Christmas Lunch

Wednesday 6 December 2018: Christmas Lunch

Xma Lunch
Clockwise: Heather and Albert ; The Dining Room: The Top Table; John, Billy and Sam

The annual Christmas Luncheon was held on Wednesday 6 December 2018 at 1.00 pm in Omagh Golf Club.  Members and guests were welcomed as they arrived by President John McCandless and his wife Carol and offered a glass of Christmas cheer as an aperitif.  Festivities  began with a formal welcome by Mr Terry Haley, incoming Vice-President of Omagh Golf Club, who congratulated the Club on reaching its 40th Anniversary in 2017 and its vibrancy throughout its existence.    This sentiment was echoed by Mr Dominic Pinto, President of Omagh Rotary, which had sponsored the Probus Club in the first instance in 1977.   He paid tribute to the success of the club and recalled the times when he had been invited to speak to members and the warmth of the reception extended to him and all guest speakers.  The large numbers attending week by week combined with the excellent attendance at the Christmas Lunch was testimony to a healthy club with a bright future. Greetings and more congratulations were conveyed by Mrs Val Burch, President of Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club on behalf of her members. In her address she recalled the very successful All-Ireland Probus Rally held in May 2017, co-hosted by the Men’s and Ladies Clubs and looked forward to further joint ventures.   Having acknowledged the efforts of all who had helped to plan and prepare for the event, President John invited Rev Jane Nelson, Minister of 1st Omagh Presbyterian Church to say grace ahead of an excellent four course lunch enjoyed by all.  After the meal musical entertainment was provided by Eugene and Liam Moore who performed a selection of popular jazz and Christmas numbers which added to the enjoyment of another special occasion in the life of the Club.


Visit to Tara Centre, Omagh

Wednesday 29 November 2017: Visit to the Tara Centre, Omagh

John at Tara
Probus President, John McCandless with Sister Mary Daly [left] and Sister Maura Twohig. founders of the Tara Centre

On arrival members were treated to tea, coffee and scones in the dining room before moving into the Conference Room for the club’s regular meeting.   Business was conducted briskly to allow President John to introduce with minimal delay Sister Maura Twohig and Sister Maura Daly, co-founders of the Tara Centre.   Over the next hour they shared their story, relating how in 1996 on their return from study in Chicago they felt called to open a centre to provide counselling services for the people of Omagh.  Supported by their respective Religious Orders they were able to purchase 11 Holmview Terrace which, in the years since, has been extended by the acquistion of neighbouring properties.  The centre now comprises a suite of rooms and offices providing flexible accommodation for a wide variety of services including counselling/psychotherapy, art therapy, complementary therapies. meditation, life-enhancing workshops, yoga and support groups.

The founding vision was inspired by a holistic philosophy of life which cherishes a sense of the sacred in all aspects of life and seeks to build a society where diversity can be experienced as enrichment and pain can be engaged with as the raw material of deep personal transformation. Testimonials abound to the fact that at the Tara Centre peoples often find a new direction for their lives.   To learn more of what the Centre has done, is doing and its hopes for the future, drop in or visit their website


Mr Laurence Smith, Oilfield Engineer

Wednesday 22 November 2017,  Mr Laurence Smith, Oilfield Engineer

Larry and John
Probus President, John McCandless with guest speaker Laurence Smith.

Mr Smith began by describing his early career as an apprentice in Harland Wolf before joining British Steel in 1985 at a time when new oil platforms were being constructed in the North Sea. He recalled the gas “blowout” on the Ecofisk Field and how experience gained in controlling the resultant flare proved invaluable in extinguishing the fires in Kuwait following the first Gulf War. In 1978 he joined Solus Schall in the Middle East where his first job was the construction of 3 offshore Natural Gas Liquefaction complexes in Qatar. He stayed with this company until 2001 during which time he worked on numerous projects acquiring managerial responsibility for testing and quality control. The risks involved in pumping liquefied natural gas under high pressure from source to ship meant no compromise was ever made regarding the safety of personnel and equipment. In 2009 he joined the French petroleum giant Total and was posted to Nigeria where he was confronted by corruption at all levels in the oil construction industry. From 2010 – 2015 he was based in Yemen where a deteriorating security situation made the hazards of working on desert pipelines even more hazardous. Eventually it became too dangerous and the company was forced to evacuate its work force at short notice. Now retired and living in Kesh he has no objection  to fracking, satisfied that gas can be safely and profitably exploited in Fermanagh. Throughout Mr Smith enlivened his talk with entertaining anecdotes about his working life as an oilfield engineer.  A vote of thanks for his engaging talk was proposed by Probian Alex Cameron.

