Probus Christmas Lunch

Wednesday 5 December 2018 Probus Christmas Lunch

Members and guests enjoying the Strule River String Band after lunch

The annual Christmas Luncheon was held on Wednesday 5 December 2018 at 1.00 pm in Omagh Golf Club. Members and guests were welcomed as they arrived by President Paddy McGowan and offered a glass of Christmas cheer as an aperitif. Festivities began with a formal welcome to members and guests. Having acknowledged the efforts of all who had helped to plan and prepare for the event, President Paddy invited Club Member, Jim McBain to say grace ahead of an excellent four course lunch enjoyed by all. After the meal musical entertainment was provided by the Strule River String Band who performed a selection of popular pieces and Christmas numbers which added to the enjoyment of another special occasion in the life of the Club.

Mr John McGuinness

Wednesday 28 November 2018.  Mr John McGuiness.  Inter-schools Historical Society

Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran [left] with John McGuiness
The final speaker of the year was Mr John McGuiness, formerly Vice-Principal of the Christian Brothers Grammar School, Omagh in which some 50 years ago he founded the Inter-schools Historical Society.  The moving spirit behind the initiative was Br Newell of CBS supported by the Heads of History in Omagh Academy and Loreto Convent, namely Mr Ross Henderson and Mrs Mary McCaughey.   The aims of the society were to foster community relations and encourage an appreciation of  history.  During the decade from 1969 and 1979 – a period of considerable unrest in the Province – the society flourished, inviting speakers from the Ulster American Folk Park, The Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra and the History Departments at Queens and University of Ulster.  Day trips to the Beetling Mill at Wellbrook and the Spade Mill at Ballyclare paved the way for trips further afield to places such as Wexford and Galway.   With two coach loads of Sixth Formers in tow there were many anecdotes to be shared and enjoyed.   The society continued through the 1980’s with trips to the battlefield sites on World Wars I and II in Flanders and Normandy and has left all of those who participated with treasured memories of their school days.

Julie Corry, Biodiversity Officer

Wednesday 21 November 2018, Julie Curry, Biodiversity Officer, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council 

Julie Corry with Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran

Julie’s talk to Probus began with an overview of her role as Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Biodiversity Officer. When visiting primary schools, she is keen to explain that “biodiversity” relates to all living things in the world around us and the responsibilities we all have to maintain the environment. Much of what she does comes under WANE – the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act [Northern Ireland] 2011. This imposes a duty on local councils to develop policies to safeguard habitats such as Wetlands, Bogs and Heath, Woodlands and Hedgerows. Species in need of protection include bats, bees, red squirrels, eels, newts, damsel flies and wild orchids. She explained how members of the public can help by reporting sightings of endangered species via the website The threat posed by alien invasive species was also examined, with the spread of Rhododendron on our hillsides being cited as a highly visible example. Today  over 2000 alien species are already established in the UK.  Locally there are grey squirrels in our gardens, zebra mussels in our waterways and everywhere non-native pests such as rats and flatworms. Julie’s discourse about how to control Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam gave rise to much discussion as members shared their experiences of trying to get rid of these invaders.

Chief Inspector, Roy Robinson, PSNI

Wednesday 14 November 2018:  Speaker Roy Robinson; Topic “Rural Crime”

Top Table [L – R] Chief Inspector, Roy Robinson, Probus President, Paddy McGowan, Club Secretary, Gerry McGonigle

Mr Robinson was introduced by Chairman Paddy McGowan as a life-long friend; they had grown up on neighbouring farms close to the border in Co Fermanagh. Roy began by talking about his life as a salesman before joining the PSNI. He was stationed in Omagh from 1995 to 1999 and was one of the first on the scene when the bomb went off in August 1998.   In his current role as Chair of the Rural Crime Border Committee he works closely with the Garda Sciohana in the fight against rural crime in the border counties. The worst offenders typically own some land with out-buildings where they can hide stolen cattle and sheep.  Then using tags and documents which have been fraudulently acquired the livestock is marketed across the border.  Happily the Police and Guards are getting on top of the racket with the number of successful prosecutions rising and the number of crimes reported falling. Machinery theft continues to be an issue but today’s farmers are very security conscious, many fitting concealed trackers and keeping valuable equipment in barricaded compounds over-looked by CCTV cameras. Chief Inspector Robinson’s talk gave rise to many questions and the appreciation of all present.


Mr Oliver Loughran

Wednesday 7 November 2018 Mr Oliver Loughran.  Topic Empires and their Aftermath

CBS Old Boys [Back Row L – R.] Michael Cooney, Hugh Ward, Eamon Cunningham, Oliver Loughran [Front Row] Billy Campbell, Pat McCaul, Gerry McGonigle, Felim O’Neill
Vice-President Oliver apologised that the speaker was not able to attend and filled the breach with an impromptu talk which he called “Empires and their aftermath”. His interest had begun in Latin class in the Christian Brothers Grammar School where he had studied Caesar’s Gallic wars. Having described the peculiar system of rewards and retributions imposed by his old teacher, Oliver then treated members to a brief idiosyncratic account of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. He then touched upon other empires that had come and gone including those of the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans and the British, concluding with the observation that today’s empires are those of Google and Facebook. His talk encouraged several members to speak of their own experience of being taught Latin in the CBS and the meeting ended with lively reminiscences of Junior and Senior Certificate.

Mrs Mavis Thompson

Meeting of Wednesday 31 October 2018  “The Life and Work of Mrs Mavis Thompson”

Probian, Albert Allen [left] with Oliver Loughran. Probus Vice-President

Mavis Thompson is a native of Omagh and the elder sister of club member Albert Allen. However, for the past 50 years she has lived and worked in Enniskillen where she enjoys a reputation as a skilled and innovative artist. A member of the Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) since 1986 she told her story to a local television reporter who recorded the interview and produced the DVD. The film was introduced by brother Albert who pointed out that some of the Probians present had been at school with Mavis when she was growing up in Omagh. At that stage in her life her first love was music and she became an accomplished pianist who also enjoyed art. A visit to the Ulster Art Gallery ( now the Ulster Museum) at the age of 13 opened her mind to the wonder of water colours and took her to the 1974 Turner Bi-centenary Exhibition in London, an experienced she recounted as “inspirational”. Encouraged by her mentor Derek Hill she began to enter painting competitions and in 1978 had one of her works selected for display by the RUA. Since then she has pursued her passion for water colours, taking her easel and palate into the Fermanagh Lakeland to capture light-filled landscapes with soft shades and deft strokes. Her reminiscences included the frustrations of sudden squalls of rain, being eaten alive by midges on the lough shore, muddy fields and wellie boots and brief encounters with otters, foxes and cattle. In more recent times she has found inspiration on the coastline of Ulster, beachcombing for drift wood and anything else that fired her imagination. Back in her studio these objects were formed into elaborate three-dimensional works of art, often with a musical theme. A trip to Japan was another creative a spur and a formative influence in the development of her style and technique. The film was much appreciated by members and gave rise to many anecdotes about the Allen family and its connections with Omagh

Mr Ciaran McCreanor

Wednesday 24 October 2018 Mr Ciaran McCreanor, Dalradian Gold Ltd

Probus President, Paddy McGowan with Ciaran McCreanor, Dalradian Gold Ltd

In a wide-ranging 75-minute talk Mr McCreanor addressed a number of issues including local employment, waste management, gas emissions, gold reserves, environmental impact, tunnel tours and the future of the company. He stressed the measures in place to minimise the effects of mining operations on the landscape and the planning in place to restore the area to its former state when mining ceased. Concerns about waste water were raised because cyanide is used in the process that separates the gold from the rock. It was explained that much of the water is recycled and what is ultimately released back into the rivers is treated to the point that it is purer than water coming into the plant from Sperrin streams. There are no lakes or lagoons from which polluted water might leach into the soil or seep into water courses. On-going testing of the river system showed no harm to any fish or the micro-organisms on which they feed. The speaker was up-beat about the future of mining in the region, quoting estimates of over 6 million ounces of gold in the Sperrins with the potential to generate over £5 billion worth of business over the lifetime of the operation – a period of time he described as “generational”. He was thanked for his detailed talk and invitation to visit the mine by Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran.

Mrs Cathy McCaul

Wednesday 17th October 2018  Speaker: Mrs Cathy McCaul.  Topic: “My life and times”

Mrs Cathy McCaul with Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran

Cathy McCaul [nee O’Reilly] is a native of Omagh. Her father was much involved in the town’s Rotary Club and her mother was founder member of “Inner Wheel”. A former pupil of Loreto Convent Grammar School she was the first female to take a degree in Computer Science at Queen’s and on graduating joined ICL then the UK’s premier IT company. After a few months writing code in a London basement she realised that a life as a computer programmer was not for her and moved into Project Management with the IT company “Digital”. When Digital was acquired by Compaq in 1989 her job was to integrate the two companies and give them a global reach. This involved a lot of travelling but after her losing her luggage a few times on inter-continental flights she learned how to travel the world with only hand luggage and [in her own words] with the bags under her eyes.  After Compaq she worked for a time in London before being recruited by Mastercard to help the company improve customer relations globally. Her success in the role earned her promotion to the Board of Management of Mastercard with the title of President – one of only three females on the Board of Directors. Now working towards retirement, she divides her time between Omagh and New York while doing some consultancy work in the world of global finance. Mrs McCaul’s talk generated many questions and much appreciation.

Integrated Education

Wednesday 10th October 2018 : Topic – Integrated Education
Speakers: Mr Anthony Bradley, Principal of Omagh Integrated Primary School and Mr Nigel Frith, Principal of Drumragh Integrated College

[L – R] Mr Nigel Frith, Mr Oliver Loughran, Probus Vice-President. Mr Anthony Bradley

Mr Bradley began by tracing the origins of Integrated Education back to Martin Luther King’s famous speech – “I have a dream”. The theme was picked up by the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960’s and today some 22,000 children in the Province attend Integrated schools. Currently there 43 Integrated Primary Schools  and 20 Secondary schools, representing about 7% of the total. The first integrated school in Northern Ireland was Lagan College which opened in 1981 with 28 pupils. It had to wait another 8 years before the sector was recognised by the Department of Education and granted funding as part of the Education Reform Order of 1989.
Mr Frith introduced himself by telling members he had been born in Africa and in 1981 enrolled in the then New University of Ulster where he met a local lass who would in due course become his wife and later convince him that he should live and work in Northern Ireland. He was appointed Principal of Drumragh College in 2005 having been until them teaching in Comprehensive schools in Peterborough. Today Drumragh has an enrolment of 680 pupils and occupies a campus on the Crevenagh Road which it shares with the Integrated Primary School. The schools have shared goals in their vision of bringing together children and young people from both traditions and educating them together on the basis of equality and respect for each other’s traditions. Tributes from former pupils were quoted to show the success of the two schools in producing pupils committed to making the world a better place.

Mr Richard Scott, MAPS

Top Table 03.10.18 [L – R] Oliver Loughran [Vice-President], Paddy McGowan [President], Bob Lingwood [Centenarian], Alastair Orr [Secretary]
At the opening meeting of the Autumn session Bob Lingwood was invited to take the Chair as a mark of respect and affection for a member who had just celebrated his 100th birthday. As an old soldier awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Second World War it gave him great pleasure to introduce Mr Richard Scott MBE to speak about MAPS

Richard founded MAPS [Military and Police Support] in 2012, to provide support in the West for former service personnel who needed it, including a drop-in service, befriending, counselling, hospital attendance etc. It is an entirely voluntary organisation that receives some limited funding from Northern Ireland Victims Service. He himself had been in the Police and was at the Omagh Bomb scene minutes after it happened. A number of years later when he had to retire due to ill heath he realised there was little support for security force members who left under similar circumstances. MAPS received a citation from HM the Queen in 2017 and Richard was presented with an MBE by Prince William in 2018.
He also talked about his work as Chairman of Omagh British Legion and his visit to Belgium to lay a wreath as part of the Great Pilgrimage90 in 2018, when 1200 legion members and representatives from throughout the UK and Ireland paraded through Ypres to the Menin Gate with their Standards and wreaths.
The citation on the Omagh British Legion wreath was written by Honorary President Bob Lingwood. A number of members recounted their own family memories and history, including the use of photographs and the placing of Poppy Crosses on graves.

[L – R] Oliver Loughran [Vice-President] Paddy McGowan, [President] Richard Scott [MAPS] Bob Lingwood [Centenarian] posing before a poster of Bob carrying the Olympic Flame in 2006