Club Christmas Lunch

Wednesday, 2 December 2015: Club Christmas Lunch

Christmas Lunch
Christmas Lunch

The annual Christmas Luncheon was held on Wednesday 2 December 2015 at 1.00 pm in Omagh Golf Club. Members and guests were welcomed by President Eamon Cunningham and while photos were being taken for the local papers members mingled or sat with a quiz sheet prepared by Denise Lingwood, daughter of Probus member, Bob Lingwood. There was no escape from those selling tickets for the raffle of the many prizes donated by Omagh Probians. When all were seated grace was said by Mrs Elizabeth Firzgerald, daughter of Probian Michael Pollard who until his death in October 2015 had traditionally got proceedings under way. Following a festive lunch thoroughly enjoyed by all 82 members and guests, President Eamon, proposed a toast to the guests; this was replied to by Brendan McLaughlin, Captain of Omagh Golf Club, Sean Fitzgerald, President of Omagh Rotary and Audrey Hodge, President of Omagh Ladies Probus. Entertainment after the meal was provided by the Strule River String Band and the event ended at 4.00pm with a hearty rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”. The raffle raised £315.50 for the President’s charity.

Michael McCrossan: Progress report new Omagh Hospital

Wednesday 25 November 2015: Michael McCrossan: Progress report new Omagh Hospital

Michael McCrossan
Michael McCrossan

Mr McCrossan had been invited to provide members with a progress report on the “New Hospital” to be called the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex. He explained that the name had been chosen to reflect the fact that new facility would bring together on one site the County Hospital, Omagh Health Centre, Children’s Services and other local primary care providers. Construction work was well advanced with completion expected by December 2016 and the first patients through the doors in March 2017. Using architects’ plans and artists’ impressions to illustrate his talk, Mr McCrossan showed that GP Practices would be on the ground floor near reception. The complex also includes 40 en suite in-patient single rooms, 30 of which would be for intermediate care and 10 for palliative care. In all the building will have some 990 rooms, a total which includes 100 consulting rooms, 26 renal stations, various offices, stores and kitchens, as well as a Pharmacy, a Prayer Room and Mortuary. Outside there will be parking for 863 cars, with charges for the car parks closest to the main entrance. In the discussion which followed Mr McCrossan was asked about Cardiac Services, Mental Health Services, Audiology services, Ambulance Services, and so on, leaving members feeling that the new complex will be a great asset in the community. The vote of thanks on behalf of the Club was given by Eric Bullick.

Miss Naomi Scott: “Portraits”

Wednesday 18 November 2015:  Miss Naomi Scott: “Portraits”

Naomi Scott
Naomi Scott

The President welcomed Miss Scott, daughter of club member, Harman Scott, and a former pupil of Omagh Academy. After graduating from the University of Lancaster Naomi worked with a Danish Development Agency in Africa before being recruited by the United Nations to work in their aid programmes in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. During this time she met many famous and fascinating people who left a lasting impression on her. In her talk entitled “Portraits” Naomi recounted meeting, among others, President Bill Clinton, Colonel Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, billionaire Nikki Oppenheimer and Gracae Machel, widow of Nelson Mandela. Devoting a few minutes to each, she described how their private persona often differs from their public image and related how kindly Colonel Gaddafi was to the group of young people she was with when she met him and how much she had admired Robert Mugabe in the early days of his Presidency. She admitted having been bowled over by the infectious charm of Bill Clinton. Naomi talked with respect and affection for others whom she had met – philanthropists, games wardens, church workers and local politicians many of whom had been through tough times and dark days. She was thanked for her enthralling talk by Club Member, Oliver Loughran.

Visit to Mellon Centre for Migration Studies

Wednesday 11 November 2015: Visit to Mellon Centre for Migration Studies
Speakers: Dr Brian Lampkin and Dr Paddy Fitzgerald

John McCandless
John McCandless

Dr Lampkin began by noting how recent events in Europe had pushed “migration” onto political agenda and used the crisis to invite a working definition of the term “migration”. While some in the audience felt it referred to the movement of people across international borders Dr Lampkin argued that the term also included internal migration, that is movement within a country, right down to something as commonplace as moving house. To illustrate the point Dr Fitzgerald asked how many of those present were natives of Omagh and how many were “blow-ins”. This led to an entertaining session in which a goodly number of those present recounted how they came to be in Omagh. Dr Lampkin then demonstrated an on-line resource called the “Citizens’ Atlas of Local Migration”. This programme allows modern satellite images to be overlaid with maps from different periods of history. When applied to Londonderry it was fascinating to see where features recorded on the 1611 map of the city now sit in relation to present day landmarks and how the picture changed as more recent maps were superimposed.

Jim Alderdice
Jim Alderdice

Towards the close of the meeting Dr Fitzgerald made reference to a book which had been presented to the Centre by Probian Jim Alderdice. This book, which is essentially a family history, includes a migration story – the one which brought Jim from his childhood home in Bessbrook, Co Armagh to his current home in Kylemore Gardens, Omagh. In similar vein Probian John McCandless presented the Library with a 150 page document about people with the name McCandless who had settled in North Carolina. John explained that the research had been carried out in the USA by members of the McCandless diaspora. Dr Fitzgerald was then questioned about some local place names and introduced members to the website which sparked a further round of interesting exchanges.

Dr Haldane Mitchell
Dr Haldane Mitchell

After the meeting members were invited by Dr Haldane Mitchell to view an exhibition entitled “Omagh at War – Photographs of the town 1913 – 1919”, currently on public display in the gallery at the Folk Park. As members toured the gallery Dr Mitchell explained that most of photographs had been taken by one, Norman Holland, a qualified solicitor living and working in Omagh at the time. Considerable effort was needed to provide a meaningful commentary for each photograph, given that some were over 100 years old. The tour of exhibition proved as interesting and informative as the earlier session on Migration; it meant that those who were able to attend both, enjoyed two very different but equally engaging talks during the club visit to the Ulster American Folk Park.

John Robson: A Slice of Military History

Wednesday 4 November 2015: Probian John Robson: A Slice of Military History

John Robson
John Robson

John’s knowledge of Naval History is such that he has been called upon to speak at meetings of the club several times because of the interesting way in which he approaches each topic. His topic on this occasion was the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at the end of the First World War. As part of the armistice of 1918 Germany was made to surrender her Navy to Admiral Beattie at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. In all 74 German warships were laid up with their guns spiked – navy speak for the removal of their firing mechanisms. However each ship was allowed to maintain a skeleton crew to keep the boilers stoked and the ships seaworthy. But the Germans became suspicious of British motives and scuttled their own fleet as it lay at anchor. Mr Robson described how in the years which followed many of the ships were salvaged for scrap. In fact salvage operations continue to this day because of the high value of the steel in some of the hulls. John was thanked for for his interesting talk by probian Alastair Orr.

Tributes: Probians Remembered

Wednesday 28 October 2015: Tributes: Probians Remembered

Speakers 28.10 15
L – R: Dr Haldane Mitchell, Paul Gallagher, John McCandless

The sudden death of Michael Pollard on 21st October, following on so quickly from the deaths Cecil Brown at the beginning of the month and Andy McAleer in September made members pause for thought. Although Probus was well represented at their respective funerals and condolences conveyed to each of the three families it was felt that time should be made in the Club Programme for members to pay their own tributes to each of these gallant gentlemen. Tributes were led by Dr Haldane Mithchell who had a fund of stories to tell about the many times he and Michael had gone off together to research aspects of local history with particular reference to trams and railways. Those club members who had worked profssionally with Michael in local government spoke with warmth and affection about their former friend and colleague. Andy McAleer and Cecil Brown were also remembered with reminiscences about their conributions the club and the wider community. The common theme for all three was the way in which each had lived life to the full and in doing so had become an inspiration to those who follow in their wake.



