Community Focus

Last month the  Accolade Community Choirs from Newry and Banbridge and the Newry Accolade Ukulele Group headed north for the City of Derry's 5th International Choral Festival.

Billed  as a “joyous celebration of choral music making” it was with great excitement that the local groups travelled up. Explaining the trip Mary Cunningham from the choir said:

The Accolade Community Choirs from Newry and Banbridge and the Newry Accolade Ukulele Group on their trip to Derry.
The Accolade Community Choirs from Newry and Banbridge and the Newry Accolade Ukulele Group on their trip to Derry.

We were to join 50 other choirs who were coming to take part in competitions, concerts and performances over the weekend before Halloween. We were, by choice, going to perform in the ‘non competitive’ group of choirs.  However we had been invited to make a special guest appearance in St. Columb’s Hall where the main competitions were held.

On the Friday evening, in St Columb’s Hall, we sat enthralled by the singing of the award winning choir Tenebrae who have been described as “devastatingly beautiful.” We could concur with that description as they delivered a dramatic and unforgettable performance.

They demonstrated the amazing power and intimacy of the human voice.  For many of the group this was indeed the highlight of the weekend. So it was with some trepidation that our choirs and Ukulele group mounted the same stage on Saturday afternoon to sing and be accompanied by the Ukulele group for two songs: Solfege Samba by Christi Carry Miller and Why We Sing by Greg Gilpin.

We were delighted that the the audience responded so well to us and our conductor Vessie Ivanova who has an amazing gift of getting audience participation. Their applause at the end left us in no doubt that we had performed well. We were delighted to learn that one of the Festival adjudicators congratulated Vessie and Nikolay our directors, and expressed his enjoyment of our performance, while also inviting us to take part in the competition next year.

While still enjoying the afterglow of our successful performance we moved straight into a workshop given by Hermial Schlichtman, a lecturer in the University of Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt.

Saturday morning saw us up early and heading off to sing on the Festival Trail. We were singing in Sainsbury's Store in the city. What a surprise the Saturday morning shoppers experienced as they arrived in the store to the sound, of the combined choirs and the Ukulele group! They joined in the fun and danced to the music. One shopper was heard to say “Oh that shopping could be this enjoyable every Saturday.”

Lilian Boyle
Lilian Boyle

On Sunday we sang in the Foyle Centre, again causing surprise and enjoyment for the shoppers.  It has to be said that we in the choirs and Ukulele Group love to perform in this kind of venue where we are in close proximity with our audience and can see how warmly they respond to our singing.

Of course it wasn’t all about performing. In the evenings there was time to relax in the hotel bar and besides more singing, there was dancing, chatting and generally getting to know each other better. Many of our members got to walk on the beautiful symbolic Peace Bridge, on Derry’s Walls and to visit the Guildhall.

Before we bade farewell to Derry I ask two of our members for their impressions of the weekend and what it means to them to belong to Accolade Community Choir and Ukulele Group.

So a very enjoyable and successful visit to the Derry City Choral Festival  was had by all. Now it is back to practices with the two people who made this all possible for us all, our esteemed Director and Conductor Nikolay and Vessie Ivanov. We are already planning more trips to other venues to share our gifts with others.

Lilian Boyle has been a member of Newry Accolade Choir for three years. This was Lilian’s first Choral Festival. She came because she has fond memories of living in Limavady for almost 10 years. In fact she was delighted to meet people in her hotel who know friends of hers from that town.

“It is a lovely connection but I also have another strong musical connection with Derry” said Lilian. It appears that Lilian’s mother was a Coulter - she was an aunt of Phil Coulter. Lilian especially enjoyed singing in Sainsbury’s Store. She liked the happy atmosphere and the realisation that people were actually enjoying the performance.

“So we accomplished what we set out to do.” said Lilian. ’Though she had attended concerts in St. Columb’s Hall, singing on stage there was something she had never even dreamed of. That for her has been a memorable and wonderful experience.

She reflects on being a member of Accolade Community Choir. She says that it means everything to her. “It is like an extended family where we all look out for one another.” says Lilian. This time of year is particularly difficult for her, remembering her son who died some years ago. “But being in the choir gives me strength and courage to keep going” she said.

Colin Barr plays the Ukulele. This was his first Choral Festival and he had been looking forward to getting to know members of the Newry and Banbridge Choirs. Colin, like Lilian, was pleased with the  positive reaction of the shoppers in Sainsbury’s as they arrived for their shopping.

Playing the Ukulele and singing on the stage in St. Columb’s Hall was a totally different experience for him. He says “I had never been on a stage before. It was a totally new and rewarding experience seeing the people cheering and clapping us”.

One of the highlights for him was hearing the Tenebrae Choir perform.

For Colin attending the Ukulele class every Thursday afternoon is a break from the usual routine of everyday living. He says that as you get older you are encouraged for the sake of your mental and physical wellbeing to take up a challenging hobby, something totally different from normal activities.

He concluded by saying “I always liked music but never played an instrument - now I can.”

Colin Barr
Colin Barr

If you would like to join the Newry Accolade Community Choir why not join them at 7 00pm each Tuesday in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre.

If you would like to join the Ukulele Group they meet each Thursday in the Arts Centre at 3 30 pm.

