June outing 2022

Omagh Probus Club Outing Wednesday 1 June 2022

On a day when the sun shone brightly 21 club members and guests set out on a coach tour of Inishowen, capably arranged by Club President, Michael Cooney. The first stop was Fort Dunree for coffee and scones before moving on to the Famine Village at Doagh. The day ended with a scenic trip to Malin Head with an enjoyable evening meal in the Strand Hotel, Ballylifin on the way home.


The fort is located on a rocky promontory accessed over a natural fissure. It was originally built as part of a series of fortifications defending Lough Swilly during the Napoleonic Wars.  The fort was neglected after the peace of 1815.  In 1874 it was armed with seven 24 Pounder guns.  Later 2 x 6 inch guns were added; both guns were operational during the First World War.

In December 1921, the Anglo Irish Treaty provided for the establishment of the Irish Free State.  The Treaty included provisions by which the British would retain sovereignty over three strategically important ports known as the Treaty ports, one of which was Fort Dunree on Lough Swilly.  The fort remained under British sovereignty until 1938; thereafter  and the guns were maintained  by the Irish Army until decommissioned following the Second World War. Fort Dunree was used by the Irish Army for training until 1990.

Doagh Famine Village
Doagh Famine Village tells the story of a Donegal family and community living on the edge of Donegal and surviving from Famine times right up to the present day. A visit here also helps explain the road to peace in Northern Ireland, Ireland in the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years and the current economic collapse.

Doagh Famine Village contains a wide selection of actual size attractions, including some original dwellings which were still inhabited up to 20 years ago. In fact, the centre has been built around the home of the owner who lived here with his family until 1983.

Some of the Famine Village’s buildings – such as the Orange Hall, Presbyterian Meeting House, Mass Rock and Hedge School and a Republican Safe House – depict the diverse history and culture of this corner of the Inishowen peninsula. Other buildings house information on the travelling community’s culture and other Irish traditions such as food, cures and the ‘Irish Wake’, a traditional send-off for the dead.


Mr Stephen Kee

Wednesday 8 May 2022: Mr Stephen Kee speaking about his heart transplant

[L – R] Probus President, Michel Cooney, Mr Stephen Kee, Hugh Ward, Vice-President
In his own words: 
I am a 58-year-old Husband and Father from Omagh who earns a living through worldwide trading in construction equipment and components.   In 2013 I suffered Heart Failure by a mystery virus and had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or ICD fitted to regulate my heart rhythm and provide a shock if needed.  Shortly after surgery I was discharged and enjoyed a good recovery returning to near normal physical activities and everyday life.

Almost 30 months later in 2016 I was unfortunately again attacked by the virus and deteriorated rapidly in the early summer of that year. One Wednesday in June I went to my GP for a check-up, and he noted my levels were low and I presented with blue lips and other symptoms of advanced Heart Failure.  He contacted my Cardiac Nurse and put the wheels in motion for me to be admitted to hospital 5 days later for observation.

Shortly after I was admitted my Cardiologist determined I had end stage Heart Failure and stated there was nothing more could be done for me in his hospital.  I was told to get my affairs in order, and he would continue efforts to have me admitted to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Days later I was taken by air ambulance to The Freeman and urgently rushed through Transplant Assessment.

Later that week I was deemed suitable for Transplant and placed on the top of the UK Transplant List.  At this stage my life was being measured in days rather than weeks or months but I was on the list and in the Freeman so I felt I had a chance!  One warm Wednesday afternoon with only days to live and exactly 4 weeks after my GP had put the wheels in motion, I was told there was a potential organ on the way and to get ready for theatre!

I presented one of Europe’s most experienced transplant teams with some of their greatest ever challenges and spent nearly 30 hours over the next 5 days in theatre as they battled to give me the gift of life.  Some 10 days later I was still alive and extremely confused but fighting and began 9 months of recovery.

They taught me how to grip a cup, swallow, stand and then walk.  In 6 weeks I was discharged to a flat close to hospital and spent another 6 weeks there with daily clinics and yet more surgery on wounds before being discharged and returning home.  I now visit The Freeman for clinic every 12 weeks and follow a strict medication regime but lead a meaningful life with objectives which include “Plan for the worst but Hope for the best”

The reason I write these words is due to the courage of my Donor and the power of Organ Donation.

Thank You

Stephen J Kee




Visit to Gortin Forest Park

Club Members who visited Gortin Glen Forest Park on Wednesday 4 May 2022

The group was welcomed to Gortin Glen by Sean Harper a member of the management team responsible for the maintenance and development of the Forest Park. Sean explained that over the last few years several million pounds had been spent upgrading walks and cycle trails and improving visitor experience. The most eye catching feature was a new play park built around a Californian Redwood Tree. A café, open at the weekends and on public holidays has proved very popular. Local schools have access to a refurbished classroom an adult groups can book the covered barbecue area. Toile facilities have been upgraded and lovely wood carvings are encountered at every turn. After a visit to the deer enclosure the group repaired to the Glen Perk Restaurant for tea, coffee and scones.


Programme Committee

Wednesday 23 March: Meeting of the Programme Committee 

The committee met at 10.30 am in the Hugh Ward’s home.  After stopping to admire the lovey displays of spring flowers in Hugh’s extensive garden it was down to the serious business of enjoying tea, coffee and scones provided by Hugh’s wife.  The meeting itself was very productive with a programme for the first part of the year – up to the June Outing and Summer recess – put in place and with a goodly number of ideas noted for the second part of the year.

Club Programme Committee [L – R] Hugh Ward, Oliver Loughran, Jim McBain, Felim O’Neill

Fr Peter O’Kane

Meeting of Wednesday 16th March 2022 : Speaker Fr Peter O’Kane, Drumragh Parish

[L – R] Felim O’Neill, Fr Peter O’Kane, Michael Cooney Club President
Invited to deliver a New Year address Fr Peter conceded that events had transpired to delay his visit but pointed out that every day starts a new year in our lives and the opportunity to take a fresh look at the future.   He spoke of the opportunities he had had along the way to make decisions about his own future starting from schooldays in Strabane when he could never recall wanting to be anything other than a priest.   In 1998 he entered Maynooth College, there to take a degree in Philosophy, Theology and Music. Following placements in Dublin which involved chaplaincy duties in prisons and hospitals and work among the homeless he was ordained and assigned to a parish in the Waterside district of Derry.  His continuing interest in academic studies saw him posted to Rome in 2009 to study Canon Law.  On his return he ministered in the Greater Dublin area for a time before joining the Dominican Order in Cork. During this time, he lectured in Canon Law in Maynooth before returning to Co Tyrone as Curate for the Parish of Drumragh. His new year message drawn from his own experiences was simple. “Accept that there is a providential hand guiding your life: believe in it and find peace wherever you are”


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.