For the rest of our present season the members of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club can look forward to gathering in the Board Room of the Grand Hotel with its pleasant lighting and warm genial décor where we gathered on Tuesday, March 18th for our latest meeting. Welcomed by our Club President Jerry Hennessy, control of the meeting was passed to veteran member Kevin Walsh who chaired the proceedings for the evening. Having greeted the members and guests and announced the details of the programme, he then read out the apologies from those few members who were not able to join us on the night but who wanted us to know that their hearts, support and goodwill are still with the club which is always so very gratifying and encouraging.
The striking of the gavel against the sounding block marks the beginning and conclusion of every meeting as well as the passing of control at the appropriate moment between the members of the top table panel consisting of President, Toastmaster and Topicsmaster. Every meeting is a circle which begins and ends in the hands of the Club President. At first sight it may seem a relatively unchallenging role with the holder passively surveying everything with the chain of office representing continuity and tradition resting easily on their shoulders. In reality however, the President is at the very centre of the club’s life and mission setting the keynote for every meeting throughout the entire season from September to May, ensuring that club affairs progress smoothly and above all that everyone is feeling happy and enjoying their membership and participation by being approachable, friendly and encouraging. When people are at their happiest, they give of their best. With Jerry, we have a truly outstanding President in the very finest tradition who brings such natural warmth, grace and kindness to his office so that all of our gatherings are marked by mutual support, conviviality and the generosity of spirit of friends together enjoying each other’s company.
Kieran Connolly gave us a stimulating and vibrant topics session with an eclectic range of themes such as the great era in Irish rugby coming to an end with the retirement of Brian O’Driscoll, the proposed insurance levy for flood victims, the opt out from religious education in the schools and the effectiveness of electric cars, which drew a number of very interesting contributions from the meeting, especially John Sherlock who drew attention to the prohibitively high cost of these vehicles and their very limited mileage range. This was underlined by Mary Murphy who recalled travelling in an electric car on the hilly coastal road between Dungarvan and Tramore on a cold winter’s day with the heating switched on that so rapidly drained all charge from the battery that the car slowed to a mere crawl and a relatively short journey took several hours.
Such sluggish motoring performance is in stark contrast to the electrifying enthusiasm that is generated by a lively, engaging topics session, which fills a meeting with the zest of spontaneity. Initial responses are limited to two minutes and add-ons of just one minute each which keeps everything sharp, clearly focussed and to the point, building a great atmosphere and getting everyone fully active and involved with eagerness of mind and swiftness of word.
We then enjoyed three outstanding prepared speeches beginning with one of our recently-joined members, Daniel Mullins, with an illuminating presentation under the title of ‘Not So Quiet On The Eastern Front’ that took us on a very informative journey through the complexities of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis and the Russian annexation of the Crimea, setting it fully in its historical context and exploring the recent momentous events that have revived something of the tensions of the Cold War era except now it is no longer an ideological quarrel but more to do with Great Power rivalry about spheres of influence and the control of strategic territory and natural resources. It was a very thoughtful and well researched contribution from Daniel succinctly weaving together many strands of fact and identity, blending history with current affairs and leading us to a deeper understanding of what lies behind this great crisis.
Another of our newly-joined members, James Keating, then brought us the Golden Age of Television. Not the pioneering black-and-white era that I fondly recall, but the great present day flowering of drama in all of its immense richness, citing among so much else some of his personal favourites such as the gangster series The Sopranos, the portrayal of the American involvement in World War II in Band Of Brothers and the currently showing Vikings series that brings a tumultuous era from the distant past so grippingly back to life. Having worked in New York at the time of 9/ 11, James powerfully felt the historical resonance of the era depicted in Band Of Brothers when he told of seeing there a huge aircraft carrier with its jet fighters taking off and landing protecting the city from any further attacks.
Finally, we were taken from the turmoil of the early 21st century with a speech entitled No Cross, No Crown by Michael Sheehan back to the era of William Penn of Macroom who some three centuries ago was to found the colony of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia as a haven of tolerance and acceptance in the New World for the much-oppressed Quaker community and for all who yearned for the freedom to live and believe as they wished. It was a fascinating and very well-told story that has an enduring relevance for all ages.
All the speakers received positive feedback with praise for their achievements and suggestions for further improvement from Mary Murphy, Fanahan Colbert and John Kelly, with a very fine overall summation from Frank O’Driscoll with recommendations for how the top table might improve their performance. But there is nothing which brings us closer to the realisation of our ideals than the annual Club Speech and Evaluations Contest that will form the centrepiece of our next meeting on Tuesday evening next, April 1st, at 8. 15 pm. We hope you will join us for what is always such a brilliant and entertaining occasion. 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