Wednesday 7 June 2017: Annual Club Outing: Visit to Londonderry
On a bright sunny morning with the promise of fine weather, 25 members of the Men’s and Ladies Probus Clubs boarded a coach at Omagh Golf Club bound for a day out in Derry. First stop on arrival at the maiden city was the Warehouse Coffee shop for refreshments before a conducted tour of the Guildhall and the Tower Museum, led by informed and entertaining guides. This was followed by an “open top” bus tour of the city through the Waterside, over the Foyle Bridge and back to Guildhall Square via the Bogside. The on-board commentary through the headphones drew attention to many of the landmarks of the troubles including memorials and gable wall artworks. In the afternoon the party was given an informative talk on the history of the city while walking the walls with a knowledgeable guide. This included a look inside St Augustine’s Church – “the wee church on the wall”. Back on the coach the party moved on to Beech Hill Country House Hotel where they learned something of the role played by the house as an garrison for US Forces based in Derry during the Second World War, before sitting down to an enjoyable evening meal. Thanks were expressed to Club President John McCandless for organising and arranging such an interesting visit to his native city.
Wednesday, 31 May 2017: Desmond Smart: Some Old Words
Club member, Desmond Smart, is a collector of “Old Words” , writing down words that were in common usage in our parents’ and grandparents’ time but little used today. The meeting had a simple but entertaining format; Desmond would call out a word and Probians would respond by saying if they had ever heard it or used it. Among those more readily recognised were NEB [beak or nose], OXTER [Armpit], WHEEN [small amount], GIRN [to pull a face] GULDER [shout or roar], BESOM [a broom]. Some words evoked childhood memories, for example BROO [riverbank] on which many members remembered playing and fishing. SNED was readily associated with the trimming the green tops off turnips – as in snedding turnips and some recalled sitting on a SLIPE [sledge] being pulled along by their grandfather’s horse. All could recount the stinging bite of CLEGGS [horseflies] and PLOUTERING through GUTTERS wearing WELLIES. However buried in the vernacular were some unflattering terms for persons such as an untidy girl [a CLART], a contemptible boy [a SCUT], a big stout fellow [a SWAD] and a rough course woman [a HASK]. Other words evoking memories included COOM [turf dust], SPANG [leap], STOON [pain], TRUMPERY [bric-a-brac] and DAYLIGONE [twilight]
Wednesday, 24 May 2017: Mr Ian Johnston: End of Life Matters
Mr Johnston introduced himself as a “Trade Embalmer”, explaining that, while there some 220 Undertakers in Northern Ireland, there are only 60 or so qualified embalmers, and of these only 8 are “Trade Embalmers”, that is, practitioners who are self-employed and work for a number of Undertakers. To qualify as an embalmer one has to complete a three year university course offered by the “Irish College of Embalmers”. The course is akin to the first three years of a medical degree with the focus on anatomy. Ian explained that it takes between one and two hours to embalm a body and then present the deceased, in their own clothes, prepared for their wake; however the time frame can be greatly extended if death has been the result of traumatic injury. Embalming cannot begin until a death certificate has been issued, something which can take time if a post morten is required, given that all PM’s are done in Belfast. While Mr Johnston said it was necessary in his trade to remain emotionally detached, he did admit that there had been cases, particularly those involving infants and children, when had felt the distress being experienced by the family. Ian emphasised that, regardless of the circumstances, deceased individuals are treated with the utmost respect, because, as a professional embalmer, he is always aware that he has been entrusted by the family with something very precious.
Probus All-Ireland Rally 2017 hosted by the Probus Clubs of Omagh
Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th May in the Silverbirch Hotel
Preparations for the Rally The two weeks which preceded the Rally were given over to business meetings during which arrangements for the big day were finalised. Members of both clubs volunteered to welcome delegates on arrival at the bus depot and at the hotel. Others were on hand to assist visitors to check in and register for the Rally. Each was given a “Welcome Pack” sponsored by local businesses and supported by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. The pack contained a souvenir booklet, complied by club members, outlining the history of Omagh and the contribution of its renowned sons and daughters to music and literature at home and abroad. Much interest was added by literature provided by the council within the attractive covers of its new corporate folder.