Upcoming Events

Saturday 25th Nov. Georgian Festival in Armagh City 2 00pm - 3 30 pm - all choirs and Ukulele group performing.

Monday, 18th of December at Sean Hollywood Arts Centre Newry at 7 30 pm.

This is the last of three  concerts called "Pipes and Christmas" and the programme will feature:

Bulgarian traditional bag-piper, who plays other traditional instruments and  a

traditional Bulgarian singer,

Brendan Monaghan on uilleann pipes, whistle and bodhran,

Aoifa Monaghan on guitar,

Nikolay and Vessie Ivanovi on violin, keyboard and guitar.

The concert's programme includes music from both countries and some popular

melodies.

Party Pieces is just one of many classes that are run in the Newry U3A.  This year, thirty five people have signed up for this class, that comes under the title Participative Arts. According to recent studies, Participative Arts can have a very positive impact on the mental well being of those who participate, in terms of increased confidence and self esteem, feelings of accomplishment and achievement, and the discovery of new aspects of themselves. This participation can also counterbalance the well-being difficulties associated with loss and attending grief. Further impact for people who engage in the performing arts, include the improvement of memory skills and the sheer enjoyment of learning and performing. 

There are also positive results for the whole community when older people give something back in terms of performance: It helps to break down negative attitudes towards ageing, offers meaningful social contact and support. Initially, our group sought only to perform for the class, but as confidence  grew we wanted to share  with others what we had learned. During the past two years, the class visited and performed in Newry Arts Centre, Crossmaglen, Ballyholland and Bessbrook Community Centres. We are always part of the U3A social afternoons and we have also performed in the Ulster Hall as part of Kaleidoscope’s Imagine Arts Festival, where we have been invited back again this year on 20th of October.  Radio Ulster intend to make a recording of the activity and it will be broadcast in their programme “Time of Our Lives” on Sunday 11th October at 2.00pm.

There are five ways to achieve mental health well-being: Connect, Take Notice, Keep learning, Be active, and Give. I have no doubt that Party Pieces U3A ticks all those boxes.

Here are some of the participants of Party Pieces and the stories they can tell us about it.

Louis O’ Donnell

Louis O'Donnell
Louis O'Donnell

Louis joined the U3A 10 years ago and attends  New Age Kurling, Gentlemen Singers and Acting Up, in conjunction with Kaleidoscope and Party Pieces. Three years ago, while waiting to go on stage to perform in a play, U3A member Joe Morgan stood up in the dressing room and recited a poem to relieve the anxiety and nervousness people were feeling.  Louis says that at that moment he knew there was a wealth of talent among the members of the U3A, and he wondered about finding a platform on which to explore and share this talent: a platform  that would be non-threatening and fun. John Doyle, in accordance with U3A thinking, said “Why don’t we form a group of interested people?” And thus it was that Party Pieces was formed.

For Louis, the formation of Party Pieces brought back memories of growing up in a pub in Crossmaglen. Louis says that this pub closed at 9 pm, but locals were only coming out at that time, so the pub door was closed and they would all head to the kitchen, the furniture would be pushed back and the dancing would begin! Louis’ parents were great dancers, but no one could play music.  So he became the sole music provider, singing old time songs for waltzes, strictly in time because “If you didn’t, you were in trouble!” he says. He used a large full sized biscuit tin, not the half sized you get now. He used a wooden spoon to beat out the three-four time rhythm, and when ‘music’ for sets like the Gay Gordons and barn dances was required, Louis would lilt it. So from the age of five Louis had been performing in the home kitchen, not only for neighbours but also for the many American and Scottish visitors who called in. Before he went to boarding school, Louis’ aunt bought one of the first keyboards in the area. She formed a local band and allowed Louis to sing while she played during the break at the dances.

Louis says that Party Pieces has brought him right back to his childhood. He thinks that the affirmation and encouragement, as well as helpful suggestions that members are offered, make Party Pieces invaluable to the participants. 

This particular class is unique in that it is not being offered in any other U3A. Louis has seen many people, like his wife Geraldine, blossoming, becoming confident and accomplishing things they never thought possible. Last January the  Newry group visited the Crossmaglen U3A group and performed for them. There, Louis sang a song that he hadn't sung since childhood, a song about his father. People were so delighted with all the performances, that Louis thinks that there is a desire now in Crossmaglen to start up their own Party Pieces group, no doubt with a little bit of help from the Newry group!  

The fact is that, like many other retirees, Louis felt cut off from the mainstream of things when he retired, he felt he was no longer needed. Now Party Pieces has given him a new lease of life: a life with fun and accomplishment, which he wants to share with other people.

Lilian Boyle

Lilian Boyle
Lilian Boyle

Lilian joined the U3A three years ago and has attended the iPad, Yoga and Ladies Choir classes as well as Party Pieces. She loves singing in the choir and loves to sing at the Party Pieces group. Singing in public is not new to Lilian, as she has sung at various functions, including fundraising for multiple sclerosis. All in her family have guitars and they like nothing better than to gather and sing at parties, just for the fun of it. Lilian says she also plays the accordion, which she learned while in a band as a child. She particularly loves ballads, songs that tell a story. But her goal for this year is to learn some more upbeat songs, which she says will challenge her to learn and remember the words.

Speaking in particular about Party Pieces, Lilian says that she enjoys being among so many talented people. She actually loves to stand up in front of the group to sing because she feels they are like a family who want the best for her and are interested in her performance. She emphasises that the group help by not only telling her what she might do to make the performance better, but also by always being ready to praise her effort. Lilian has made many new friends and linked up again with old ones.

Lilian’s son Christopher passed away some years ago and after he died she felt unable to sing for a long time. She also felt it too painful to talk about him. Now, with the singing and the friendships she has made, she feels freer to include him in her conversation, knowing that these people care about and have an empathy for her. This has helped to ease and heal some of the great sense of loss she has experienced. Lilian’s beautiful smile and her songs full of stories, always touch the hearts of everyone in the Party Pieces group.

Eileen McCourt

Eileen McCourt
Eileen McCourt

Eileen joined  the Party Pieces class last year. She decided to join because the rest of her family would always sing when called on at a gathering, while she often lacked the confidence to join them and would always end up feeling out of it. At first, she didn't know what to expect from the class and wondered if she would fit in. Eileen has always liked poetry and can recite a poem if requested. The first poem she ever recited in the class was “My friend Kate” which she had heard at the Bard of Armagh. The group were very appreciative and Eileen says she began to grow in confidence after that.

She then decided to write her own poems, the first being “The bus pass” which was an immediate success because everyone could relate to it, especially to the fact that the bus driver did not remark that she was too young to be using a senior smart pass. Since then, she has written other poems and is always in the process of writing more! 

Since joining Party Pieces and Acting Up, Eileen says she has overcome her shyness and lack of confidence with a new belief in herself that she didn't think possible. She still feels nervous when the group go to perform in Community Centres, but afterwards feels exhilarated for having achieved something she never thought she could do. It is the friendship and support of the group that makes all this possible.

Margaretta Convery

Margaretta Convery
Margaretta Convery

Margaretta joined Party Pieces last year because her good friends Phyllis Crawford and Eileen Burke invited her along saying it was great fun. She was very apprehensive about joining the group  because, even though she was comfortable enough singing in Dromalane Choir for over 15 years, it was going to be quite daunting to stand up and sing on her own. But she overcame her doubts and sang on her first night with the group. They were loud in their praise and her confidence began to grow.“In singing you can portray nervousness,” she says, but at this stage she feels she has overcome that to a great degree.  Nevertheless, she is still a bit nervous about going out to perform in any of the residential homes, but she sees it as a goal to achieve this year. 

Music and dancing have always been part of Margaretta’s life: Her father had his own band, The Oriel Danceband in Castleblaney, her birthplace. He taught himself to play the violin and taught her and her two sisters to sing in harmony. One of the songs her father taught them was “Poor old Joe. ” Subsequently Margaretta taught her husband Feidhlem that song and they sing it in harmony as their party piece. She was a member of the Musical Society for many years, until family and work pressures caused her to leave. She is still connected to them but in a smaller way, and she has also been involved with set dancing in Carrickcruppen for over fifteen years and is passionate about it. She and the family are proud that her son David was on the Kileavey set dancing team that won the All Ireland  Senior Score this year, 21 years after he had won the junior Score for set dancing.  

At the last Party Pieces class, instead of singing she went to the piano and started to play. Everyone started to sing along immediately. The lovely response from the group was so rewarding for Margaretta that it was an incredibly happy way to end the evening. She still feels a little apprehensive  as she comes in through the door for Party Pieces, but she always feels fulfilled and happy she has achieved something worthwhile as she leaves. She says “ I may come in tired, counting the cost of coming out for an evening but I always go home in better form because of the people there, who are so encouraging and so glad to see you.”


 

Upcoming Events

October 20th:  Imagine Arts Festival in Ulster Hall - all day. Free bus available.

Come and support Party Pieces group!

October 21st:  Talk on Diabetes by Sally Griffin 1pm - 2pm 

Oct 30th: Lace making Talk by Frances Hamilton 1pm - 2pm

 November 9th:  U3A Memorial Service in Sandys Street Presbyterian Church. 2pm - 4pm

 November 11th:  Cruse Bereavement :  Talk byTerry Mulholland 1pm - 2pm

 November 17th:  7 30pm. Newry Town Hall: Accolade Newry Choir (which includes many U3A members) also Open Arts Community Choir and Russian speaking Community Choir in concert at close of project “Sing a song, Reach a hand, Find a friend”

 Dec. 18th: Closure  and end of term Social. Arts Centre 2-4pm

 

The AGM

“People are actually queuing to get in here?” was the almost disbelieving questioning of a member of the public recently, as he watched members of Newry U3A arriving for their AGM in the Canal Court Hotel. The loyalty of our members is no surprise to us. Over 150 people were present. Those attending were members who attend the classes, the tutors and the executive committee. 

The new U3A Committee.
The new U3A Committee.

Adding to the interest in the afternoon was an exhibition of the work of the Craft, Art, and Photographic classes. Members were able to browse and marvel at the beautiful Carricmacross Lace, Faberge Eggs, Patchwork Quilts, Crochet, Art work, and Nature Photography. 

