The Agenda for the 2017 All Ireland Probus Rally, held in Omagh…
Most of the Coleraine delegation took a leisurely drive across to Omagh, arriving around 4ish. There was plenty of time to check-in to the Silverbirch, book a table for an evening meal and get our registration packs - a great job; lovely booklet, nice big colourful badges and a full information folder from the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council. Next stop the hotel room and a freshen-up before heading down to the restaurant for something to eat.
14.00 – 19.00 Registration for delegates and accompanying guests
We arrived at the hotel restaurant bang on time - 5.30, placed our order and sat back to sip a drink and await the food. Thirty minuets later we began to realise that several other tables were also still awaiting their orders. Catching the eye of a waiter, we (and other tables) were assured that the food was 'on the way'. Another thirty minutes or so past before the plates were set on the table. No time for dessert or coffee as we (lots of other delegates) didn't want to be late for the official Council reception. It seemed a poor start to the Rally - HOWEVER, the restaurant manager did sincerely apologise (they had underestimated the number of people that would be need an early meal) and made a suitable reduction to the bill. Which brighten up the mood for most of the delegates!
19.00 – 19.30 Drinks Reception hosted by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC)
In to the Drinks Reception (there were no 'nibbles' provided) only five minutes late (but just about everyone was late anyway). We surveyed the assembling delegates and guests, seeing who and how many we could recognise for other rallies. After a suitable 'milling around' time our attention was drawn to the top of the room and the microphone stand. Rally Secretary Jim McBain was beginning his first of what turned out to be several unplanned for announcements. It was Jim that was welcoming us all to Omagh, and apologising on behalf of the Council, as there would be nobody along to the reception to welcome the Probus All Ireland Rally to the town. The Chairperson of the FODC and Deputy were unable to attend, as they had to be out canvassing, due the general election next month!
The evening was looking like it was headed for another downturn, but it wasn't!
And Gordon says ‘Cheers’
(Many thanks to the Omagh Probus ‘Facebook’ page for the photo below).
St. Eugene’s Brass and Reed Band, Omagh
The Omagh Community Youth Choir
The concert that followed the 'Welcome' was of outstanding quality. St. Eugene's Band had everyone's toes tapping from the first tune, and the audience participation encouraged by its conductor Mike Reynolds, was great fun (see Ken's photos, and for a snatch of the band playing, 'Click' the RED > audio player button below).
The Omagh Community Youth Choir, formed and led by Daryl Simpson in the wake of the '98 bomb, was nothing short of perfection and an inspiration to us all. (also, see Ken's photos on the ‘Second Button’).
A concert and a night to remember! It fully put the Omagh Probus All Ireland Rally right back on track to become a well organised and first class event.
A leisurely and first class breakfast set the Coleraine delegates up for the day. The 'guests' departed the hotel at 9.30 for their escorted tour. The Ulster American Folk Park, with refreshments on arrival was first stop. Lunch was served around 12.30 at the Newtonstewart Golf Club - and very good it was too (so we're told - WebEd). After lunch there was a scenic tour of the Sperrins before returning to the Silverbirch.
08.00 – 10.45 Registration for delegates and accompanying guests
Tea / coffee available in the Conference Room Foyer. Delegates to be seated by 11.00am
Meanwhile, the delegates enjoyed an additional post breakfast coffee and bun, some chat and meeting other Probians before finding their allocated rally tables.
11.00 Welcome by Mr John McCandless, President of Omagh Probus Club and Mrs Mary Garrity, Chairperson, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council [FODC]
Much to our surprise, it was Jim McBain that welcomed Probus members to the Rally and then gave the very sad news that Omagh President John McCandless was unable to attend due to a close family bereavement.
Once again it was not possible for the Chair of FODC to attend the Rally (more election duties? - WebEd) but we were welcomed to Omagh by the Deputy Chair.
11.30 Guest Speaker: Mr Eddie Lynch [COPNI]
Commissioner for Older People, Northern Ireland
The first speaker to the Rally, Eddie Lynch proved to be very interesting, although it would seem he would have preferred a more 'interactive' format than the numbers attending the Rally really allowed. We learned a lot about the work of the Commission and resolved to try and arrange a repeat performance later in the year at Coleraine!
12.10 Probus Business - Part 1
This was introduced and presided over, by Rally Chairman Kenneth Collins, who introduced the following items:
(a) Report from Probus Rally Ennis, 2015
An old friend of Coleraine, and Ennis Rally committee member Jackie Morris gave a brief report on the Ennis Rally - which we had all thoroughly enjoyed two years ago and were pleased to have attended such an enjoyable, friendly and generally well organised event.
(b) Presentation of Edwin Dunlop Perpetual Trophy for Attendance
Delegates were pleased to welcome Edwin Dunlop himself to present the trophy. Edwin gave a run down of the idea behind the trophy, and the rather complicated formula by which the winner in determined. For 2017, the winner was the Newbridge club from Co. Kildare.
(c) The Invitation to the All Ireland Probus Rally 2018
We are all invited to Co. Kerry where the clubs of Tralee will be arranging a warm welcome to Probus members. Incidentally, the Tralee '97 club hosted the Rally in 2001. Currently there are six or seven Probus clubs in Tralee, will they all be helping? We will let you know when there's more information available.
12.30 Lunch: to background music by the Bob Quick Jazz Band
Lunch, much to our relief, was served quickly, efficiently and was good considering the numbers of meals require in a limited space of time. Well done Silverbirch catering staff! And well done the Jazz Band, for keeping us entertained while eating!
**After lunch, and before the main speaker took to the stage, we had an interesting ceremony. The Omagh Men's club was founded in 1977. Thus it is currently their 40th anniversary year. Five other clubs were also started that year, so the Omagh club had commissioned a special 'Birthday' cake for all six clubs. We were then treated to a special cake cutting - a nice 'fun' extra to this enjoyable day.
(Many thanks to the Omagh Probus ‘Facebook’ page for the photo below).
International Business Development Consultant and Former United Nations Aid Adviser in Africa.
Jim McBain was back to introduce the main Rally speaker, Miss Naomi Scott, local young woman and daughter of Omagh Probus Club member. We were then treated to one of the most interesting and well-presented talks this writer has very had the good fortune to hear. Naomi structured a talk about her work in Africa in nine sections. Each section was based on encounters with nine highly influential people, some millionaires, some internationally know and often vilified and others profoundly important within their own country but unknown outside Africa.
We wish we could provide readers here, a recording of the talk, but sadly…
14.45 Probus Business - Part 2
Rally Chairman Kenneth Collins was then back to introduced the remaining items of Probus business:
(a) Mr Ivan Conner, Probus Northern Liaison Officer
Who gave a report on what it was like walking in the legendary footsteps of Mary Sinnamon, now that he had become the Rotary Liaison Officer for the Northern part of the country.
(Many thanks to the Omagh Probus ‘Facebook’ page for the photo of Mary and Omagh Ladies President, Audrey Hodge, below).
Aodh - we think this is pronounced 'Hay' (Irish Gallic speakers PLEASE correct me - WebEd) who is also fairly new to the role, gave a full report of the healthy state of Probus in the South of the country.
15.05 Closing Comments:
Miss Audrey Hodge, President, Omagh and District Ladies Probus Club
And so all good things must come to an end. And 'good' is the overall memory of the Omagh rally. It was plainly clear that the committee had thought long and hard about organising the event. They had paid attention to the small details and also came up with some innovations. Two speakers could seem ambitious, but that paid off well. The choice of venue was excellent, the Rally Hall was light and airy, and the use of first rate audio and video made sure that nothing was missed regardless of where delegates were seated. It gave the overall impression that 'no expense spared' was the organisers motto, and for that, we must say a BIG 'thank you'. However, it is worth noting the odd 'disappointments' - none of which are down to the Omagh clubs. At around 250 people attending as delegates (and almost 60 of the being with the home clubs), we should be worried about the decline in annual rally attendance. In this writer's time, rally attendance has been between 380 to 430 delegates, up till 2014. The 2015 Ennis Rally saw a bit of as dip, and now Omagh even worse. The same goes for 'accompanying guests,' not so long ago a couple of coaches would be required, this year a 30 seat would have done. With the overall numbers down, it becomes far more difficult for the costs to be covered by an 'affordable fee'. And if the fee is too high, then the numbers will fall even more. Liaison Officers North and South as well as all club committees need to think carefully about the future of All Ireland Probus Rallies - any ideas folks?
(**Some help please. Having misplaced some of our Rally notes, we can't remember if the cake cutting was before or after lunch. Any ideas? Please let me know - WebEd)