Wednesday Evening Reception and Concert The Rally began at 7.00 pm on Wednesday evening with a drinks reception hosted by Mrs Mary Garrity, Chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Following a formal welcome by Kenneth Collins, Chairman of the Rally Steering Committee, delegates and guests enjoyed a concert featuring St Eugene’s Band and the Omagh Community Youth Choir. The highlight of a wonderfully entertaining programme came when the two performed together and led the audience in an exuberant rendition of “Ireland’s Call”.
Thursday Morning: Guest Speaker – Mr Eddie Lynch On Thursday Probians who had travelled to Omagh from Probus clubs in the south of Ireland on the previous day were joined by others from across the Province, bringing to 55 the number of clubs represented and to 280 the total number present. The guest speaker at the morning session on Thursday 18th May was Mr Eddie Lynch from COPNI, the Commissioner for Older People, Northern Ireland. Having explained the background of his office, including its legal powers and duties, the Commissioner listed his priorities as being Financial Abuse of Older People, Tackling Scams and Crime against Older People, Quality Care in Care Homes, and Dementia. His office is also keen to promote Active Ageing and The Positive Contributions of Older People to society.
Using an effective power point presentation he addressed each in turn, reporting that 1 in 5 older people are experiencing some kind of financial abuse. Successful prosecutions of family members have resulted in convictions with money paid back. He was saddened to report that the levels of “cold calls” and scams against older people were rising and described the distressing impact of such criminal behaviour its victims. Mr Lynch challenged the negative stereotypes used to describe older people both in society and the media, refuting unfounded claims that older people were clogging up the Health Care System and were a burden on society. In fact, he said, older people are set to contribute some £25 billion to the economy over the next 50 years through volunteering, caring, working and paying tax. Older people have a wealth of knowledge and experience from which younger people can benefit; many are active and engaged citizens.
The Commissioner cited Probus Clubs as being a good example of an organisation which promoted good fellowship with others and enriched the lives of many across Ireland. His talk generated many questions from the floor in a session that could have gone on a lot longer had time permitted.
Thursday: Probus Business and Lunch In the period before lunch there was time for some Probus business including (1) a report from Ennis Probus Club on the 2015 All-Ireland Rally, (2) the presentation of the Edwin Dunlop Perpetual Trophy to the Probus Club of Newbridge for having come a greater distance with more of its members than any other and (3) an invitation to the 2018 All-Ireland Rally from the Probus Clubs of Tralee, Co Kerry. By happy chance 2017 saw the 4oth anniversary of the founding of 6 Probus clubs in 1977 – Omagh, Londonderry, Strabane and Lifford, Ballymoney, Drogheda and Strandtown, Belfast. This auspicious occasion was celebrated by the cutting of a large iced birthday cake which was then sliced and served with the tea and coffee after lunch. Over lunch diners were entertained by the Bob Quick jazz band with Gerarda McCann, who together provided light background music as people from different clubs refreshed their friendship from previous Rallies down the years. It was a pleasing interlude in the day’s proceedings in advance of the afternoon programme and a warm welcome for the principal speaker, Miss Naomi Scott.
Thursday Afternoon: Guest Speaker – Miss Naomi Scott Naomi is a former pupil of Omagh Academy who was recruited by the United Nations following post-graduate voluntary service in Malawi to be an Aid adviser in troubled spots in Eastern and Southern Africa. Her talk focused on this period in her life during which she experienced hazard and hardship but along the way encountered some inspirational and memorable people.
The first person she talked about was multi-millionaire Greg Carr who at the age of 41 “retired” to live in a tent in the middle of a neglected game reserve in Mozambique. He had made his fortune by inventing “voicemail” and collecting one cent every time a message is left on a mobile phone. After a decade of endeavour he has created a wildlife reserve now regarded as one of the richest ecosystems in Africa. Her next hero was a game warden who took her deep into the bush and left her alone with a large gun while he went hunting for an evening meal. His name was Carlos Zaide and his instructions were to shoot any poachers seen absconding from a prison working party nearby. He later explained that convicted poachers are given the choice of going to goal for 10 years or working voluntarily for a year in a wildlife preservation scheme. Most choose working with Game Wardens on the clear understanding that they would be shot if they absconded. Some time later Carlos was killed by poachers, paying with his life for the animals he had devoted his life trying to protect.
Naomi’s story of how she got involved in the United Nations programme to tackle the spread of aids in Mozambique amused her audience. In a devoutly Catholic country the distribution of condoms to tackle the contagion was not approved. However in a debate with Bishop Seca, of the Catholic Church in Mozambique she noted a theological loop-hole, being that the use of an item sprinkled with Holy Water is not considered sinful. A short time later Naomi arranged for a truck load of condoms to be driven to the cathedral where the truck and its consignment was sprinkled with Holy Water, a practice which continues to this day in that part of Mozambique.
On a different assignment Naomi was sent to an area where outbreaks of cholera had decimated the populations of several villages. Her task was to promote a programme of environmental health but from the outset her presence was resented. Having received death threats from local chiefs she reasoned that success depended on her being able to win over the Chief of Chiefs. In this she was so successful that she was invited to participate in a tribal ritual the purpose of which was not clear to her at the time. Afterwards she learned that she had been married and had become the sixth wife of Chief Kafulatila. She was relieved to learn that her role was purely ceremonial.
While working in Zimbabwe Naomi met Robert Mugabe on a number of occasions in settings where he could relax away from the pressures of presidential office. It led her to an understanding of his appeal to his people. The same went for Colonel Gaddafi whom she met at a conference of African Heads of State. Despite his reputation she discovered that he still had the common touch that drew people to him.
Naomi’s sojourn in Africa included introductions to two of the world’s richest men, namely Warren Buffet, the American billionaire philanthropist and Nikki Oppenheimer, whose family fortune lay in mining and marketing diamonds. What first attracted her to the these fabulously rich individuals was their unassuming manner and their determination to be unaffected by wealth. In her talk she spoke movingly about meeting Graca Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandella and of her fight for freedom and justice in both Mozambique and South Africa. Naomi’s talk enthralled her audience and garnered many expressions of appreciation.
Thursday: Conclusion to the Rally The last item on the programme was some Probus business; reports were received from the Northern and Southern Rotary Liaison Officers, Ivan Conner and Aodh Bourke, after which Miss Audrey Hodge, President of Omagh and District Ladies Probus closed the Rally with words of thanks for all those involved in its organisation and all those who had supported it by their attendance in the Silverbirch Hotel. She included in her thanks those who had arranged a tour of the Ulster American Folk Park for guests who had come to Omagh for the Rally but were not actual delegates and therefore had time to look around and take in some of the attractions of the town and its surroundings. Their day out included lunch at Newtownstewart Golf Club, returning to Omagh via a scenic through the Sperrins and Gortin Glen.
Wednesday 26th April 2017: Mr Jim Corr: “A Travelling Man”
Although born in Dungannon and currently living in Gortin Jim Corr is a member of the Navajo tribe. How this came about was just part of a fascinating life story. At the age of 24 Jim packed in school teaching and went to America where he soon found himself living and working among Native Americans. First with the Sioux and Apache he later won the respect of the Navajo people and became an adopted member of the tribe. He spoke with feeling about Native American traditions and how in many parts of the United States, tribes struggle for acceptance. From there he travelled on and worked some time as cowboy, carrying a pistol and spending 6 – 8 hours a day in the saddle. After a spell as rodeo rider he enrolled in Pittsburg University where he took a Master’s degree in Special Education. Back in the classroom he found himself working with adolescents who exhibited, what educationalists call, “challenging behaviour”. To instil a sense of self-worth and self-discipline in his pupils he arranged challenging expeditions for them – taking them to sea in tall ships as part of the crew. Recruited by a shipping company that owned three schooners he spent the next 30 years running an education programme which won several awards from the American Sail Training Association. A talented banjo player who in his youth played with Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, he ended his session with the Probus club by performing a couple of his own songs inspired by his experiences as a travelling man.
Wednesday 19 April 2017: Mr Frank Loughran: Omagh Credit Union
Mr Loughran was introduced by club member, Desmond Smart, as Chairman of the Board, an unpaid post because Omagh Credit Union is a non-profit making mutual society in which the only members benefit. To become a member a person must reside with in a 6 mile radius of Omagh and have at least £1.00 to invest. The CU prides itself on being non-political, non-sectarian and open to all. From early beginnings in which in which members deposited a few pounds and borrowed a few shillings, Omagh Credit Union now has some 14,000 members who between them have invested over £26 million. Currently it has £14 million out on loan and reserves of £7 million. Asked if the CU got back all the money it let out on loan, Mr Loughran stated it got back over 98.5%, bad debt in Omagh being less than it is in other Credit unions in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. While the interest rate for borrowers may be higher than it is in the High Street banks, interest rates for saver are also better. Mr Loughran also outlined the various Life Insurances policies open to CU investors. Unfortunately all those present for his talk were over the age of 55 – too old to take advantage of the best schemes available.