Our Chairman Chris Roberts warmly welcomed everyone. He spoke of our aspiration to grow, in terms of new members, new innovative classes and hopefully new premises. Chris saya “We aspire to do these things and achieve our goals whilst  maintaining strong management structures and accountability, consulting our members, using their money wisely and with probity as we expand and develop in the years ahead.”

Currently we have 761 members, some  of whom travel from the South, including two members who come from Dublin for the Party Pieces class. Chris spoke of the huge debt of gratitude we owe to our tutors, without whom, the U3A could not function. He included in his thanks the Management  Committee and all others involved in the smooth, efficient running of the U3A. 

Our Treasurer Paul Pollard gave a clear outline of our financial situation explaining where our money comes from and how it is spent.

Then followed the election of the Management Committee. Chris thanked retiring member, Thomas Molacca for his commitment during his time in the office of Vice Chairperson. Two new members were elected, Catherine Donnelly and David Crozier.

The AGM concluded with refreshments served by the friendly staff of the Canal Court. 

Gratitude 

Speech Bubbles at U3A displaying members gratitude.
Speech Bubbles at U3A displaying members gratitude.

Recently we highlighted, on this website, the importance of expressing gratitude to family, friends and those who touch our lives. To reinforce this concept, members of the U3A were each invited to fill in a large speech bubble with a note of gratitude for what they receive as members.

The response has been inspiring.  It is difficult to sum up the responses but many members were grateful for the friends they had made, the skills they had acquired, the new confidence they experience and the welcoming aspect of the U3A. They highlighted the tremendous generosity and helpfulness of the tutors.

One person wrote ”A whole new lease of life”  Cultivating an attitude of gratitude reminds us all of our interdependence on each other and that surely is the core, the heart of U3A.

Eat

There is a wonderful Italian saying - a tavola non s’invecchia, - “at a table one never grows old.” We all are aware of how best to lose weight: eat less and move more. But we may have forgotten the inherent need we have to share a meal together.

As we grow older this need to interact, without the distraction of phones and to do lists, is strong. And so it is that each month a group of about twenty five people from the Newry U3A arrive at the Catering College to enjoy a variety of beautifully prepared and presented food, by a friendly and efficient group of students. We all look forward to the combination of good food, good conversation and laughter that brings a real sense of wellbeing. 

Silver Fáinne recipients at U3A
Silver Fáinne recipients at U3A. Back Row - left - Sean Mc Guigan, Geraroid Mac Anuff, Ronnie Hollywood, Jan Patterson, Patrick Mc Mahon, Seamus Graham.  Front Row - left- Maire Graham, Roisin Traynor (Tutor) Bernadette Fox.

Love

Recently, Johnston Mc Master in his “Thought for the day” on Radio Ulster said the purpose of any language is to be able to communicate, to make sense to each other and of each other.” One only has to listen to the buzz and the chat - all in Irish, to know that there is much communication going on in the Irish Class. One of the class members told me recently that she loves the class because she is not being taught Irish now, the way she was taught as a child. There is an obvious love of the Irish language by teachers and pupils and a desire to reach high standards by being awarded the silver and gold fainne.

Awaiting the referee's decision!
Awaiting the referee's decision at the U3A New Age Kurling group

Encouraged by the recent success of members of the Ardrang, in achieving 7 Gold and 3 Silver Fáinne, 8 members of the Meánrang, after much preparation, successfully underwent the Silver Fáinne Test.  Séamus Mac Dhaibhéid of Gaeláras  Mhic  Ardghail Chapel Street, Newry carried out the tests and praised the work being done in Newry U3A.

There are currently four Irish Language classes in Newry U3A and it is  interesting to note that it was from former Gaelic League Teachers, such as   Brother Beausang, Tomás McArdle, and  Seán McKevitt, that these tutors   received their knowledge and love of the language. They are grateful to  Séamus Mac Dhaibhéid for his continued support and encouragement to these classes.

 Jan Patterson

Jan Patterson
Jan Patterson

Initially Jan joined  and enjoyed the Irish class facilitated by Mary Dynan. After a visit to the Gaeltacht she joined Roisin Traynor’s class and is also enjoying this too. She speaks highly of Roisin’s dedication and commitment to the members. Jan had to take a break for a couple of months for surgery but was able to access the lessons on line. Gaining the silver fainne recently has been a great achievement for her. She believes that learning a language helps keep the memory sharp and the brain active. 

Jan is grateful for the many good friends she has made and the many opportunities to learn that the U3A provides. Jan believes that all of the members have talents to offer, not only in leading a class but by simply caring for others who may be lonely or feeling a bit lost. She has  shared her talents by offering workshops in jewellery making and jumping clay modelling. 

 She has also made herself available to help out behind the scenes whenever required.

Play

There is strong scientific evidence showing that people who are active have a lower risk of some cancers, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and dementia. The members of the New Age Kurling Group probably don't dwell on all of that. Their focus is on having fun, beating their opponents, enjoying the exercise and relaxing together afterwards.

Rosemary O’Reilly

Rosemary O'Reilly
Rosemary O'Reilly

Rosemary loves the New Age Kurling Class, held every Thursday in the Gateway Centre. She says “I love the friendliness of the group here and it has been great to make so many new friends.”  She says that sometimes they have a match between the men and the women but mostly the matches consist of mixed teams and the competition is very keen. She loves the chance to catch up and chat over a cup of tea at the end of a session.

Rosemary has been in Newry U3A for over 4 years. She attends the Craft Class, the Fabrege Eggs Class, Chair Based Exercise Class and the Walk and Talk Class in the summer time.  Rosemary also joined  the Golf Group for a while. She says that coming out to the U3A has made a great difference to her life as her partner died some 8 years ago. Coming out to the U3A, keeping active and interested helps her feel well and happy.

News

The Gentlemen Singers are busy rehearsing for their performance in Newry Feis. The Ladies Choir and the Gentlemen Singers are  preparing for the Sing Fest for all U3As in Northern Ireland which will be held in Bangor this year.

Further information about U3A can be got at our website www.newryu3a.org.uk and on our Facebook page  www.Facebook.com/cityofnewryu3a

 

Attitude of Gratitude

When we returned to the U3A after Christmas we found a letter pinned to the noticeboard thanking the U3A for giving them the chance to learn to use the computer. They had been able to contact their family by Skype over Christmas and this made the holiday time less lonely for them. We were touched by the letter which was unsigned. It made me think about how much a simple “Thank you” can mean to us. 

There is so much to be grateful for in our lives. One of the blessings of growing older is that we can, not only appreciate the past but more acutely the present. Gratitude can improve our relationships. So often in a family, or at work, even in an organisation like the U3A, we can take the kindness, commitment and generosity of others for granted. We forget to say “Thank You” or “I appreciate that.”  But studies are showing that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, which in turn will increase our happiness and well being. One way I found particularly helpful is to write down daily in a note book five things that I am grateful for. 

This week I asked some of our members what were they were thankful for as they attended the various classes in the U3A. 

Bridie Flanagan joined the U3A five years ago. She initially joined the Walk and Talk group but is at present a member of the Ladies Choir. Bridie always liked singing but had never joined a choir. She loves the friendliness of the U3A members. She appreciates the hard work and commitment of choir mistress Breda. Sr. Francis accompanies the choir and even teaches a little tai chai to help the choir relax. She is grateful for the opportunity the choir provides to improve her memory, as she learns so many new songs.  

Bridie Flanagan
Bridie Flanagan

Recently, as part of the choir outreach, they performed for residents of Ardmaine Nursing Home. She says she was so thankful for her own health and ability to bring pleasure and joy to people of her own age and younger. The choir’s next outing is to the community centre in Pointzpass. It’s not all about singing. Bridie says that sometimes the group have lunch out together and that is really enjoyable. She is looking forward to this year’s Song Fest in Bangor in May. She loves the Sing Fests, organised for all the U3As in Northern Ireland. She has a great sense of achievement when the choir perform well, but above all she is very grateful for the new friends she has made since joining the U3A.

John Doyle
John Doyle

John Doyle is a member of Newry U3A for six years. He joined because he heard there was a lot going on there and he saw his retirement as a time for new beginnings. He certainly did not hold back in discovering new channels of interest. In fact, John is one of the most hard working people in the U3A. He facilitates the Men in the Kitchen and the       Gentlemen Singers classes as well as taking part in Kaleidoscope’s Acting Up class and the New Age Kurling activity. One of the pay offs for older people learning new things is increased memory power. I asked John about this.” With so much going on, planning classes notifying people, and learning new skills, there is no time for my brain to            degenerate.” says John. Another benefit for older people of learning new things is self discovery. John says that he has discovered that he is capable of more than he ever thought possible. He never imagined he could stand up in front of a large group and talk to them. He is grateful for the Acting Up Class in particular. He remembers at his first class thinking - I’m not going on the stage and I’m not learning lines because I won’t remember them. But he did learn his lines and though his knees were knocking at the start of the first show he persevered and now is looking forward to the fourth production.

John has a real sense of accomplishment regarding the Men in the Kitchen class. It has 19 enthusiastic and interested men who gather around a table talk about men’s interests and issues, they enjoy the banter and the craic while learning new cooking skills. They have progressed from cooking in one pot to oven cooking and baking bread. John sees this as a cutting edge venture. He is grateful for the opportunity the class provides for men perhaps living on their own or with a partner, to bake and then go home to try out the recipe there.

Older people who continue to learn experience an increase of happiness.  John says he has met alot of people since he joined the U3A. He knows at least 100 people by their first name. “It could have been so different, I could have just retired to the garden and pottered about, maybe gone for a walk and said hello to a neighbour and felt very isolated.  I’m happy and thankful that the U3A never allows you to be isolated” says John.

Michael Howe says that when he retired at the age of 70 he went from feeling        useful to useless in twenty four hours. He was looking for some kind of academic pursuit. He had heard about the U3A from friends but thought it was elitist - not socially but academically and out of his comfort zone. When he eventually joined, he discovered to the contrary, that U3A was in no way elitist. He met a range of people there that he could get on with any day. He started with digital photography and then he moved on to Men in the Kitchen, Bible Studies and Spanish classes. Michael pays tribute to the tutors who lead the courses, who themselves are older people who work with such patience.

Michael Howe
Michael Howe

Michael says “In the U3A I began to grow in confidence and belief in myself . What I love about U3A is that there are no politics - internal or otherwise. I love the democracy of it, the gentleness of it and how people can rub along together from different backgrounds - a place to live and let live.” After his experience with Men in the Kitchen he progressed onto a cake making course in the Catering College. 

Michael thinks U3A caters very well for couples as well as as singles. He sees it providing  couples with new fresh topics of conversation. So often older couples feel they have nothing left to say. Having something new to share deepens the relationship.

He believes that having achieved a lot, he now can contribute something to the U3A. “I feel a lot happier now than when I joined. I see a lot of people like me out there, doing nothing, I want them to join. There are so many courses to avail of and there is no time like the present!”

News

Members are reminded that the AGM is on the 9th March in the Canal Court Hotel at 2.00pm. Nomination forms for the management committee are available in the office.

Refreshments are available and there will be an exhibition of some of the work from various classes. We would be grateful for your presence.

“I will think about that tomorrow”

 Scarlet O Hara in the film Gone with the wind said “I don't want to think about that now  I will think about that tomorrow.” A fine example of procrastination?   

 Procrastination is when you fail to take action to make something happen. You know exactly what to do but you simply  don’t do it. We procrastinate about so many things, from visiting the dentist, writing  a letter or email, telling a family member what we need from them, sorting out our money problems, taking exercise. The list is endless. So what do you procrastinate about?

Excuses Excuses

We say to ourselves “I know life would be better if I .. but” and then the excuses jump in. “Im too old or too busy or too uneducated or too shy”.  We say to ourselves “People would say she's carried or he should act his age.” or we say “That would take too much effort. I don't do those kind of things at my age,”  or “ I’ve never done that kind of thing before so I can’t start doing it now”  Recently a U3A member said I’ll be 70 next month I can’t start painting at that age.” I said to him “You will still be 70 whether you paint or not but what fun it would be to have produced a painting to celebrate your birthday.” I believe that when we start acting old no matter what age we are we heading down the slippery slope to sitting on a chair talking about the past while the present skates by.

Why Procrastinate?

There are many reasons why we procrastinate about doing a task or speaking out. I want to concentrate on why people might put off coming to the U3A. I think that often it is fear.

Fear is spelled: False Expectations Appearing Real. Sometimes people are afraid that they might not fit in. Nothing could be further from the truth. We repeatedly hear members say how welcome they were made on joining a class. Another fear would be members have for putting off joining is that they haven't been in a school building since they left school and that wasn't a good experience. There are people in the U3A from every walk of life, every ability. As one contributor said of the Gentlemen Singers “They don't care who you are or what you are so long as you are having fun” 

Some people use the ‘too busy” excuse for not joining the Newry U3A. If you are really very busy but still working out what your priorities are that is fine. But if you are too busy because of lack of self discipline, then you are only fooling yourself. Having at least one hour of fun and joy in your day, one hour of nearing the smallest of goals each day, will bring much wellbeing and satisfaction to you.

 Someone once said We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.  Here are some people who are not going to grow old any day soon.

Tony Carroll 

Tony Carroll
Tony Carroll

Tony says he knows a lot about putting off doing things. His wife died some years ago and it was a tough time for him. His sister-in-law advised him to join the U3A but he says he used every kind of excuse to avoid joining. He told himself that there were only old people there. I said “Why would I want to be doing gardening and certainly not singing or cooking?” But Teresa continued to coax and cajole and eventually it paid off. He joined the Gentlemen Singers - just to give it a try. He says “ It was great - I met so many people from different backgrounds who couldn't care less who you are or what you are. All they want is that you enjoy yourself and sing - and singing is almost secondary to having fun.” 

Tony did not hesitate when he was invited to join the Men’s Cookery Class as it was about cooking for one person. He then moved on to the Life Story Writing Class to meet a completely new set of people who quickly became friends. Flushed with success he signed up for  the iPad class with a very patient Sr Zita. “I hadn't a notion about the IPad but now I’m quite proficient” he says. Joe Morgan told Tony that there was a role for a grumpy old man in the play “The Last Dance.” No procrastination here. He joined, got the part in the play and has enjoyed the fun and the whole learning experience in the Acting Up group.

Tony’s message to procrastinators is this, “Just go up and join because every day you miss is a bad day. They are a great bunch of people so if you are retired this is the place for you”

Rosaleen Daniels 

Rosaleen Daniels
Rosaleen Daniels

Rosaleen says that having four children kept her very busy for many years.  She tended to put her own needs on the back burner. “I literally didn't have time for myself and I continually put off doing something for me - always pushing the goalposts back “ 

A friend, Rose convinced Rosaleen that she would enjoy the U3A and that she should give it a go. She joined and started with the Walk and Talk class. She  loves to get walking with new friends. “Its great to feel part of a group. The walks lift your mood and you just feel good  in mind and body at the end of the walk” says Rosaleen.

She never imagined herself doing drama but the Acting Up class has really given her confidence in herself. She has also joined members of the U3A who attend the Accolade Community Choir.  Her message to those who are putting off doing something for themselves is this “Go Search. and get a bit of a life for yourself because you deserve it!”

