Report by: Kevin Walsh.

For Fermoy Toastmasters its all the way to a happier and better life as once again we gathered for the third meeting of 2018 on the evening of Shrove Tuesday, February 13th  at 8.15 pm in the generous hospitality of the local Youth Centre. For brothers David and Kevin it marked a significant footnote in club history as it was the first time that they had both served at the top table on the same evening, Kevin as Toastmaster and David as Topicsmaster. It was a pleasing and satisfying moment. On these late winter evenings it is such a pleasure to attend and take part in the meetings of the Fermoy Toastmasters where in such a friendly and cordial atmosphere one may enjoy such an incomparable richness and variety that makes for a truly memorable and most enjoyable time.

‘Topicsmaster David Walsh (right) and Toastmaster Kevin Walsh with Club President Kevin O’Neill’.

          Having struck an ever warmly welcoming opening note, Club President Kevin O’Neill then handed control of proceedings to Kevin Walsh as chairman who guided things along and introduced the speakers and participants in a genial and pleasant manner.  Tributes were paid to Helene Brunicardi on the sad occasion of her passing: daughter of our founder Niall of cherished memory, she was a prominent member of Toastmasters and onetime President of the Killarney Club, making a huge contribution to the organisation, widely honoured and respected with the warmest affection for her affability and great kindness. May she rest in peace.

         With a well-chosen selection of themes, David Walsh presented a lively and entertaining topics session, getting everyone involved and actively taking part with refreshing spontaneity. An initial respondent is asked to speak on any theme without prior notice for two minutes followed by one minute add-ons from other contributors offering new and stimulating insights.  John Kelly spoke so well on the gimmickry surrounding the sale of cars nowadays as one moment we were told that petrol was finished and diesel was the way to go; now diesel is dead and we are asked to upgrade to petrol, while the age of the electric car beckons with their limited range and painfully slow recharging times.  On the eve of Valentine’s Day with the giving of flowers, one of our new members Anne Marie Shepherd spoke of how touched she had been when a woman friend from Germany sent her a floral bouquet to wish her well after a recent injury from which she is now making an excellent recovery. John Quirke evoked the snow-covered winter of 1947 with all the high spirits and innocence of a young lad delighted the schools were closed, out playing with friends, recalling the bright nights when moonlight was reflected brilliantly from the icy landscape.  Perhaps in our high-tech age, we have lost something of that carefree youthful simplicity, leaving our society with an epidemic of teenage depression. We all need fun at every phase of our lives – and it can still be found in Toastmasters.

     Three delightful speeches made for a truly memorable listening experience. Mary Whelan told with charm and grace the fascinating story of Deborah Mitford, whose birth into English aristocratic privilege was entirely omitted in the family diary in favour of the chimney having been swept that day. Such was the lack of expectation that surrounded her. But the girl soon showed her mettlesome spirit and during the austere war years, did not flinch from the drudgery of milking by hand with her face often spattered by the swishing dung-covered tails of the unheeding cows. Later she would go on to win the heart and hand of Andrew Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, becoming mistress of Chatsworth House and Lismore Castle and was widely admired and respected for her elegance, compassion, depth of character and convivial sense of humour combined with an acute business sense  and openness to innovation that made her a universal favourite.  Mary always speaks with such clear enjoyment and ease that makes her visits to the lectern such a great joy and pleasure. She was praised by evaluator Fanahan Colbert for a presentation that captured the varied facets of a richly diverse and engaging life.

     With an assignment to illustrate an abstract theme, Jerry Hennessy then tackled the long and complicated relations between Ireland and Britain, but instead of looking at things from a typically nationalistic perspective through a glass darkly, he encompassed all of the very many good and positive things that have come out of the long association of our two islands in a message that was as timely as it was illuminating. Britain’s imperial heritage has given us fluency in English, the nearest thing the world has to a universal language spoken by some one and a half billion people, with all the access and opportunities that go with that.  Jerry told us some very interesting facts such as the reason why motorists drive on the left here is merely a continuation of the practice of the old stage coach drivers who had to keep to the left as otherwise the cracking whips used to urge on the teams of horses would snag in overhanging trees and foliage.  He also reminded us of the popularity of English dances such as the waltz and foxtrot that have provided so much gaiety and enjoyment to very many people even today; the mobility and convenience of the bicycle and the building of our national rail network that ended hopeless isolation and opened up the world and all its possibilities to generations.  In these and many other telling examples Jerry encapsulated so much that makes our nearest island a good neighbour far better than a relative which served as the intriguing title of his speech.  Later Johanna Hegarty complimented him on giving so many fresh and thoughtful new insights on a subject that all too often we think of as entirely painful and fraught.

    Then Frank O’Driscoll took us to the movies and the many lovely and enjoyable evenings he has spent through the years in the cinema looking up out of the dark auditorium at the vast literally larger-than-life screen with its world of fantasy, drama, colour and entertainment. In his easy and relaxed style, Frank stood aside from the lectern and holding his glasses in his right hand and with a beaming smile recalled those great classic films like The Sting and The Deerhunter and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.  All of this was revived by a recent visit to the Mahon Point  cinema to watch Three Billboards Outside Epping Missouri and what really delighted him was that here was a new film with a powerful Irish input that was every bit as good as any of these great classics. John Sherlock as evaluator saluted this remarkable achievement whereby images on a big screen were magically transformed into beautiful word pictures.

Fermoy Toastmasters relax after a very pleasant and rewarding meeting on Shrove Tuesday, February 13th 2018. Four Past President are seated in the he front row, from left:-
Jerry Hennessy; John Kelly, Kevin Walsh Michael Sheehan, Timekeeper for the evening with the green, amber and red lights in the foreground.

     General Evaluator Eilish Ui Bhriain spoke on behalf of all for the delight and entertainment that we had shared together in such a rewarding pleasurable evening sending everyone home feeling so very happy.  And that is what happens at every meeting of Fermoy Toastmasters – the gladness that everyone has for having come and taken part. We look forward to welcoming you to our next such gathering on this Tuesday, February 27th, at the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.