Category Archives: general

Here’s to a Happy, healthy,peaceful New Year to all our members:

Ath-bhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise dhíbh go léir, a chairde

Its a brand New Year and the second half of Fermoy Toastmasters  50th Anniversary has begun, with our esteemed founder member, John Quirke taking on the prestigious Office of President, a position which another esteemed member, John Kelly, has occupied with distinction since September 2019.

This is a special year for the Club and already a very successful Variety Concert took place November 2019 as a Fundraiser for Marymount Hospice and over 2500 Euro will be handed over to such a worthy cause.  We will be planning other notable events from here to end of season; these calendar dates will be published in local Avondhu Press.

Our first meeting for 2020 will be held January 21st at 8.15 in Fermoy Youth Centre, on the Quay and of course guests are always welcome to come and taste the convivial atmosphere of our Club.

Fáilte is fiche roimh gach éinne

Area Final in Fermoy Youth Centre:

Fermoy/ Mallow Club contestants will gather at Fermoy Youth Centre 8.15 this Tuesday Nov. 12th for Speech and Topics contest. Come early and be seated for this thoroughly entertaining contest showcasing what Toastmasters is all about. Fáilte roimh an pobal go léir, all welcome.

Club Contest 2019


Mary Whelan is congratulated by President John Kelly as Winner of the Club Humorous Contest.

 Toastmaster enjoyed another milestone occasion on the evening of Tuesday, October 29th, at the riverside Youth Centre for the annual Humorous Speech and Topics Contest.   A warm welcome was extended by President John Kelly who referred to the unavoidable absence of some of our dear friends through the complexities of everyday life. But over the years one of the most striking features of our club and the reason why it has survived and flourished over half a century which is such an astonishing and wonderful achievement, is the depth, the richness and the greatness of heart and spirit which animates it and which time and again has seen it overcome all vicissitudes and emerge stronger, better and happier than ever before. There is nothing else but to get on with it and if that is an ever successful rule of Toastmasters so it is in our daily living also. You don’t lie down under adversity, you rise to meet it by keeping going, doing your best and with laughter and smiles you will travel so much longer and farther on an ever pleasant and rewarding journey.

     David Walsh was once again called upon to play the role of Contest Chairman this year for his excellent track record in keeping everything going and running strictly to time which he did on that Tuesday evening with all of his skill, directness and aplomb. Before speakers rise to the challenge of delivering brief but highly entertaining talks from the lectern there is a need to settle the meeting and foster a genial and receptive atmosphere as the Topicsmaster Kevin O’Neil so effectively did with a selection of subjects and gentle challenges that got everyone actively participating and involved and building a warm and encouraging feeling that brings out the best in all. This is the essence of Toastmasters: being active and playing your part to the fullest in every way you can. There is no sitting around doing nothing for everyone has a contribution to make and something unique and invaluable to offer. And the more you take part and share your talents and enthusiasm and the unique life experiences and insight that everyone has, the more benefit and enjoyment you will derive from it.  There would be no point in joining a fitness club just to sit back and watch others working out in the gym. The same thing here: for this is exercise of the mind and stimulus of the creative powers of every individual to express their thoughts and views in the elegance and beauty of the spoken word. Try A Taste Of Toastmasters with a good heart and sincere conviction in the warmth of mutual friendship and support and you will be astonished by the colour and joy that will fill the garden of your life even in these drab grey days of the depths of winter.

    We had four lovely and very enjoyable humorous speeches beginning with Eilish Ui Bhriain who recalled a West Cork worshipper who was invariably late for Mass and often came with the smell of strong beverages on his breath much to the chagrin of a certain pious strait-laced nun beside whom he sat during a parish mission way back in those days when such occasions attracted congregations as amply overflowing as he was in terms of alcohol content. Inevitably he dozed during the long ceremony until the rousing words of ‘Christ Has Died/, Christ Is Risen/, Christ Will Come Again’, stirred him to a brief waking moment of zeal with the loud exclamation, ‘And fair play to him’!  Eilish has a wonderful talent of seeing humour in the world around her and bringing us all into it with a gentle winning smile and an engaging charm and grace that makes for such a great joy and pleasure. Then we had Kevin Walsh recalling some humorous moments from his schooldays not least when he mentioned one teacher’s attempts to describe various maladies through Irish and spilling the contents of an inkwell that saw him quite literally blotting his copybook. He concluded by saying that the school around the corner is no longer is just the same and times have changed and thank God for it too!

    With her gentle and mellifluous enunciation and lightness of touch, Mary Whelan took us back to her days of learning the arts of cookery which is always a subject that lends itself readily to humour as the blending and mixing of ingredients can so easily go awry in the unpractised hand of the novice with all kinds of hilarious results. Aged just twelve at the time and obliged to wear a vastly outsized ankle-length overall, Mary told of that first heroic attempt to make bacon and eggs for with everything we do in life there is that moment of palpitating panic when we must do it for the very first time and this was conveyed with warmth and eagerness and a sense of how when culinary creations boil over and spill then too there is learning and improvement and the road opens towards proficiency and skill.  This was followed by Michael Sheehan with his own unique brand of wry wit telling of a holiday break he took in the Centre Parks complex in the midlands where among so many other pursuits he turned his hand at crazy pitch-and-putt which he graphically illustrated with the use of a putting club and taking from a plastic bag and holding to the light a perforated pair of trousers that recorded the attainment of a hole in one. And that is what comedy is truly about: looking at life in just a slightly different angle and capturing something of its intrinsic absurdity to bring forth the beautiful and relaxing music of laughter.

     After a genial tea break, we had a short topics contest in which participants retired from the meeting room and were then recalled back in one by one to speak on a subject about which they had no prior notice: Michael Sheehan, Denis O’Brien and Kevin Walsh addressed the topic of with life so short, why is it that we have to spend so much time doing things we don’t like and so little doing that which we most enjoy. Each offered their own insights but in overall terms the feeling was that this life short as it is yet it is all we have for now so we can do no other than to make the best of it. Even if many obstacles prevent us from following all of our dreams there is no need for disappointment, we find other sources of comfort and reward and fulfilment along the way not least in the company and the joy of friends together which makes our living so much more pleasant and worthwhile as exemplified not least by our sharing in the life-enhancing pleasures of Toastmasters.

     So after the judges had cast their votes in brief silent interludes and these were then counted outside the room, the results were announced: Kevin Walsh and Denis O’Brien in the Topics category and Mary Whelan and Eilish Ui Bhriain in the Humorous Speeches as First and Second respectively will take part in the next Area round of competition to he held on this coming Tuesday, November 12th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre which promises to be a memorably entertaining and merry evening. For further information please contact Fanahan Colbert on 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh on 087 1228684 or look up our website on

Kevin is congratulated by John Kelly as Winner of the Table Topics Contest. The warmth of their long friendship can be readily seen here.


Fermoy Club Humorous speech Contest:

Our next meeting on Tuesday 29th October,  will be exciting, entertaining when Club contestants take to the podium with exuberant good humour and the unique gift of lighthearted storytelling. This promises to be a night of jollity and laughter …and all are very welcome to join us.

Electric Cars subject at Fermoy Toastmasters

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.

President John Kelly, founder member presides over October 1st meeting

The three most essential roles at any Toastmasters meeting throughout the world as exemplified by President John Kelly, who leads and inspires the team; David Walsh as Toastmaster who ensures the smooth and successful running of the meeting and introduces the speakers; Topicsmaster Conor MacAree who ensures that everyone participates and contributes to the meeting with immediacy and spontaneity. The essence of Toastmasters is getting involved, being involved, staying involved for what you put in comes back to you in personal growth and fulfillment. It’s all about being happy.

Hello October at Fermoy Toastmasters.

Fermoy Toastmasters said Hello to October on Tuesday, the 1st of the month, at the riverside Youth Centre for the third meeting of the current season. On our way in we heard a sound long familiar for generations but which more recently has become conspicuous by its silent absence: after heavy rains the roar of cascading waters over the weir once again. Club President John Kelly extended a very warm welcome to all who had assembled at a time when the country was preparing to face the onslaught of Storm Lorenzo but now in this relaxed and genial ambience we could put all of that aside and concentrate on having a couple of hours of relaxed pleasure and enjoyment.

     David Walsh then assumed the chairmanship of the meeting in his capacity as Toastmaster of the meeting, introducing the speakers and making very effective link-ins after each presentation so that everything went ahead smoothly and seamlessly making for a memorably successful evening. Conor McAree fresh from stage speeches at the two preceding meetings took on the challenge of topicsmaster, bringing forward a series of very stimulating and engaging themes that quickly got everyone involved, thinking on their feet and actively contributing which is such a brilliant mental exercise keeping the thought-processes nimble, ready and agile just as physical exercise maintains the body in good shape. We are as individuals a combination of mind and body and we must take good care of both and do everything in our power to keep them trim and active ensuring a healthy and fulfilling life.

     With his ever relaxed and easy style Conor’s selection was based on the everyday things of life as we all know and experience it. A topic raised on the issue of favourite hobbies evoked a very nice response from our President John Kelly on his enjoyment of a good walk each day with fresh air and the pleasure of meeting people. Contributions on the role of social media emphasised that technology can never replace the warmth and cheer and geniality of direct human interaction. Mention also of the traditional Irish breakfast brought a lovely contribution from Eilish Ui Bhriain evoking a vivid word picture of childhood days with the teapot steaming over the fire with its daily promise of a heart-warming and optimistic beginning to every day.  Under the careful timekeeping of Mary Whelan, members also engaged on the theme of traditional high street shops as opposed to the enormous increase in the volume of online shopping and again an emphasis was placed on the need to find a balance between the new high-tech commerce and the invaluable human interaction that has always lain at the heart of trade and business. These and so many more subjects created a bright and feisty mood in the room that is an essential and vital ingredient in the making of a successful and productive meeting.

     The seating had been rearranged earlier to facilitate a wide-screen power-point presentation by Fanahan Colbert on a subject already touched upon: the parlous condition of the Fermoy weir. Lights were dimmed and beautiful colour images of the river filled the room with a richly delightful cinematic effect as Fanahan gave a fascinating and detailed account of how this great artefact of Fermoy’s industrial heritage originally built to feed water to the millrace then evolved to become a truly majestic centrepiece of the town. Now after years of neglect and indifference it has sadly fallen into an advanced state of dilapidation. Acquired by the old Urban Council in 1988 for what was then regarded as the bargain sum of £500, now the restoration of the weir requires millions but the State having expended astronomical sums on providing elaborate flood defences is not inclined to look upon it very favourably. Moreover some public bodies – like the Inland Fisheries Board – are opposed to the continued existence of weirs altogether as they slow down the flow of water and diminish oxygen for fish life. Fanahan’s presentation was an important and valuable contribution to the debate on the future of this significant local landmark.

     Kevin Walsh then gave a speech on the theme of forgiveness. Recalling the starring role of Audrey Hepburn in the classic movie The Nun’s Story which charted one sister’s long years of chafing under the restrictions of the contemplative life were brought to a head when her beloved medical doctor father was killed by the Nazis during the Second World War. She then found it impossible to find forgiveness in her heart and left the cloisters for participation in the Belgian Resistance movement to fight for freedom and revenge. He contrasted this with the real life experience of Gordon Wilson during the Northern Troubles who on the evening after his beloved daughter Marie had been killed in the dreadful bomb attack on the Remembrance Day commemoration in Enniskillen in November 1987, publicly forgave those responsible and went on to become a tireless worker for peace and reconciliation to the end of his days, a shining example of goodness and decency against hatred and violence.

    Finally and by way of complete contrast, Jerry Hennessy set himself the daunting challenge of making laughter by regaling us with a sparkling selection of comic vignettes most memorably and hilariously concerning a young Irishman who having emigrated to England was asked by his Mother to procure for her a pair of drawers in which necessity in her particular size she found herself chronically undersupplied. Believing that there is nothing like seeking the very best, the young man went to Harrods of London where having caused the staff no end of mirth he at last succeeded in his lingerie quest. In addition he also purchased a pair of fine leather gloves as a gift for a young lady who had recently taken his fancy. Both items were duly gift-wrapped with letter enclosed to his girlfriend expressing the hope that she would like to show them off at a forthcoming Irish social. Unsurprisingly the parcels were mixed-up with all the confusion of real life comedy. The ensuing hilarious results may not have entirely pleased the two ladies concerned but convulsed our meeting in uproarious laughter.

      Each speaker received thoughtful and positive evaluations respectively from Michael Sheehan, Denis O’Brien and Eilish Ui Bhriain and a very fine overall assessment form General Evaluator Frank O’Driscoll. And so another meeting concluded with looking ahead to the pleasure and joy of the next one for this coming Tuesday, October 15th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre.  For further information please contact Fanahan Colbert on 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh on 087 1228684

First meeting of 2019/20

It was so very pleasant to come to the first meeting of the new season of Fermoy Toastmasters at the riverside Youth Centre on the evening of Tuesday, September 3rd.  Such a joy to see John Kelly sitting at the top table with the chain of office of Club President once again proudly draped around his shoulders with great distinction and grace. Beside him John Quirke who will take over the role of President next January until the summer of 2020, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Club by consecutively sharing as our two most revered and dedicated members the role of President in recognition of the very many years of splendid commitment and enthusiastic participation and most heart-warming friendship for all by which both men continue to bring such light and joy to our club.

     Also at the top table was our newest and youngest member, Chris O’Sullivan, who after the meeting was called to order with nice words of greeting and welcome from our dear President, then for the very first time assumed the role of Toastmaster or chairman of the proceedings for the next two hours with warmth and charm and a gentle easy style that moved everything forward in such a relaxed and yet very effective way. Last season our meeting room had in daylight hours doubled-up as the seat of learning of Educate Together adorned with the innumerable trappings of schooling. They have now moved on to pastures new with our very best wishes leaving our room returned to the open simplicity where friends come together to find in each other an incomparable depth and richness.

      From the outset the familiar rhythm and shape of a Toastmasters meeting took hold and were swiftly launched into the impromptu topics session. John Quirke acted as topicsmaster setting himself the challenge of getting us all into a keen and lively mood with spontaneity and immediacy. Topics can as the name implies encompass the newsworthy events of the time or as John chose to serve up a selection of humorous and light-hearted themes.  The first respondent is asked to speak for up to two minutes: one minute add-ons usually follow and are essential to achieve that invigorating effect that brings such a bracing freshness to any meeting. We heard so many outstanding contributions witty, whimsical, engaging and thoughtful: for instance, Frank O’Driscoll recalled the brilliant film comedy that was Being There starring Peter Sellers as a reclusive gardener whom the American Establishment come to see as a brilliant sage; Johanna Hegarty lauded the freedom and fulfilment that can come with the single life; David Walsh observed on the very last topic of the evening that if Christ returned to earth today he would be crucified anew not to a cross but on social media.  We all felt a great sense of how good it was to be back among friends again and enjoying this craft of the spoken word that fills our lives with the music of a lovely satisfaction and a huge enjoyment.  The feeling of standing up to let your ideas take wing is very stimulating and rewarding. A reminder if one were needed why Toastmasters is truly a fantastic organisation to be a part of.

     We also had three set speeches delivered from the lectern that stands at every meeting as a vital focal point and potent tangible symbol of all that we are and do. Johanna Hegarty took us on a journey back in time to the life and career of a politician who shaped the future that is our present day, namely Donogh O’Malley, Minister for Education in the mid-1960s, who introduced universal free secondary education that brought opportunity and advancement within the grasp of so many previously excluded. This is a classic example of how a politician in power can change the lives of people infinitely for the better. Tracing his life and origins among the well-to-do, Johanna related how O’Malley had wanted to give everyone a chance to do what he had done, namely to achieve their full potential and pursue their dreams. He announced this epoch-making measure and set it in train and then – although still at an early age – O’Malley died suddenly as a pioneer who began an epic nation-shaping task then left to others to continue. This was a very fine and beautiful tribute from Johanna to a great statesman of vison and imagination which resonated in the  memory of evaluator Michael Sheehan recalling the classroom announcement that ‘the boss of all the schools’ as he was referred to had passed away and a free day was given as a mark of respect.

     Eilish Ui Bhriain took us on an enchanting odyssey through the world of poetic imagination and the beauty of rhyming verse, calling to mind so aptly the lines of John Keats that have forever marked this time of the year as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. She referred to the great modern Irish bard Seamus Heaney whose poetic works always succeeded in masterfully combining the cadence of poetry with the smooth texture of prose. And of course with all of her love of the Irish language she read a brief extract from a lament to the lost community of the Blasket Islands so silent without its people save for cry of gull and crash of wave and the steady dripping of the raindrops into old hearths now chilled that once had been so full of cheerful warmth. But most delightful of all was her own very fine and elegant poem celebrating her love of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club, evoking the anxiety of going into the first ever meeting but put at ease by the warmth of the welcome, the kindness and goodwill of everyone, responding to the impulse to speak for the first time and the happiness that she felt then, the same happiness felt by all who come and give a chance to this noble craft based on confidence, generosity of spirit and enjoyment Evaluator Jerry Hennessy expressed the pleasure of all of us in listening to this speech that celebrated the mystery of the poet’s journey into truth.

     We were all ever so pleased and delighted to welcome back Conor McAree returning to active participation again after an extended interlude. Delivered in a relaxed and pleasing style, he presented a most engaging and wide-ranging introduction of himself, the intricacy and rewarding complexity of his work with the leading engineering firm BAM, his passionate love of cycling, his enjoyment of a good hot cup of coffee offering just a few of the many flavours gained of a life so filled with interest and diversity and containing ample material for many other well-crafted future presentations to which we look forward, a sentiment so handsomely expressed by evaluator Mary Whelan.

    It was a very good and encouraging opening first night to our Fiftieth Anniversary Season.  But merely the first step in a long and very happy journey that now stretches joyfully before us through these autumn evenings and well beyond with the next gathering on this coming Tuesday evening next, September 17th, at 8.15 in the Fermoy Youth Centre. For further information please contact Fanahan Colbert on 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh on 087 1228684