Let me take you to the River Room of the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, with its soft light, pleasant ambience and through the open window of a mild spring evening we hear the River Blackwater cascading over the weir. The crowd has gathered, the air is filled with the buzz of conversation and peals of relaxed laughter, the latest meeting of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club is about to begin. The gavel strikes the sounding block on the top table and our President, Jerry Hennessy, calls the proceedings to order and in his ever affable and personable style, bids everyone warmly welcome.
He then extended on behalf of the whole club a very cordial and warmly thankful welcome to our latest new member Margaret Goggin, who has come to discover and explore the richness of what Toastmasters has to offer, to grace and enhance our circle of friendship and mutual support and to share with us the depth and variety of her creative ideas, insight and experience as so many have done before in a story of constant renewal and personal adventure that make our club all the better, more vital and rewarding. We also extend a very warm word of welcome to Patrick Kavanagh who is joining us with sincerest gratitude for his support and warmly looking forward to his contribution and active participation. For participation with mutual encouragement and good will lie at the very core of all our activities. We each bring to the club our own individual richness. As individuals we can do so very little. But by working together in mutual cooperation and friendship, by sharing our knowledge and experience, there is no limit to what we can achieve in ever greater personal growth and the attaining of a wider and deeper happiness.
One of the key phases of any of our gatherings where the enlivening power of active participation is seen with its greatest clarity is in the topics session, the time for impromptu speaking and for swiftness of response and quickness of thought that releases such a torrent of creative energy. That evening our topicsmaster was John Sherlock who with his great charm, ease and winning humour, served up a scintillating menu of themes and challenges that soon brought the meeting to a very stimulating vibrancy and freshness, with everything from a girl can’t have too many shoes to acts of kindness, from superstition to pet hates to your best holiday experience, to name but a few.
This bracing topics session set the stage for the prepared speeches of the evening. We began with Mairead Barry who holds such a place of great affection in all our hearts, delivering her Stage Ten assignment from the Communication and Leadership Manual that is always such a significant milestone in the development of every member of Toastmasters. Tasked with inspiring her audience, Mairead held up the example of the life of the Cork priest, Fr. James Christopher O’Flynn – or ‘Flynnie’ as he was fondly known to many of his contemporaries – who did such wonderful work in the mid-20th century to help people to overcome speech impediments and to express themselves with fluent confidence through his encouragement of acting in the plays of Shakespeare where the discovery of the wealth of the Bard’s language brought out the true depth and strength of all concerned. Mairead drew a cogent similarity between the Cork priest and the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue who did so much to help Britain’s King George VI as depicted in the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech. Told in Mairead’s relaxed and gentle style, this was a truly beautiful speech that by holding up for our admiration the life of someone who helped others find their true inner worth, made us all feel truly uplifted and inspired.
The club was honoured and delighted to welcome champion schools speaker, Fiona O’Flynn of Rathcormac – no relation of the Cork priest – who with remarkable ease, confidence and assurance spoke on the theme of politicians, quoting Franklin Roosevelt’s observation that government is not imposed on us but comes from ourselves. She related of her recent online search exploring possible future career paths, with annual salary scales in the region of twenty to thirty thousand euro, until she looked at politics with its pay scales beginning at one-hundred thousand euro a year. No wonder there is such a blatant disconnect between an entire political class and the ordinary people like ourselves whom they ostensibly serve. Fiona exemplified the energy, idealism and vast potential of the rising new generation – if they get the opportunity they deserve, they will makes this a great and wonderful country and Fiona will be one of our leaders.
Finally, our EVP, Mary Whelan, who over the past twelve months has worked so tirelessly and with such immense dedication putting together such varied and enjoyable programmes for all our meetings. With warmth and a winning empathy, Mary also held before us an inspirational great life in the person of the indomitable war correspondent Marie Colvin, known and remembered for her trademark eye-patch, who wrote searing accounts of the horrors of war in all parts of the world, won the respect even of tyrants, loved life and was animated by a tremendous spirit of compassion for ordinary people. So very sadly she was killed in the course of the ongoing tragic conflict in Syria but will always be honoured and esteemed for her courage, humanity and integrity shining a revealing light in some of the world’s darkest corners.
All of these speeches received admiring and positive appraisal from our evaluators Frank O’Driscoll, Johanna Hegarty and Kieran Connolly, with a fine overall assessment of the whole meeting from general evaluator John Kelly. At the conclusion of one meeting there is an invitation to the next, which will be the penultimate of the present season, to be held on Tuesday next, April 29th, at 8.15 pm in Fermoy’s Grand Hotel, where we look forward to the pleasure of seeing you all. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT