Shirley McCay: Playing Hockey for Ireland

Wednesday, 10 February 2016: Shirley McCay: Playing Hockey for Ireland

Shirley McCay
Shirley McCay

Shirley was introduced by Probus Vice-President, John McCandless, who began by congratulating her on being the most capped Irish sports person ever, having played hockey for Ireland 214 times. She proudly displayed her 200th Cap and the shirt which she wore in her 200th game and passed around her scrapbook. She paid tribute to Miss Mary Swan, Head of Girls P.E. in Omagh Academy who had inspired her. As Captain of Hockey, Shirley had led her team to victory in the Senior Schools Cup and gone on to win the All-Ireland Cup. Shirley won her first Senior Cap, aged 18 while a student at the University of Ulster, in a match against Canada. It was the beginning of an international career which took her to countries all over the world. Her only real disappointments came when Ireland twice just failed to qualify for the Olympics in London 2012 and Rio 2016. She currently plays for “Old Alex” in Dublin and works as a Talent Coach for Uster Hockey, in which capacity she continues to meet her many palls in Omagh Ladies and visit her old school where she remains an inspiration and role model. Having answered many questions she was warmly thanked by Probus member, Wilbour Knox.

John McCandless: Environmental Health in Tanzania

Wednesday, 3 February 2016: John McCandless: Environmental Health in Tanzania

John McCandless
John McCandless

Probus Vice-President, John McCandless, delivered a very interesting talk about Environmental Health in Tanzania. He began by relating how a former colleague, Clarence Phenix, had developed strong links with Tanzania. Following his death and in honour of his memory John and his colleagues in N.Ireland renewed contacts with Tanzania, with offers of help. Soon they found themselves assisting with the development of a new BSc. course in Envirinmental Health and with administering a world wide fund to raise money for a new technical reference library. Using his influence as Chairman of the Chartered Institute in the UK and as a member of the International Federation, representing about 40 countries, he was able to raise funds from around the world to create the library in the University of Muhimbili, Tanzania. In addition three graduates from Tanzania were helped to attend university in Manchester where they took Master’s Degrees in Environmental Health, thus enabling them to lecture on degree courses on their return to Tanzania. There is now an intake of 110 undergraduates per year on this course and a further 300 Diploma students in 6 centres around the country. This injection of new graduates has had a significant impact. In 1995 life expectancy at birth in Tanzania was about 39 years; today it is 61. John and his Northern Ireland colleagues were honoured for their work by the people of Tanzania and by their profession worldwide. He was thanked for his talk by Alastair Orr

Dr Haldane Mitchell: Video Memories

Wednesday, 27 January 2016: Dr Haldane Mitchell: Video Memories

Dr Haldane Mitchell
Dr Haldane Mitchell

Dr Mitchell gave a video presentation of material he had gathered over the years of two of our most cherished members, now sadly deceased, Andy Mc Aleer and Michael Pollard. Michael was shown on an old steam engine where he talked about the construction of a railway system to accommodate the moving of farm produce from rural areas circa 1780. Other topics touched upon included the tramway in Victoria Bridge, community relations in Coalisland, and the effects of the Omagh bombing in 1998. Footage of Michael at the vintage car rally in Drumquin and saying grace at the Probus Christmas lunch was also shown.

Andy Mc Aleer was videoed in 2008 when he spoke on his life and times. One of a family of six he attended Castletown Primary School. On leaving school he worked with local farmers before being employed by Northern Ireland Railways at Ormeau Road, Belfast. Shortly after this he moved to the health service where he was to spend 40 years in various jobs. On night duty up to 100 patients were left in the care of three members of staff with Andy now promoted to Charge Hand. Andy was a great communicator with a lively sense of humour.

Mr Tom Bratton: An Inspector Calls

Wednesday 20 January: Mr Tom Bratton: An Inspector Calls

Mr Tom Bratton
Mr Tom Bratton

Having started out as a primary school teacher in New Buildings, Mr Bratton, went on to become a Senior Inspector in the Department of Education with responsibility for all the Primary Schools in Northern Ireland. In this role he had to advise successive Ministers of Education on education policy and recalled working with Martin McGuiness and Catriona Ruane. He shared with his audience that he had observed over 15,000 lessons and while it had ever been his pleasure to praise excellence he had a duty to highlight instances where there was room for improvement. School inspections include conversations with pupils and he entertained members with anecdotes about some of the things said to him by children during his visits. He recalled his own school days at Foyle College where he excelled at athletics and gone on to captain the Northern Ireland Cross-Country Team. Mr Bratton told how he had very much enjoyed his time at Stranmillis Teacher Training College and the early part of is career as a classroom teacher and Head Teacher. In retirement he had visited visited Dubai as a government adviser helping to improve teaching and learning in a country keen to maintain high standards of Education.

Annual General Meeting

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: Annual General Meeting
Omagh Probus Club held its Annual General Meeting in Omagh Golf Cub on Wednesday 13 January 2016 with 29 members present. In keeping with established practice, Vice-President Paul Gallagher, was elected President for 2016 and received the Chain of Office from outgoing President, Eamon Cunningham. In his final address to the club Eamon thanked all those who had helped him in 2015, saying that he had thoroughly enjoyed his year in office. On taking the Chair, Paul Gallagher thanked members for electing him as President of Omagh Probus, which he described as “a very gentlemanly group in which all get on very well” He congratulated John McCandless on his election as Vice-President and thanked him for the varied programme of speakers he had engaged for the start of the year. He was delighted that Gerry McGonigle was continuing in his post a Secretary and thanked Sam Bullock for taking over as Treasurer from Brendan Donnelly. The indefatiguable Bob Lingwood, who looks after the Club’s public address equipment welcomed the installation of a Loop System in the Golf Club because it will greatly help those with hearing aids. The Club is now well set for another good year.

Paul Gallagher receiving his Chain of Office from outgoing President Eamon Cunningham
Paul Gallagher receiving his Chain of Office from outgoing President Eamon Cunningham

John McCandless invested as Vice-President for 2016 by President Paul
John McCandless invested as Vice-President for 2016 by President Paul

Mr Erskine Holmes: History and Heritage.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016: Mr Erskine Holmes: History and Heritage.

Mr Erskine Holmes
Mr Erskine Holmes

In a wide-ranging talk Mr Holmes touched on a variety of topics deriving from his interest in history and politics. His love of history had drawn him into genealogy and he engaged his audience with an account of his roots in Donegal where his family had owned 2 scutch mills. At Queen’s he read history under Professor J C Beckett, the eminent Irish Historian. This led Mr Holmes into a reflection of the centenaries to be celebrated in 2016 – notably the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme. Student politics confirmed his commitment to socialism and he went on to describe how he had become leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Many present would have been keen to hear more of his views on the current state of politics in Northern Ireland and Westminster, but he moved on to talk about social housing in the shape of Garden Villages before addressing the campaign to reopen the Lagan Canal from Belfast to Lough Neagh.. He saw this ambitious project as part of the grander vision to restore Irish waterways to the point where it becomes possible to cruise the length and breadth of Ireland in leisure craft. He was thanked for his presentation by Probus Vice-President Paul Gallagher.

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 www.placenamesni.org 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.