John Fox

John Fox
John Fox

John has had a very busy working life. He took early retirement but then continued to work hard when he set up his own business. He is now fully retired and admits that the pressure of work caused him to put off taking up a activities like squash, until he  would had more time. There always was other priorities to contend with.

When John and his wife Esther saw a poster about the U3A in Tesco they decided to check out what was on offer. John was immediately drawn to the Gardening  Group. He has lovely memories of his father’s vegetable garden and he always thought he’d like to do the same.  He put that dream on the long finger because of the pressures of work and family commitments. 

Now he would at last, have the chance to grow his own vegetables.

John says “ It’s absolutely brilliant out there. From day one on arriving at the allotment on the Armagh Road, I was made so welcome by people being friendly and helpful. It’s just like a family, with banter and a great rapport.”  He says that the great weather of last summer made the weekly visits so relaxing and enjoyable.

John pointed out that members can come out to the Allotment and check it out before making any decisions. The one pound per week covers the cost of seeds and bulbs. He says that this year the Gardening Group are going to supply fresh vegetables to the Men in the Kitchen Group.

His message to would be members and procrastinators is “Don’t wait! Join up when our season starts in March.This class, like the golf, runs right through the summer.” 

John also joined the iPad class and has become a lot more proficient with more than just sending emails and  taking photographs.

Margaret Murray

Margaret Murray
Margaret Murray

Margaret joined the U3A last September.   She had put off joining because she thought she might be too young and anyway didn't feel all that confident. She joined the Accolade Community Choir and met some members from the U3A who were talking about the fun they were having at the different classes. She says “They were saying it really took them out of themselves so I thought it might suit me too.” She is quite competent with the computer but the iPad was new to her. It only took her a short while in the iPad class to become proficient. It has opened up a whole new world of communication for her. 

Margaret joined the Drama Class run by Kaleidscope’s Kerry Rooney. Her tutor is Charmaine. She says she settled into one group and was enjoying that but was then moved to another group. Initially she was worried that she might not settle in this new situation. But she says she need not have worried as she is loving it now.  She is looking forward to trying more classes too. She says “It’s really all about meeting new people and  and finding that we are all basically the same with same worries and hopes and dreams. So don’t put off giving yourself a chance because if you do it’s you that is losing out” says Margaret.

 

The film star Betty Davis once said “ Old age is not for sissies!” We in Newry U3A agree. Its a bit of a roller coaster which will eventually end but think of the fun we can have on that ride. Remembering how much we have invested in the lives of others in the past we can now begin to do things we have only dreamed about, things we have put off doing with a list of excuses.

CS Lewis wrote “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Every day I am meeting people in the U3A who are living by this axiom. They have set themselves a goal, to learn a new language, get fit, do drama, sing in a choir, dance, or grow vegetables - the list is endless. They are not listening to the blurt within that tells them that they are too old or too slow. They are taking responsibility for their own happiness. Here are some of the stories of just a few of our members who are living full lives within the U3A.

Mark Twain wrote “ The most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why” 

Margaret Mc Ardle

Margaret is certainly an example of a person who lives out what CS Lewis says about never being too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.

She joined Newry U3A seven years ago.

Since she joined she has embraced so much of what the U3A has to offer. After a few months in the Walk and Talk group she trained and and became a leader for that class. There are two walks every month.  Walks  planned for February will be in Hillsborough and Slieve Gullion.

Margaret McArdle
Margaret McArdle

Margaret also took training for chair based exercises and now helps out with this class. When she joined the Gardening Group she hardly knew the difference between a flower and a weed but with the help, great expertise and knowledge of Shirley Milligan she now loves working in the allotment.

Producing and presenting a radio programme for Uir Fm over 2 years was a steep learning curve but she enjoyed the fun with the other members of the U3A group. She is also a member of the Kaleidoscope Acting Up group and  U3A Party Pieces. Following a course in the U3A called “If not now?” she set herself the challenge to learn to play golf. She is working on this too. 

Margaret exemplifies the generosity of spirit of Tutors that is the key to the success of the U3A. Many people join the U3A and then become aware that its not all about taking what is on offer but that helping out or running a class brings enjoyment and  a sense of fulfilment. 

Stuart Taylor

Friends suggested to Stuart that he should join the U3A when he came here from England. He did so last September. 

Stuart Taylor
Stuart Taylor

Stuart has a hearing problem so he was anxious about joining a class.Stuart attends the computer class and says his lack of hearing is not a big problem  there because much of the teaching Eugene does is on a one to one basis. He has also joined the Kaleidoscope Acting Up group that is held in the Arts Centre every Tuesday.  He says  “The class tutor Charmaine, goes the extra mile for me, making sure I fully understand her instructions.” Though Stuart hasn't acted since primary school he thinks it’s not too late to start again. He is delighted with the friendliness and interest that members have shown him. 

He is now looking forward to learning to play the ukulele. This class is being offered by Kaleidoscope’s Imagine Arts Centre programme, of which members of the U3A are delighted to avail. It will be given by Nikolay Ivanov.

Stuart believes that the secret of success of the Newry U3A is that people are very encouraging. He says “Your self esteem and confidence builds up. A year ago I had no confidence but now I have every confidence in myself and what I can do”

Anne O’Hale

This is Anne’s fourth year in Newry U3A. She and her husband had been living in Belfast and thought that joining the U3A would be a good way of making friends. Firstly she joined the Craft Class and learned about beading and patchwork quilting. She also attended the Spanish Class. 

Anne O'Hale
Anne O'Hale

Anne has  discovered a new a talent for making Carrickmacross Lace. She says that she had never made anything before joining the class.

She now facilitates this class. She has made a special piece (shown in the photo) as a surprise for her son’s mother in law Maria, who lives in Toronto and who celebrates her 80th birthday in April.

Anne also enjoys the Faberge Eggs making class that is led by the highly skilled Marie McKeown. Anne agrees that you are never too old to learn a new skill and that we are so lucky to have great teachers who are of similar age to the participants. She sees great value in the opportunity to connect with others. This she thinks is especially important for people who are living on their own.

We live in an ageing society where people are living longer . For the first time there are more people over 60 than children under 16 in the UK.

U3A in Newry has a wealth of different activities on offer. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
U3A in Newry has a wealth of different activities on offer. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

There is much talk these days about wellbeing and how older adults can age in a positive way. Wellbeing involves both mind and body. Physical and mental wellbeing are very closely related. Positive ageing is about firstly having a positive attitude to life and oneself. It’s also about engaging as fully as possible in the life you live. The way we act, the choices we make and the way we think have a big impact on our wellbeing. Evidence suggests that there are four steps to mental and physical wellbeing These are:

 1. Connect.

Older people living away from family can feel isolated and lonely. The IPad and computer classes in the U3A have been very popular.  Members have been learning about Skype and enjoying chatting to sons,daughters and grandchildren who are living away from home. They have been learning about emails and texting too. In fact learning the many ways they can use  social networks.

Dr Thomas Morton, psychology lecturer at Exeter University states that: “People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline.” Researchers into this are say that positive feelings, such as growth in confidence, and feeling less isolated lead to overall better mental health and physical wellbeing.

But another form of connection goes on in the U3A as members make new friends in their classes and meet up with old friends in our two social areas.   Also two groups regularly attend the Luncheon Club in the Catering College. Social afternoons are great fun and have a large attendance. Ask any of the Craft Classes what they get besides learning new skills and they   invariably mention “the craic” and the chats!

2. Be Active

Physical activity as you get older can help you feel positive, energetic, have a feeling of accomplishment and independence. There is strong evidence to suggest that those who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. If you are wondering which activity might best suit you you would do well to check out the following activities available in the U3A.

Walk and Talk, Dancing Class, Chair based Exercises, New Age Curling, Golf, Yoga and Gardening.

Some members go as a group to Keep Fit and Swimming in the local facilities.

 It is never too late to get moving - the human body responds to exercise regardless of age.

3. Keep Learning

We are never too old to learn something new. If you have been looking for encouragement to try a new hobby or take up one that you may have tried earlier in your life, the following may help you take that step.  Here are five benefits to trying something new as an older adult. These are: Improved memory -eg. taking up a new language - helps keep memory sharp and can slow cognitive ageing.

Self Discovery : You can discover a latent talent or learn how you deal with the learning curve of a new subject

Increased Happiness: Just changing your routine and the enjoyment of engaging in something new can make you happier! If you doubt this come in and listen to the buzz as members come out of our classes.

Sense of accomplishment: When you finally try out something you have been putting off for various reasons, you will have a great sense of pride and achievement.

Opportunity for socialisation: The great thing about the classes in the U3A is that the tutors are older people too and can understand how seniors learn. The classes are not exam focussed so there is lots of time for members to get to know one another and form friendships. The cups of tea and biscuits are always welcome after the classes.

There are over 70 classes happening in the U3A at present. So if you would like to learn a new language, play chess, sing in a choir, make art, read poetry or listen to good music or enjoy some bible study, come along to the U3A. if you are a man who falls into the “Cant cook wont cook” category we can help you on the road to Master Chef! If  Chess, Bridge and Creative  Writing are classes you often thought you'd like to attend, well perhaps now is the time to come along and chat to us. 

4.Giving: 

Many people are happy to give something back to the community. This brings its own rewards in keeping their minds sharp,to experience themselves in productive roles and provide great opportunities for connecting with others.

There are over 50 volunteer tutors in the U3A. They often speak of the satisfaction and delight when they see members achieving their goals and enjoying their class.

It is very evident that Newry U3A plays a very important part in maintaining the wellbeing and positive ageing  of older people in this area. Remember no one can give you wellbeing. That is something you have to do for yourself. We are back now after our Christmas Break. You are very welcome to call in and see what is on offer.

U3A Notes by Mary Cunningham

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Marie McKeown with some of her Decoupage cards made in the U3A Monday Craft Class.
Marie McKeown with some of her Decoupage cards made in the U3A Monday Craft Class.

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Feis winners - The U3A Gentlemen Singers performing at the  Newry Library.
Feis winners - The U3A Gentlemen Singers performing at the Newry Library.

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U3A Artists with some of their work.
U3A Artists with some of their work.

Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.

Nam liber tempor cum soluta nobis eleifend option congue nihil imperdiet doming id quod mazim placerat facer possim assum. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

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Consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata