Ms Paula Canney, Dementia NI

Wednesday 30 May 2018, Ms Paula Canney, Dementia NI

Paula Canney, with Michael Cooney, Probus second Vice-President

Paula began by stating that over 850,000 people in the UK have a diagnosis of dementia, a figure that is predicted to rise to one a million by 2025. In Northern Ireland the figure is around 20,000 but may well be a third higher because of the number of cases either undiagnosed or undeclared. Dementia NI works with people in the early stages of the condition, helping them to get on with life, because remaining active – physically and mentally – is the best way to cope. Paula explained that there is much more to dementia than memory loss; to date some 204 types have been recorded, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. The condition is no respecter of persons and fame and fortune offer no protection as in the case of Ronald Regan, Barbara Windsor, Robin Williams, and Terry Pratchett to name but four. Paula went on to discuss the common symptoms and factors which were associated with increased risk of developing the condition, such as ageing, gender, ethnicity, family history, cardio-vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, Parkinson’s Disease, stress, MS, HIV, and Down’s Syndrome. More women that men have dementia because, statistically, women live longer. Her talk gave rise to many questions and interested discussion from a group of men fretful about their health in the future.

Mr John Paysden: Spanish Armada

Wednesday 23 May 2018: Mr John Paysden.  The Spanish Armada

Probus President, Paddy McGowan, with Guest Speaker, John Paysden

On 25 September 1588 three ships from the Spanish Armada foundered off the Irish coast at Streedagh Beach, Mullghmore, Co Sligo.  Discovered by divers in 1985 lying in water just 15 -30 ft deep they have been identified as La Lavia, a merchant ship with 25 guns, La Juliana, a Catalia Merchant with 32 guns and the Santa Maria de Vision, a Ragusa merchant with 18 guns.    In recent times a monument to commemorate what happened has been erected close to where the ships were attempting to shelter.  Unfortunately the severity of the storm was such that the three ships were washed ashore and completely destroyed within the space of an hour.  Not all drowned; 140  made it to shore, only for most to be massacred by English troops garrisoned in Sligo.  A small number of sailors did survive, thanks to a mixture of good fortune and assistance from some of the Irish chieftains of the area.  John’s informed talk included much interesting  information about the Armada, including the fact that a typical Spanish galleon was 100 ft long, 36 ft wide, had a speed of 3.5 knots and was constructed from the timber of 2000 trees.  The English Navy under the command of Sir Francis Drake had fewer ships but because they were faster, more manoeuvrable and had canon of greater range and accuracy they put the Armada to flight sending it on an ill-fated voyage back to Spain round the North of Scotland and down the west coast of Ireland.  And “the rest is history” .



All-Ireland Rally 2018 Tralee

All-Ireland Rally 15 – 16 May, hosted by the Probus 97 Tralee

Omagh Probians who attended the All-Ireland Rally in Tralee.    [L – R] J im Alderdice, Kenneth Collins, John Greening, Harman Scott, Jim McBain and John McCandless

Omagh Probus was well represented at the All-Ireland Rally.  In all 14 persons travelled south – the six members of the Club in the photo above accompanied by their respective wives along with Miss Audrey Hodge and Ms Hazel Richards from Omagh Ladies Probus Club.  Following a wine reception on Tuesday evening the Rally got off to an uplifting start with a wonderful concert featuring the Opus 96 Chamber Choir supported by the Realtain Nua [New Stars] Traditional Music Group.  On Wednesday Mr Liam Sawers, Chairman of the Rally Steering Committee introduced Ms Norma Foyley, Mayor of Tralee, who warmly welcomed delegates and guests, in an address seconded by Mr Gareth Arnold, District Governor of Rotary International, Ireland.   The Chairman then called upon Jim McBain to give a brief report on the 2017 Rally in Omagh.  He was followed to the podium by Dr. Darragh Naughton who gave a very interesting and informative talk on “Audiology Medical Services” in the Republic of Ireland.

Next onto the stage was a Kerryman with such strong local connections that a road in Tralee is named after his father.  Mr Dick Spring, former Irish International Rugby Player and Tanaiste in the Dublin Government, was greeted as an old friend and spoke in a  humorous and affectionate way about his connections with the area.  The Edwin Dunlop Trophy for the Probus club which had travelled the greatest distance with the greatest number of delegates was awarded to Lurgan Probus.  After an excellent lunch efficiently served to 320 delegates in the Conference Centre of the Brandon Hotel the programme continued with a talk by Mr Justin Moran from Age Action Ireland.  The final speaker of the day was Ms Mary O’Rourke, a well known member of Dail eirann, who spoke engagingly of her life and times as parliamentarian and political activist.  The Rally was officially brought to a close by the playing of the Rally Anthem, a lovely piece of music specially composed for the 2018 All-Ireland Rally in Tralee, Co Kerry.  Members of the Omagh party were in no hurry to leave and on Thursday enjoyed a coach trip round the Ring of Kerry, before returning home on Friday.

Mr Victor Loughran: Local dances in the 50’s and 60’s

Wednesday, 9 May 2018.  Mr Oliver Loughran: Local dances in the 50’s and 60’s

[L – R] Probians  Ron Burch, Desmond Smart, John McCandless, Oliver Loughran and Eamon Cunnigham

Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran, was member of a local dance band during the 50’s and 60’s and has many memories.  He recalled how males and females arranged themselves on opposite sides of the dance floor and it was the task of the dance band to get the lads across the floor to get things going.  The answer was usually an old-time waltz.   Dancing in parochial halls was mainly on a Sunday night – when the pubs were officially shut.  In most cases that only applied to the front door with ready access round the back, but you had to be quiet !  As times moved on commercial ballrooms began to appear in the rural west.   One of the first was the Gap Ballroom in Mullaslin, near Carrickmore.  Large by local standards it lasted only a few years before losing out to newer venues with a drinks licence and meals, the Royal Arms being a good example.    The dance bands of the day had to be in tune with political leanings of the management, it being customary to play an anthem at the end of the evening – either “God Save the Queen” or “The Soldier’s Song”.  Another custom of the day was for a young man to say to a girl, “Save the last dance for me”.   In the conversation which followed Oliver’s talk, one member recalled asking a girl for the last dance early in the evening, only to be told, “You’ve had it”.

Mr Gary Wilson, NI Air Ambulance

Air Ambulance
[L- R] Gary Wilson, Air Ambulance NI with Probus President, Paddy McGowan and Vice-President, Oliver Loughran
Wednesday 2 May 2018:  Mr Gary Wilson, NI Air Ambulance

In his capacity as Area Fund Raising Manager Mr Wilson described  Air Ambulance NI as Northern Ireland’s newest and most exciting charity.  The service, he explained, was 12 months in existence after 12 years of lobbying, championed by motor-cycling enthusiast, Dr John Hinds.  Its first rescue mission took place on 22 July 2017 on the day it was commissioned when the helicopter was called in to take to hospital a  young man who  had sustained severe crush injuries in a farm accident.  Based at the Maze it has been called out over 300 times since then and can reach any part of the Province in less than 30 minutes.   A second helicopter is based at St Angelo in Enniskillen where it is used mainly for training and exists as a back-up, in that the charity cannot yet afford to operate two helicopters.   The operating costs of the one helicopter are in the order of £2 million per year – a challenging target for the charity’s fundraisers.     Air Ambulance NI is a partnership between the Charity, Babcock Aviation and the NI Ambulance Service.   Although capable of taking people to hospital it is essentially an airborne A & E Unit, crewed by a pilot, a doctor and paramedic all of whom have undergone specialised training.   Gary’s talk gave rise to many questions such as why such a worthwhile service was not in receipt of any government funding – a question which only politicians can address. He was warmly thanked for a most informative talk by club member, Eamon Cunningham.

Mr Wesley Acheson, Tyrone Constitution

Wednesday, 25 April 2018: Mr Wesley Acheson, Editor, Tyrone Constitution

Wesley Acheson [Left] with Probus President, Paddy McGowan

Having congratulated Probus on being such a thriving club, Mr Acheson indicated that his talk would be about the Tyrone Constitution – its past, present and future.  The “Con” was established in 1844 by Mr John Nellis to serve the local community, a commitment which has withstood rapid advances in how newspapers are printed.  In the mid-nineteenth century the paper was produced on hand presses in Omagh;  today it is all done on computer and the paper is printed electronically in Belfast.     Wesley shared that he had joined the staff of the Tyrone Constitution in 1974 straight from school and recounted some of the stories he had covered as a cub reporter.   Regrettably “The Troubles” produced more stories that one would have wished for, the biggest being the Omagh bomb in 1998.   The paper’s coverage of this tragedy was so sensitively handled that the editorial team was honoured with a national newspaper award at a ceremony in London.  To show how the paper evolved down the years Wesley had brought with him copies of the “Con” from 1867 to modern times.   Early “Cons” cost 5 pence and were purchased mainly by well-heeled citizens who could afford the price.   The front page was filled with adverts, some of which would raise a smile if printed today.  However the “Con” remains focused on the local community in which it continues to enjoy trust, respect, and support.

Mr Michael Deehan, St Vincent de Paul

Wednesday 18th April 2018, Mr Michael Deehan, St Vincent de Paul 

Michael Deehan
[L – R] Probus Vice-President, Oliver Loughran with Mr Michael Deehan from the society of  St Vincent de Paul and Paddy McGowan, Probus President

Founded in Paris in 1833 by a 20 year old student, Frederick Ozanam, the society exists to provide practical assistance to families in need. Its charitable work in Ireland began in 1844 and today there are branches through the country.   Each branch is referred to as a “conference” and there are seven conferences in to the local area – Omagh, Killyclogher, Strathroy, Beragh, Fintona, Carrickmore and Dromore.   St Vincent de Paul is a cross-community charity which, in addition to material support, provides specialist advice on debt relief and how to become self-sufficient.  It exerts political pressure when possible to alleviate situations creating difficulties for the poor and also collaborates with international organisations in times of crisis to help refugees as in Calais.  Locally SVDP is well known for collecting household goods and clothing which it can pass on to those in need or sell to raise funds. One of its better known projects is the sale of Christmas trees in the car park in Killyclogher.   Mr Deehan was keen to stress that all assistance offered by the society is provided on a non-judgemental basis and is entirely confidential. He was thanked for his address by Probus President, Paddy McGowan.

