While many of our friends were away attending the recent National Ploughing Championships in Co Carlow, the rest of us assembled around the banner of Fermoy Toastmasters for a memorably pleasant and rewarding meeting at the local Youth Centre. As the sun went down on the glorious evening of Tuesday, September 17th, Club President John Kelly rose to extend the warmest of welcomes and cordial greetings evoking once again the special significance of this season marking the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of the club in the Blackwater town where it continues to flourish as a forum of recreation, self-learning and entertainment. John has played a huge part in the success and achievement of sustaining the club through so many of those years by his great kindness, warmth and friendship and once again on that evening he filled the meeting room with the lovely and charming atmosphere of his presence that instantly had everyone at their ease and keenly looking forward to what we knew would be a very special and most enjoyable gathering.
The proceedings were then chaired by Fanahan Colbert in such an assured and relaxed way, introducing the participants each in their turn and explaining the role and function of everyone on the programme for the night. Especially the topicsmaster Denis O’Brien with his calm and easy style at the lectern setting before us the gentle and refreshing challenge of an excellent and well-crafted topics session where members are asked to speak impromptu for up to two minutes for the first respondent and then one–minute add-ons for others contributors. It is always so important to have these additional contributions for no matter how eloquent and good the first reaction may be there is nothing like the eagerness of others getting involved and thinking and speaking rapidly on their feet swiftly building up a bright and stimulating mood that brings out the very best in everyone.
It was so very pleasing and gratifying to hear our newest member Darra Collins make her debut on topics on the cult of celebrity and insightfully reminding her listeners that behind the fame and glamour of so many of the beautiful people whom the media invites the world to admire, there can so often be the sadness and heartbreak of troubled and deeply unhappy lives. Life’s quieter and gentler paths can often hold out far greater happiness and reward. We are ever so delighted that Darra has now chosen to bring her talents and enthusiasm to Fermoy Toastmasters and we look forward to the joy of her active and rewarding participation in the club.
There were so many uplifting and powerful contributions made during that interlude of topics. One of the most impressive was from Robert Hegarty who made some very thoughtful and illuminating observations on the need of everyone to tap into their inner positive energy, to maintain an optimistic outlook on life and to ‘never think negative’: this message was a real tonic and one that we all took away with us as an uplifting headline for our lives. In a nutshell Robert expressed everything that is best and most noble and generous about Toastmasters: we all come together as very dear mutual friends to enjoy each other’s company, have a great night out, to each do our best to further and improve our communications skills and to make everyone feel welcome and needed because everyone is so unique and special. With better speaking, clearer thinking, enhanced personal growth and the laughter of happy meetings, we make the world for all of us such a far better place radiant with light, colour and enjoyment.
The essence of Toastmaster is all about striking a harmonious balance as it is in life in general. In Topics you have eagerness and spontaneity; in set speeches there is careful research and preparation. Kevin O’Neill took on the challenge from the manual of speaking with conviction which he did on the theme of how an over-emphasis in our culture and society today on the benefits of third-level education has led to other types of employment that could offer personal fulfilment and steady reliable incomes being ignored and overlooked. Coming from his own background in the transport sector, he pointed out that a decade ago every truck driving job advertised might attract seven or eight applicants; five years ago you might have received perhaps three inquiries; today there are usually none at all. He went on to tell that while trades and apprenticeships have declined, learning by rote to pass exams has become the norm. But it is not always the password to a bright future. The myth has gained ground that if you find a job you love doing, you will never work a day in your life, ignoring the fact that third-level graduates come to experience just as much if not more frustration and difficulty in their chosen occupations as those who never went to university at all. Society needs people to work in all sorts of areas from transport, retailing, hospitality and cleaning services which hold out life-affirming and positive opportunities. This was a very fine, thought-provoking and powerful speech from Kevin that richly deserves wider dissemination.
Our recently and most joyfully returned friend Conor McAree gave a very revealing overall assessment of the brave new world of the electric car. Delivered with verve and style, he addressed such issues as different wattages, incompatibility of charging points and limited mileage range and the perils of running out of charge, all of which pose major challenges for these vehicles and which are likely to remain unresolved for a very long time to come. True, they cut down on pollution, noise and running costs, but having taken a well-researched and careful investigation into the merits and drawbacks involved, Conor concluded that while he might well someday like to drive and own an electric car, that day has most emphatically not yet come.
Under the new online Pathways system, Michael Sheehan gave his inaugural presentation evoking aspects of his life thus far with wry humour and a winning gentle approach. A native of Westmeath, Michael remembered his educational days with the Carmelite Order in Mullingar where against the background of the stern school discipline of those times, he learned Pythagoras’ theorem on the square of the hypotenuse always equalling the sum of the square of the other two sides (I wish I could say as much!). It was a very bright, cheerful, relaxing speech, portraying a career in laboratory science and now in the more leisurely times of retirement, still finding immense pleasure and enjoyment in his long-standing participation in Toastmasters that takes everyone beyond the confines of the readily familiar into new and exciting places of discovery and renewal.
To every speaker there is an evaluator offering constructive feedback with praise for what has been achieved and encouragement in areas where further progress is needed. We all learn from each other from what is freely given with warm generosity of spirit. Chris O’Sullivan made a very impressive evaluating debut with further analytical excellence from Pat O’Regan and John Quirke rounded off by a very fine overall assessment of the evening from Johanna Hegarty. And so at the ending of one meeting we approach the beginning of another which will take place on this coming Tuesday, October 1st, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre. We hope you will join us then. For further information please contact Fanahan Colbert on 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh on 087 1228684.