Bob Lingwood: Shoemaking

Tuesday 14 November 2017: Bob Lingwood:  Shoe-making

Bob Lingwood
Bob Lingwood, in his 100th year is still an active member of Omagh Probus Club

Probus member, Bob Lingwood, explained that the main part of his talk was a recording of a BBC 2 Programme “Inside the Factory”. It was both entertaining and informative and covered the manufacture of sports footwear, dance shoes, and lightweight flexible shoes with a fashion element for everyday wear.   Companies involved were Joe Foster & Sons, [Bolton], Reebok, New Balance [a USA based company], and Frederick Freed, [a London based company] making ballet dance shoes. Finally, the programme illustrated the education and training of shoe designers at Cordwainers’ Technical College in London. The story covered the development of the industry from cottage home based shoe-making to a factory production, comprising high tech machines controlled by computerised systems involving high capital expenditure.

After the film presentation, Bob gave a brief outline of his sixty years work experience in the industry and his involvement with various units shown in the film. After leaving state school at 14 years of age he enrolled at Cordwainers’ College for a two-year course on shoemaking which covered everything from foot measurement to completed footwear. On completion his first assignment was  with Frederick Freed, London based Dance Shoe [Ballet] Maker. In later years his own company Tyrone Shoes Omagh produced high tech parts for New Balance, based in Tralee, Ireland and Cumbria, England. After “retiring” at the of age 70, he worked on for a further five years with Reebok, employed as a Technical Consultant in production units worldwide.

Claire McElhinney: “Tell them of us”

Wednesday, 8 November 2017:  Claire McElhinney:  “Tell Them of Us”

Claire John Amanda
[L – R] Claire McElhinney, Probus President, John McCandless and Amanda Porter

Claire’s talk, entitled “Tell Them of Us”, was about about her grandmother’s service as a nurse in France during the First World War.   In March 1914 Miss Edith Harkness from Plumbridge joined the Nursing Corps of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Formed in 1913  by the time war was declared on 4 August 1914 the UVF Nursing Corps numbered some 5000 persons.  When the call went out for nurses to serve the war effort Edith volunteered to go to France and was posted to a French military hospital in Pau where her ability to understand French served her well.  In the early days of the war wounded soldiers were transported 600 miles from the Western Front to Pau [near the Spanish Border] but as casualties mounted in 1916 the Ulster Volunteer Hospital moved to Lyons in order to be closer to the action.   Following the Battle of the Somme the British army began to evacuate its wounded back to England and put out an urgent call for nurses.  With her operational experience Edith was promptly recruited and spent the reminder of the war in a large military hospital in Ripon in Yorkshire.   On her return to Plumbridge she married Walter McFarlane and together they reared a family of eight children, one of the girls being Claire’s mother.   Claire was thanked by World War II veteran Bob Linwood who included in his remarks appreciation to Amanda Porter for showing the slides with which Claire illustrated her talk.

Mrs Gwen Garrett: Riding for the Disabled

Wednesday 1 November 2017 : Mrs Gwen Garrett: Riding for the Disabled

Gwen John
Mrs Gwen Garrett, Chairperson Omagh RDA with Probus President, John McCandless

The Omagh branch of RDA [Riding for the Disabled] was founded in 1981 by a group of local volunteers and based in Old Mountfield House.  Today RDA has its own purpose-built equestrian centre at Arvalee, in a building opened in 1985.   From small beginnings it now caters for over 80 riders a week, with participants coming from all parts of Tyrone Fermanagh and Donegal.  It has no paid staff, depending on some 60 volunteers and 9 qualified riding coaches: it currently has 12 horses and ponies. RDA provides participants with not just the opportunity to learn to ride but also to work with the horses in ways which provide therapy, enjoyment and exercise. New skills are acquired within nationally recognised education programmes that lead to vocational qualifications.   For those who can feel isolated by disability it offers social interaction and inclusion.   Omagh RDA works closely with schools and social services offering enjoyable and challenging courses for children and adults with special needs, especially those on the autistic spectrum.  The benefits for both volunteers and participants are considerable in terms of acquiring enhanced confidence and self-esteem through working with the horses and each other.  The success of the enterprise has been such that many of the participants no longer consider themselves “disabled” and have adopted a new name  for their group.  Omagh RDA is now Omagh EPONA,  after Epona, the Celtic goddess of horses.


Ian Davidson: Arts and Heritage

Wednesday 25 October 2017: Ian Davidson: Head of Arts and Heritage, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council

Fionsa John Ian
[L – R] Fiona Crudden, Good Relations Officer, FODC with Probus President, John McCandless, and Ian Davidson. Head of Arts and Heritage FODC

Mr Davidson was accompanied by Miss Fiona Crudden, Good Relations Officer, FoDC, and together they provided an informative account of of the Council’s Irish Language Policy.  Adopted in 2015 following widespread consultation it was reported that 5% of the population have a working knowledge of Irish.    FoDC promotes the development of Irish Language and Culture in a variety of ways.   Grants and bursaries are available for groups and individuals to attend summer courses in the Gaeltacht.  There is support for local cultural events and Irish language classes are offered in both Omagh and Enniskillen.  Singing, drama and dance rooted in gaeltacht traditions are supported in local schools where programmes of ceili dancing have proved popular – even among boys.   When Fiona visits schools she finds considerable interest in the origins and Irish roots of townland names.    Mr Davidson’s and Miss McCrudden presentation was followed by a lengthy question and answer session in which members asked about the similarities and differences between Irish Gaelic and Scots Gallic, inquired about Irish phonetics and grammar and the meanings of some local place names.  The only question to stump the presenters related to the proposal for an Irish Language Act in the Northern Ireland Assembly about which, they asserted, little was known.


Mr Maurice Lee M.B.E: Scouting in Fermanagh

Wednesday 18 October 2017: Maurice Lee: Scouting in Fermanagh. 

Lee McCandless
Maurice Lee presenting President John McCandless with a copy of  his book, Scouting in Fermanagh

In his introduction Probian Jim McBain congratulated Mr Lee on the award of an M.B.E. for services to Scouting  in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 2017.  Maurice had brought with him an impressive display of scout memorabilia from World and European jamborees, as well as copies of his book, “Scouting in Fermanagh”.    Dressed in scout uniform decorated with badges which record his contribution to scouting both local and national Maurice began by telling members that currently there are some 40 million scouts worldwide, over 500,000 in the UK and over 1,000 in Fermanagh.  Formed by Lord Baden Powell in 1907 the organisation remains true to its founder’s aims of providing young people with character building opportunities in supporting each other and serving the community.     Illustrated by period photographs Maurice talked about scouting in Fermanagh from the formation of the first troop in Enniskillen in 1910 to the present day.  His talk included archive pictures  showing scouts at camp in the 20′ and 30’s and on parade with their band at important public events such as the unveiling of the War Memorial in Enniskillen shortly after the the First Word War, their participation in celebrations to mark the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and Queen’s first visit to the town in in 1946 when she still Princess Elizabeth.   He traced the changes in scouting down the years concluding with reference to the new £350,000 Scout Centre soon to be opened in Cladagh Glen, outside Enniskillen.  His talk was particularly well received by those members of the Club who had been in the Scouts in their youth.

40th Anniversary Dinner

Tuesday 17 October 2017: 40th Anniversary Dinner

Anniversary Dinner
Members and guests seated at the 40th Anniversary Dinner in the Silverbirch Hotel

Omagh Probus Club celebrated the 40th Anniversary of its founding with a gala dinner in the Silverbirch Hotel.   Attended by some 60 members and guests the evening started with a wine reception at 7.00 pm during which members and guests studied a gallery of past presidents and tried to identify present day members of the club from a dozen photos of “bonny babies”.  Following words of welcome by the Probus President, John McCandless,  Audrey Hodge, President of Ladies Probus, conveyed the greetings and best wishes of her members before saying Grace to start the meal .   A 40th Anniversary birthday cake was cut by President John assisted by his wife Carol and served with the tea and coffee.  A toast to the Club was proposed by Mr Alex Baird, Vice-Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, and replied to by Probus Past President, Kenneth Collins.  A poem, specially composed for the occasion by club secretary, Felim O’Neill, was read by Probian Desmond Smart, after which a number of members were invited to share their reminiscences of Omagh Probus Club. Principal among these was 99 year old Bob Lingwood whose pin sharp memory going back over many years funded a string of reminiscences which those who followed tried to match.  The evening was brought to a closed by well deserved vote of thanks to the organising committee and the staff of the Silverbirch Hotel for staging such an enjoyable event.

Business Meeting

Wednesday 11 October 2017: Business Meeting

Bob and John
Bob Lingwood taken by surprise when presented with a cake and flowers to mark his 99th birthday .

President, John McCandless opened the meeting by by extending a very warm welcome to Probian Bob Lingwood, on his return to the Club after hospitalisation and recuperation following a fall earlier in the year.   During his enforced absence Bob had celebrated his 99th birthday.   He was somewhat taken by surprise to be presented with a birthday cake and bouquet of flowers, but pleased nevertheless to be back among his many friends in Probus.   The main business of the meeting was to finalise arrangements for the 40th Anniversary Dinner on the 17th October, the Christmas Lunch on Wednesday 6th December and receive a closing report from the All-Ireland Rally steering committee.   During a gap in the showers those present assembled on the 1st tee for a group photo.