hodge gave an update on both recent events and planned forthcoming activities.

Concluding club business for the year, she thanked the outgoing committee and members for their work and support during her term of office, before welcoming John Robson, Rotary Liason Officer, to preside over the election of officers for 2017/2018.

Under his stewardship, a new committee was elected as follows: Val Burch (President), Zoe Reid (Vice President) Audrey Hodge (Past President) Pamela McClelland, Marjorie Greening, Pauline O’Hagan, Ann Orr, Lisa Bullick, Frances Beattie and Margaret Scott.

After refreshments, members were introduced to guest speaker Tiernach Mahon, Red Cross Neighourhood Links Manager.

Tiernach’s informative talk, supported by a Powerpoint presentation and interspersed with examples of real human need situations, expanded everyone’s understanding of the tremendous scale of humanitarian work being done by this organization throughout the world.

Commencing with a short introduction to the early origins of Red Cross and its vision of a world where everyone gets the help they need in a crisis, Tiernach shared the organization’s seven fundamental principles including humanity, impartiality and neutrality and interesting information of their life changing involvement in large scale relief projects being carried out throughout the world at present.

On a local level, members were given a comprehensive overview of a wide range of services provided here in Northern Ireland.

As well as emergency response to natural disasters such as the recent flooding in the North West, members heard of extended Refugee and International Family Tracing services, ambulance support services, loan facilities, independent living support etc. and their strong supportive links with other local organisations.

Tiernach was thanked for his interesting and inspiring talk by club member May Bothwell.

Members are reminded of Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club’s Festive Afternoon Tea on 30th November at 2.30pm in the Silverbirch Hotel.


Introduction to aromatherapy for Probus Ladies

At the October meeting of Ladies’ Probus,  President Audrey Hodge informed members that an honorary member, Aimee Day, had died since the last meeting. Respects were paid to this formerly enthusiastic member.

The speaker was local aromatherapist, Fiona Curran who was a trained midwife before moving into aromatherapy full time. She informed members of the benefits of many different essential oils which members were able to sample. Fiona explained the difference in oils which may be unfamiliar to many amateurs and she explained how she would mix and then use the oils for various therapies. Many questions were answered and the thanks of the club were expressed by Val Burch.

Arrangements were confirmed for afternoon tea at the end of November, a date which marks the beginning of the twenty fifth year of Omagh & District Ladies’ Probus which was the first ladies’ club in Ireland. The next meeting on 2nd November will be the AGM and there will be a speaker from local Red Cross.