Col Declan O’Carroll: Finnar Camp

Wednesday 21 October 2015: Col Declan O’Carroll: Finnar Camp

Col O'Carroll
L – R: Eamon Cunningham, Col Declan O’Carroll, Paul Gallagher

Colonel O’Carroll began by explaining that the bit of the camp which can be seen from the road between Ballyshannon and Bundoran is only a small part of a site which stretches back to the coastline and in total covers 731 acres. The site was purchased by the British Government from local landowners in the 1890’s as a training ground on which to prepare soldiers for the Boer War. In 1914 it was greatly extended as a training base for troops destined for the trenches of the Western Front. In the run up to the First World War 3 battalions of the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers were stationed in Finner Camp, housed under canvas in conditions which in winter were far from comfortable. Most were volunteers, patriotic young men who enlisted to fight for King and Country, buoyed up by the belief that the war would be over by Christmas. Four years later the vast majority of them would lie in Flanders fields having died gallantly at the Somme, Messines and Ypres. With the passing of the Home Rule Bill in 1922 Finner Camp was handed over to the IRA. On 22 February the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the tricolour raised by an honour guard led by Lt Jack O’Carroll, father of the guest speaker.

Mr Billy Gallagher: Omagh Shirt and Collar Factory

Wednesday 14 October 2015:  Mr Billy Gallagher: Omagh Shirt and Collar Factory

Billy Gallagher
Billy Gallagher [Left] with brother Paul, Probus President

Billy started his talk by giving a short history of the Gallagher family’s involvement in the shirt making business having established factories, at various times, in Lifford, Strabane and, in 1948, in Omagh.. The Gallagher family had started in shirt making in 1888 when Paul Gallagher took over Porter’s factory in the Derry Road, Strabane. The acquisition of a factory in Lifford followed and in 1948 the factory in Kevlin Road, Omagh was established in conjunction with the well-known firm of Austin Reed. Ultimately there was a board room coup and the Gallagher family were ousted retreating to their sole remaining factory in Lifford. Since the factory had only been valued at £2,900.00 the business was no longer viable and had to be sold off to Austin Pierce with Billy being offered the post of Managing Director. In 1969 Billy went to London with a suitcase full of samples and successfully tapped into the flower power/Carnaby Street market. Billy paid warm tribute to the people of Omagh in keeping the factory going for nigh on 50 years. Following members comments the vote of thanks was given by Bob Lingwood who thanked Billy Gallagher for his interesting and quite hilarious talk

Capt Mike Dale: A Life at Sea

Wednesday 7 October 2015: Capt Mike Dale:  A Life at Sea

Capt. Mike Dale
Capt. Mike Dale [left] with Probus President. Eamon Cunningham
Capt. Dale shared with members that in the course of his career in the merchant navy he had sailed over 1,500,000 nautical miles. His interest in the sea took hold when, as boy age 7, he had travelled to South Africa on a passenger ship with his parents. Back in the UK he enrolled as a pupil in HMS Worcester, an English public school for boys who wanted to go to sea. Despite his 2.5 years in a prestigious naval college he still had to serve an apprenticeship at sea, scrubbing decks and keeping watch in dense fog in the North Atlantic. An early posting was as Second Mate on the Cruise Liner  a job in which the novelty of putting on a fresh uniform three times a day and being nice to old ladies quickly wore off. Thereafter he stayed with the merchant fleet, gradually gaining rank as he gained experience. Capt Dale illustrated his talk with photographs of the many ships on which he has served – mail packets, car ferries, coastal tankers, bulk carriers, supply vessels to name but a few. His final posting before retiring in 2014 was a Master of a Diving Support Ship in the North Sea where he was required to keep his vessel on station within 10 cms of the spot on the seabed where the divers were working. He was thanked for his fascinating talk by Probus Vice-President, Paul Gallagher.