There was a feast of the beautiful spoken word and immense enjoyment at the annual Fermoy Toastmasters Speech and Evaluations contest held on the evening of April 1st in the Grand Hotel. Joined by very welcome friends and colleagues from our sister clubs in Mallow and Mitchelstown, a large attendance gathered in a spirit of keen enthusiasm and good cheer for a very entertaining and pleasurable evening, yet another memorable milestone in the history of this great club and the highlight of our year.
Our President, Jerry Hennessy, set a genial and warmly welcoming note to the proceedings extending very best wishes to the contestants. The proceedings were then passed into the very capable hands of Fanahan Colbert who guided things along with an assured adroitness and genial style that contributed so much to the success of the evening. One of our visiting friends from Mallow, Ray Ryan, took charge then of the topics session which served to provide a lively and invigorating warm-up helping to foster an eagerly receptive atmosphere for the contest.
Giving wing to our ideals of clarity of thought and elegance of expression with meaning and brevity, we enjoyed three very lovely and uplifting speeches in our contest. Frank O’Driscoll told us with humour and charm of his abiding love of The Muppet Show, evoking all those familiar characters born of the creative genius of Jim Henson we remember from so many Sunday teatimes of years ago featuring the antics of Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy, not forgetting those two old curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf in their box overlooking the stage dripping with all their cynicism and begrudgery. ‘It’s time to put on makeup/, Its time to light the lights/ It’s time to get things started on The Muppet Show tonight’ was the jingle that inaugurated countless shows, always evoking the acerbic response, ‘Why don’t you get things started?’
Behind all the outward frivolity, the Muppets had a timeless message for it was a reflection of the stage that is life itself. Frank developed this idea in a very thoughtful way, reminding his listeners that there are always Statlers and Waldorfs who will seek to put you down you and to diminish all that you are trying to do. We all know the voices of those who say you cannot succeed, that you can’t make a difference for the better, undermining confidence and self-esteem. But he asserted you can take something positive from it by each of us asking ourselves the question – ‘Why indeed don’t you get things started?’ – by going out there and doing what you want to do and bending your energies to achieve your goals and building an expanded and far happier life. We all have that wonderful potential within us – so make it happen. This was a truly excellent speech airily light in style and profound in content that gave us all something to take to heart and live by as we continue on our journey.
Then Eilish Ni Bhriain told of the story of a young boy many years ago who came up against the blockheaded mentality of the Irish educational system. Asked a question as to how far a horse could gallop in 24 hours, he told his teacher that it was so absurd and silly for no horse can ever do that. As a country lad, he had often observed his father ploughing behind the slow, steady trod of a heavy shire horse. He received a heavy caning for his trouble. Perhaps that teacher wanted his pupil to imagine another world where horses and people can indeed run forever without tiring but could find no other language to express himself than the blistering end of the stick. If only he could have found the beautiful expression of Eilish with her gentle style, subtle understanding and a ready and winning kindness of feeling that makes her such an outstanding speaker. Finally, we had Kevin Walsh who reprised one of his recent speeches celebrating the power and truth of the use of words and celebrating verbal communication as one of the greatest of human accomplishments.
The second half of our programme was given over to the Evaluations Contest, with another Mallow visitor Liam Flynn giving us an extraordinary talk alerting us to the botanical horror that is Japanese knotweed and of what can be done to protect ourselves against it. Marshalling a formidable body of research and delivered with assurance and ease, Liam’s speech overturned any cosy idea we may ever have had that plants are always benign and passive life forms. The challenge was taken up by Michael Sheehan, John Kelly, Johanna Hegarty and David Walsh who all retired from the meeting room and then one by one were recalled to give their assessment, praising the speaker’s strengths and achievements while offering constructive suggestions for further improvement, which every good evaluation should include.
At the end of both contests, the judges’ score sheets are handed to the counters who swiftly add up the marks while the timekeeper’s report is submitted to the Chief Judge for if any contestant should speak less than or in excess of the required time limits, they are quietly disqualified. Fortunately that did not happen to anyone in Fermoy that evening. Then the announcement was made with first and second places in the Evaluations going to David Walsh and Johanna Hegarty, with both Kevin Walsh and Frank O’Driscoll joining them in going forward to the next round of competition to the Area Contest in Charleville with our heartfelt congratulations and very warmest good wishes.
But the essential life of the club is in our regular meetings which continue on Tuesday next, April 15th, at 8.15 pm in the Grand Hotel to which we extend an ever cordial and warm welcome. 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