Inter-club Quiz 2018

Annual Inter-Club Quiz, Wednesday 11th April 2018 

James Eakin Shield
Omagh President, Paddy McGowan presenting the James Eakin Shield to the winning team – Londonderry Probus  Team 1.   Also in the photograph, Omagh Club Secretary, Gerry McGonigle (front-right) and Quiz Master, Joseph Cummings (second row right) 

This year 17 teams participated in the annual Inter-club quiz with entrants from Probus Clubs in Cookstown, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Londonderry, Strabane & Lifford, and Omagh Men’s and Ladies. The quiz master was Mr Joseph Cummings assisted by volunteers from the Omagh Clubs. The raffle, in the capable hands of John Robson, raised £330.00 – more than enough to cover the costs of hosting the event. After 8 rounds the  Londonderry Probus Club Team 1 was awarded the James Eakin Shield for the 5th consecutive year.  The Bert McCrory Cup for the best performing Omagh Team went to Omagh Ladies who were also runners-up overall. Photographers from the local papers were on hand to record and publicise a very successful event in the Probus Calendar of West Ulster.  Photographs have also been posted on Facebook and can be viewed by clicking on the following link

Mr Geoffrey Simpson: Antiques and Antiquities

Wednesday 4 April 2018: Mr Geoffrey Simpson: Antiques and Antiquities

Paddy Geoffrey
Probus President, Paddy McGowan [left] with guest speaker, Geoffrey Simpson

Geoffrey began his talk by literally blowing his own trumpet – in this case a bronze age ox horn some 3000 years old.   This gave him the opportunity to explain that his interests are in both Antiquities [items that are very old] and Antiques [items around 100 years old].  He had brought with him a number of objects of both types and started by passing round a 200 million year old fossil from the Jurassic Period.   Common in the Lias Clay beds on the Antrim coast it was thought to be one of the Devils Toenails before being properly identified as an early mollusc. This exhibit was followed by a polished segment of dinosaur jawbone [complete with teeth] before showing off some stone-age axe heads crafted from volcanic porcellanite and flint.   The bronze age saw the arrival in Ireland of Celtic smiths and the first jewellery delicately worked in gold and bronze.   Members were enthralled by a beautifully decorated gold ring from this period.   Moving on to the modern era Geoffrey passed around a number of small items, the most intriguing of which was a tobacco box which once contained Dr White’s Glasgow Presbyterian Mixture as smoked by the Rt Hon Stanley Baldwin; at least that is what it said on the tin.   Other items included ivory pill boxes and snuff boxes, suddenly back in fashion in some quarters as receptacles for cocaine.  He was thanked for a most interesting talk by Probian, Michael Cooney.

Stephen McKenna: The History of Omagh

Wednesday 28th March 2018:  Stephen McKenna:  The History of Omagh

Paddy and Stephen
Guest Speaker, Stephen McKenna [right] with Club President, Paddy McGowan

Guest speaker Stephen McKenna took as his theme the history of Omagh.  The name “Omagh” indicates a plain but the origin of Omagh is obscure. In jocular mood Stephen said a hermit resident in early Omagh described it as “a den of thieves and robbers” and a papal envoy travelling through the area was quoted as saying that he “couldn’t get out of it quick enough”.  The early town had a Franciscan Friary located behind the Hogg’s Head pub. The 150 monks there provided various social services to the local community but with the collapse of the O’Neill dynasty the friary also came to an end. In 1768 Omagh became the county town of Tyrone. Construction of the Courthouse, completed in 1824, added to the importance of the town as an administrative centre. Also, in the nineteenth century, schools were established, hospitals built, and the town connected to the railway system. The 1880’s saw the first substantial buildings of St Lucia barracks constructed.  Lisanelly camp was developed during World War II.   Three of the main church buildings, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian Meetinghouse on the Dublin Road and the Catholic church were all replaced with new buildings close to their original sites. Stephen said Omagh can claim to be a cultural centre and he enumerated a number of writers, poets, musicians and actors of note who were or are from the town. It is a cosmopolitan and liberal town and has much to be proud of.

At the same meeting long-serving club member, Pat McCaul, was presented with his Honorary Membership Certificate, it being the custom of the Club to confer Honorary Membership on Probians who have celebrated their 90th birthday.

Pat McCaul
Club Member, Pat McCaul receiving his Honorary Membership Certificate from Probus President, Paddy McGowan [left] accompanied by Club Secretary, Gerry McGonigle