Wednesday 12 April 2017: Dr John Moore: The South West College
The South West College was formed by the amalgamation of the Dungannon, Enniskillen and Omagh Colleges of Further Education and today includes smaller campuses in Cookstown and Strabane. Within the wider context of the educational sector the College is positioned between Second and Third Level education, giving it a large interface with students from all parts of the community. In the academic year 2015 – 16 it had an enrolment of 27,000 students and employed 880 Lecturers and Support Staff in either full-time or part-time capacities. A rating of “Outstanding” by the Department of Education’s Training and Inspectorate, is evidence that it is not only serving its students well but is also spending it annual budget of £45 million wisely. Since some of this money comes from the EU, the College has understandable concerns about the implications of Brexit. Dr Moore’s presentation focused on courses available in the College’s Four Departments, namely Professional Services, Social Sciences, Technology and Training. He emphasised the importance attached of STEM subjects [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] in meeting the needs of young people and the future needs of the economy. A series of slides and photographs illustrated the College’s links with countries in Europe, North America and Asia. His illuminating talk prompted many questions and earned him a well deserved vote of thanks from Probus President, John McCandless.
The annual Inter-Club Quiz was contested by 11 teams from Probus Clubs in Cookstown, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Londonderry and Omagh The quiz master was Joseph Cummings from Omagh and after 8 rounds, each with 8 questions, Londonderry Men’s Probus Club emerged as the winners of the James Eakin Shield for the fourth successive year. The Bert McCrory Cup for the best Omagh team was won by Omagh Ladies Probus. The event took place in Omagh Golf Club. Visitors were treated to tea, coffee and refreshments on arrival. The morning also included a successful raffle with prizes donated by the members of Omagh Probus Clubs.
Wednesday 29 March 2017: IMTAC [Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee]
On Wednesday 29 March 2017 the club met as usual in the Golf Glub at 10.30 am. Having dealt with regular business the meeting closed at 11.00 am to allow members to move on to the Silverbirch Hotel to participate in an IMTAC Conference starting at 11.30 am. The event brought together a wide range of persons from the Western Area to discuss mobility and transport issues. Those present were representative of a broad spectrum of persons for whom using public transport is a challenge. The conference embraced not just older people, [well represented by Probus], but younger persons confined to wheel chairs, those who used walking aids, those with vision impairment and significant hearing loss as well as those who had difficulty communicating. All present had issues with using busses, taxis and trains and generally getting about independently. Following words of welcome and an introduction from IMTAC Chairperson, Max O’Brien, the conference divided into groups to discuss a number of key questions including:
Do services including public and community transport and taxis meet your requirements?
Are pavements and crossings accessible?
Do you use a car? Do you have issues with parking and the Blue Badge?
Are you happy with the service and levels of assistance provided? What improvements would you like to see?
Some 15 members of the club attended the conference and all found it informative, raising their awareness of issues around public transport that they had not previously considered.
Wednesday 22 March 2017: Patrick Bogues: My sister, Louise
Many of those present at the meeting knew Patrick’s sister, Louise. Until recently she was a familiar figure around Omagh, but who now resides in Slieve-Na-Mon care home, It was Louise’s learning disability which drew Patrick to organisations committed to the implementation of the United Nations declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, being that Disabled persons have the right to economic and social security and to a decent level of living. From 1995 to 2005 Patrick was Chairman of the “Community Active Partnership” which raised just under £2 million for disabled persons in the Sperrin and Lakeland Trust Area and maintained workshops in Lisnaskea and Strathroy. This provided Louise and many others with a place in the community through employment, training and recreational activities such as bowls and Irish Dancing. From 2000 – 2006 Patrick was a Board Director of USEL [Ulster Supported Employment Ltd] which had under its wing the “Workshop for the Blind” in Belfast and a number of other similar schemes. Today, working out of impressive facilities in Cambrai Street Belfast, USEL workers produce a range of marketable products chief among which are “Slumberin” mattresses and a bespoke range of kit and carry bags. As Chairman of USEL from 2006 to 2012 Patrick was pleased to have the opportunity to speak about an organisation which makes a huge but often unseen contribution to the lives of disabled people in our Province. USEL has a local office in Anderson House, Omagh and provides supported employment in the Omagh Enterprise Centre.