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Toastmaster Fermoy 50th Anniversary

Welcome to Fermoy Toastmasters Club! It is a special year and already events are being organised to celebrate this prestigious goal which our Club has achieved.  Our Club always enjoys a very strong vibrant membership and this year is bigger and better than ever, all new members made very welcome and when they come to our friendly gathering, they find it hard to leave!

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Eilís Uí Bhriain hands over Joint Presidency to long-standing members Toastmasters John Kelly and John Quirke at a special End-of-year function in Grand Hotel, Fermoy



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

The gift of speech is one of the most beautiful things in the world. It is good to talk and to listen to the language of the heart and the soul. That is what makes all the meetings of Fermoy Toastmasters such special and very happy occasions.  All the more so as our latest gathering of Tuesday, February 26th in the ever congenial Youth Centre was our annual Speech and Evaluation Contest which marks such a great milestone in our year and season.  It is a showcase for all of the skills and experience that represent the heart and essence of everything that Toastmasters are all about.

‘Warm smiles of congratulation as Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain presents Speech Contest Winner Frank O’Driscoll with the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy as Winner of the 2019 annual Club Speech Contest’.

     It is a delightful challenge to say as much as you can with the only the most essential amount of words in the limited time available of five to seven minutes ensuring that the speaker has finished speaking well before the audience has finished listening. The timekeeper with stopwatch in hand controls a set of multi-coloured lights with green coming on at five minutes, amber at six and red at seven which remains on until the speaker has finished. A little excess is neither here nor there in the normal run of things but in a contest once the seventh minute red light is switched on, contestants have only thirty seconds to finish or else incur automatic disqualification under the rules. Neither the club officers nor the contest judges have any discretion in this. It scarcely ever happens and no such difficulties presented themselves that evening. It is a compelling but very rewarding discipline because it obliges speakers to focus their thoughts, clarify what they want to say and then go to the lectern, deliver their message and then sit down with a job well done.

           Four of our very finest members entered this year’s contest and as worthy exemplars of our great and noble ideals of fostering good communications skills and personal growth spoke with accomplished grace and style. Frank O’Driscoll told a very well-crafted and witty story of the selling of a motor car. Jerry Hennessy spoke on the perennial and ever engaging theme of romance. Johanna Hegarty recalled an encounter while out driving with a runaway horse. Mary Whelan drew inspiration from the Shakespearean dictum that ‘if music be the food of love play on’. All gave highly polished and accomplished presentations of memorable range and variety that evoked an enthusiastic response from the audience. It was so uplifting for all of us to listen and enjoy the art of the spoken word being displayed with such finesse and sparkling proficiency.

     The actual decision of contest placings is a matter for a panel of judges drawn from other clubs as well as from our own who scattered around the room mark their score sheets with a one minute’s hiatus allowed after each presentation and some two minutes at the conclusion for the final adding up of the points. These ballots are then collected and removed to an appropriate place outside the room to be checked and counted with the chief judge also having the timekeepers report to ensure that no contestant has exceeded the time limit.  The result is then returned to the top table and the announcement of the winner and second placed speakers are made.

       But before that could take place the second contest of the evening duly began.  The Evaluation competition sees a guest speaker deliver a seven minute presentation which is then carefully weighed up and assessed by the contestants.  We are all about self-learning. But in that journey of discovery we do not go alone. Every speaker has an evaluator who gives their considered opinion on how the speaker performed, assessing their effective use of words, their keeping to time, on their use of gestures and voice projection and so on.  It is the offering of a very positive feedback to enhance the speaker’s aptitude and progress for it is never to criticise but instead to offer all due praise and encouragement for what has been achieved while at the same time pointing the way toward ever greater improvement. No matter how good any of us may be, we can always do better.  We build each other up with mutual support and encouragement.

At regular meetings every speaker receives just one evaluation. But in competition a multiplicity of views and opinions are given by the contestants. During the presentation the evaluators listen carefully and write up their notes, thinking carefully and forming their considered view on what they have just heard and seen. An order of appearance is drawn so that apart from the first all the evaluators leave the room so that they cannot hear what the other contestants have said. Each is then in turn called back in to give a brief and concise assessment. For the listeners and indeed the original speaker it is fascinating and illuminating to hear the range of opinions and suggestions given.

    Listening to a very fine and impressive speech from Vincent Harris of Mallow Club were John Kelly, Denis O’Brien, Frank O’Driscoll and Johanna Hegarty, all of whom expressed their appreciation and understanding of what they had just heard: a speech drawn from personal experience as Vincent brought his audience on his journey as a young man following the emigrants’ path to England and in particular to Wembley, evoking the pathos of leaving the certainties of home to venture into the unknown, remembering those who helped him and of his successful entry into the world of work and independence told through the lens of nostalgia and warm feeling. The personal story, the human story, the story of the individual that holds within it the universal themes of setting out to make a better life somewhere else only to find there the strong  pull of home all making for a greater depth and richness. Once again the judges after completing their score sheets, the same process of counting begins. Judges only have to submit the placings they have awarded, the actual figures given to each contestant under every category remain confidential.

    Then the final announcement is made:-  in the Evaluation Contest, the First and Second Places went to Frank O’Driscoll and Johanna Hegarty, while in the Speeches Frank O’Driscoll also emerged as Winner, with Jerry Hennessy as Second  Placed Speaker. Both the first and second contestants in each category go forward to the next round of competition. Having received the heartiest congratulations of Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain, our happy quartet now proceed to represent us at the next round of competition in the Hibernian Hotel Mallow on Thursday, March 7th.  However the joy and pleasure of Toastmasters is to be found at every meeting as it will be again on this coming Tuesday, March 12th, in the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm.  We look forward to seeing you all.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website

Area 17 Speech and Evaluation Contest Finals.
Gerry Hennessy, Rachel Liston, Contest Chair, Johanna Hegarty and Frank O’Driscoll.



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

It was the evening of Tuesday, January 28th and we were all getting ready to head off to the second meeting this year of Fermoy Toastmasters in that same keen and warm spirit of looking forward to seeing so many dear friends and all of the nice and most pleasant people who make up the membership of our very happy club. However a glance out the window revealed a dark cloud looming in the west. That cloud was laden with snow and soon reports began to circulate of persons having some difficulty getting home from work. The call soon was made: in the overriding and paramount interest of the safety of our members and friends the decision was taken to cancel that evening’s meeting. A decision not taken lightly but with a heavy heart and yet with an acceptance and mature understanding that this was the right and responsible thing to do.  Ever and always safety must come first.

      For there is always another evening as the dark clouds soon blow away on the wind and the sunlight of renewed enjoyment and good cheer quickly comes out to shine again on all our lives. It is in that indomitable spirit of ever looking forward, drawing on the richness of the past to forge the achievements of the present and to go forward to build and welcome the promise of the future, that our club ever advances on its journey of discovery and fulfilment, of personal growth and the attainment of ever happier and better lives. Setbacks do not define us: instead we learn from them and utilise them with an ever greater determination to tap all of the resources of talent and originality, of mutual goodwill and the warmth of friendship to make our meetings ever better and more rewarding and delightfully memorable for all.

     To arrive at the meeting room of Fermoy Toastmasters is always such a great pleasure. It is filled with powerful symbols that tell a great story of who we are and what we do. One of the most prominent features is the golden club banner that is always hung in a prominent position bearing the name of the club, its number and the award ribbons it has received from World Headquarters in the United States over the years. That banner affirms the almost fifty years that our club has held such a special place in the cultural and recreational life of this community. Countless meetings across all of that time have threaded the long lines of continuity and tradition from the original vision and imagination of our two revered and fondly remembered founders, the late Niall Brunicardi and Padraig O’Braoin whose inspiration drives us ever forward.

           Every club meeting in all of that time has taken place in the presence of the banner.  For it symbolises not just the richness of a long and very proud record of achievement and success in Fermoy and throughout its wide hinterland, but also that we are not just a group confined to a narrow local stage but part of a vast worldwide organisation numbering thousands of clubs and many tens of thousands of members spread right throughout the world. We are a universal organisation of women and men and attracting a wide and varied membership from all walks of life.

     Many clubs subscribe to a much more intense and high-powered form of corporate culture. That is fine for them and we wish them well in it. But what we want to get away from life’s pressures and have a relaxed and pleasant time. Instead as a club we find that we progress and achieve so much more by a much quieter and relaxed style and gentler approach that puts the individual and their needs first. We open our meetings to all in a spirit of cordial welcome and convivial good feeling, with an emphasis on everyone going forward gladly and pleasurably at their own pace and having lots of fun along the way. Indeed we go much further on the journey of growth and renewal with mutual kindness and support.

    Each is an individual making their own special, invaluable and unique contribution to every meeting. Yet we are also an informal and genial team effort doing everything we can to ensure that everyone has a most enjoyable and rewarding time with us and by being part of us on our shared and beautiful journey to every further horizons of success.  There is never a limit to what can be achieved in Toastmasters. It asks a modest effort as does everything that is truly good and worthwhile. Because in each of us giving and doing of our very best our meetings are all the more sparkling, refreshing and entertaining with everyone going away two hours later feeling glad that they came and took part and shared in the pleasure and recreation with their fellow members who are also very best friends. By each trying to do our very best we all receive the very best.

    Another gentle but very powerful symbol is the lectern. It is a neat, spare and quietly elegant object that represents a great focal point in the room proclaiming our celebration of the beauty and grace of the spoken word.   This is where speakers choose to stand if they wish to give their brief prepared presentations facing the audience and the system of lights green, amber and red operated by the timekeeper that mark the five, six and final seven minute limits of every speech that makes for brevity and clarity, for getting to the essential core of what you want to say in a light and economical style.  These limits are not there to hinder our powers of self-expression but to enhance them.

     Perhaps you want to introduce yourself as a new member in your maiden or Icebreaker speech; you want to air your views on some issue that is close to your heart; to recall a story that made an impression on you or share an insightful personal experience. That choice is up to each person to make for themselves. The club and the leadership and the communication manuals provide the essential framework that enables us to further build and expand our powers of expression and the skills of voice projection, hand gesture and eye contact and the importance of carrying the audience with you on a journey of great and exciting discovery. On the top table can also be seen the gavel and sounding block that is struck to call the meeting to order and reconvene after the convivial tea break, marking out this time as being so special and important, apart from everyday life to be sure but also filled with the spirit and depth of life at its very best.

         I have spoken of symbols. But the one true presence that marks each and every meeting are the wonderful people there so full of warmth, kindness, charm, friendship and goodwill. The kind of lovely people that are such a joy and pleasure to be with and who in their goodness and warmth of heart invite you to come and take part and join in the comfort, enjoyment and conviviality of these very special and most rewarding meetings. As we do again this coming Tuesday next, February 12th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.


January marks the quiet beginning of the year and Fermoy Toastmasters at their first meeting of the new season at the riverside Youth Centre on the evening of Tuesday, the 15th, created a most relaxed, charming and beautiful atmosphere.  It seemed a long time since our Christmas party night and everyone was glad to get back and share in the warmth and conviviality. The activities of the club are so bracing, stimulating and mind-broadening, telling of just how extraordinary and good life really is and what a joy it is to come together and be happy in friendship and mutual goodwill, sharing the fun and laughter and all the magic that goes with the celebration of the spoken world. We do not paint pictures on canvas or carved on stone, bronze or wood, but we take and utilise the ideas and talents and energies of us all to paint word pictures of the imagination which is so exciting and rewarding. And these images engraved in the mirrors of the mind can often outlast and inspire long after those fashioned of inanimate materials have faded from sight and memory.

Club President Eilish UI Bhriain bid members and visitors alike warmly welcome to our first meeting of the New Year and read out a timely and most appropriate reflection emphasising the importance of a positive and optimistic outlook as a source of guidance and illumination throughout all of the next twelve months. A special warm word of welcome was extended to John Sherlock who assumed the role of Toastmaster or chairman of the evening’s proceedings and was back to us after an unavoidable absence from several of our meetings towards the end of last year. He spoke with feeling of how much he had missed seeing everybody and all the fun and camaraderie that goes with being an active club member but was now so happy and delighted to be back and so say all of us as we look forward to sharing the sunshine of John’s dedication, commitment, kindness and very special friendship for a very long time to come.

The most zestful and creative section of any Toastmasters meeting is the topics session, which was then taken on by Tim Fitzgerald when members are asked to speak on a subject about which they have received no prior notice. Among so much else we were challenged as to what advice would you give to a newborn baby, the forming of New Year’s resolutions, should the age of alcohol consumption be raised to 21, the teaching of history in schools and meeting your favourite celebrities together with so much more. The first respondent speaks for two minutes with spontaneous one minute add-ons from anyone who feels motivated to speak further:  in these follow-up contributions it never ceases to give delight and enjoyment to see ideas sparking into life and taking wing, presenting such a wonderfully varied panorama of viewpoints and fresh perspectives, building up a vibrant and eager atmosphere.

Spontaneity, quick-thinking, readiness to get involved and make a difference: we are not about hurlers on the ditch but instead everyone is called into the game at some stage or another.  This makes every meeting so animated and filled with a scintillating energy. At first the responses can be a little slow and hesitant but soon all becomes so wonderfully free-flowing and effervescent. At the gym, you exercise the body; in Toastmasters you exercise the mind. And a healthy, active, stimulated mind makes for greatly enhanced physical well-being and good health also. It’s a Win Win scenario all the way.

We had just two excellent and outstanding speeches.  These are not randomly chosen but follow an assignment set in the relevant communication and leadership manuals.  Mary Whelan made a lovely choice from the Interpretive Reading manual which invites you to acquire proficiency in the skill of reading a section of prose so as to bring the text to life in an immediate and convincing way. Taking an excerpt from the collection of essays The Christmas Chronicles by UK writer Nigel Slater, Mary wisely avoided material now out of season but instead presented us with the author’s ideas on the pleasures of winter.  In her gentle, easy listening style she read of how winter is not just a time of darkness and chill, but of exploring the great outdoors while nature is asleep, of coming to relax by the fireside while avoiding excess and oppressive heat, a restful and pleasant time for reading, reflection and coming to a better understanding of life. ‘Winter lasts too long not to be enjoyed’, was the concluding line of Slater’s essay that Mary read so nicely and effectively.  Later her evaluator Johanna Hegarty remarked that another of winter’s unsung pleasures is that of coming to Toastmasters where you find the joys of springtime all year round.

Then Fanahan Colbert took on the task of illustrating an abstract concept. There is no better way of doing that than by making all things abstract into something personal, alive, warm and immediate. Fanahan achieved that very well by speaking of a subject always so dear to his heart, namely music and those who perform and compose it. He told us of the great performers of the past like Frank Sinatra who never wrote a bar of a song himself but excelled in making the work of other artists come to life.  Others like Bob Dylan achieved immense success as singer-songwriters – even if Dylan was not himself the greatest singer of all time, his inspiration was powerful and vivid and carried to even greater heights to audiences all over the world by later interpreters. Songwriters are forever approaching great singers and asking them to cover their works knowing that it will lead to considerable cash inflows into their bank accounts even if the spotlight of fame tends to remain strongly focused on the performers who achieve instant worldwide name recognition even while those who conjured the fabulous sounds and lyrics out of their creative impulses remain relatively unknown and obscure.

‘Spare a thought for the songwriters’, said Fanahan, whose presentation was enhanced by his use of visual aids in the flip-chart, its pages adorned with the names of so many musical greats who have brought pleasure to millions over the generations. We all age and tire out eventually, but great music remains timeless and ageless, it is forever young and beautiful, it truly is made of the stuff of eternity. This is at the heart of its mystery and the joy that it brings. Frank O’Driscoll in his thoughtful analysis later praised this enthralling celebration of the work of the creative artists.

In his overview of the meeting as General Evaluator Michael Sheehan spoke of how it marked a promising start to a new season ahead. Evaluation is crucial for this is where speakers learn by gaining a fine positive assessment of all that they have achieved with offering further encouragement to continue on the road to ever greater improvement. We are all about building each other up as we explore personal growth and development with enjoyment and pleasure. We all have an input in guiding us in the right path but that path is followed each in our own special and unique way, in our own pace and in our own time. It is the joy of doing and the satisfaction of achievement, with success building on success towards an ever happier and better life. Every meeting is a new beginning as can be shared and discovered at our next club gathering on this coming Tuesday, January 29th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.


Fermoy Toastmasters begin their season of meetings and entertainment, of pleasure and fun for the New Year on Tuesday evening next, January 15th, at 8.15 pm at the Fermoy Youth Centre. We extend warmest greetings and very best wishes to all our friends and supporters that 2019 may bring to you the joys of living and the rich rewards of better listening, clearer thinking and enhanced powers of expression which form the heart of our noble craft. The warm glow of Christmas lights fade away leaving behind a harvest of happy memories even as the longer daylight now extends ever further into the evening with the promise of another springtime and rebirth. Some people profess to find this a drab and dreary time of the year but it need not be. Now that the rush of preparation and the intensity of festivities have passed and the margins of time not so tightly pressed there are many opportunities for recreation and new beginnings to be discovered. In the weeks and months that lie ahead we come together to embark once more or for the very first time on the journey of renewal that forms the essence of Toastmasters. It always begins as that very welcome first time guest who sits, listens, chats before the meeting is called to order, at the tea break and again just before we all head home and who then decides to come back to set out on this wonderful new journey of life.

We meet together to make our lives so much brighter, better and happier. Everyone has their own richness of stories and life experiences, their own insights, wit and wisdom to share and exchange.  The club is the forum where we all tap into our talents and enthusiasm to create something so exciting, immensely interesting, hugely rewarding and most stimulating which none of us could do on our own.  It is a social and genial activity with some of the nicest people you could ever have the joy of knowing, coming into a bright and warm room to speak a little, to listen a lot, to enjoy plenty, to give and to receive, to learn and to guide, to relax and be happy.  It is all based on generosity of spirit and a willingness to give and to share something of ourselves to receive a rich reward of fulfilment and personal growth with enhanced life skills and the delights of friendship with the ever expanded boundaries of personal possibility and better living.

Everyone has a choice in life: to present to the world the clenched fist or the open hand. Those who live in clenched fist mode choose to remain shut away inside, they are guarded and hesitant, they refuse to venture onto bright new waters of discovery and prefer to remain safely inside all that is familiar to them. They deny themselves the chance to reach out and embrace the freshness and invigorating power of something new and original. True, the clenched fisted have their own fine attributes and good qualities but by remaining so guarded and vigilant against all hint of change and newness, of thinking outside the box and taking on anything that is different and better, they keep whatever positives they have locked away inside themselves. Their light never gets chance to shine. They have plenty to offer, but it withers inside when not given a chance to share.

For you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. You might not be able to take out the ten cents they are so tightly holding onto, but you can’t give them the fifty euro note you would like to share. The openhanded person, the one who is up to taking on something different and exciting, who is willing to give it a go and has the spirit of adventure, who actively reaches out to others and whose imagination is for what is out there to be discovered and to be known. They give so gladly and willingly of themselves in the way that truly free and confident people really can. And because they give so liberally and generously of their time, energies and abilities they receive back in return a far greater dividend of insight, a sense of satisfaction and achievement, the enhancement and growth that comes from attaining your goals and building on one success leading to another to make a life that is refreshing and glowing with hope and promise. To reach out is to win. To give is to gain. To celebrate your own uniqueness lies in finding the depth and abundance what others have to offer so as to be enhanced, inspired and expanded as a person in every facet of our lives whether at work, at home or at play.

A New Year is just beginning. The future beckons before us and it is ours to make as best we can. All of us have the choice to remain trapped inside everything that is routine and habitual or to go out there and attempt something wonderful and new, fascinating and exciting to find out more about other people and in so doing to come to know the true significance and truth that lies within each and every one of us. On a bright fresh day who is the happier: the individual who huddles away safely and predictably indoors, or the person with the spirit and the gumption to venture out and walk along the shore and taste the true joy of life. This is the challenge and the opportunity that lies before us as we cross the threshold of another year ahead. To be alive we must live to the full and participate in all of its variety, creativity and beauty which any of us can do by taking up the challenge of Toastmasters.

There are far too many things and people in this world anxious to do us down and make us feel bad about ourselves and strip away at the foundations of our confidence. Not so in Toastmasters.  We are a group of people dedicated to building each other up so that together and in unity of purpose and the joy of shared activities we all rise ever higher together and have fun in life. Over the holiday period you may recall hearing our World Champion boxer Katie Harrington from Dublin saying on television that notwithstanding the recent difficulties that might preclude her sport from the Tokyo Olympic Games,  she spoke of how she is certain these issues will be resolved and she looks forward to representing Ireland there next year. She will not be negative, she said, and would not want anyone to be that way. Katie embraces the challenge and looks forward with dauntless hope and optimism.

There is a brilliant example for all of us to follow whether in the boxing ring or in the more far more genial, friendly and relaxed setting of the meetings of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club beginning in the Fermoy Youth Centre on Tuesday evening next, January 15th, at 8.15 pm where a warm and cheery welcome awaits everyone. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

The penultimate meeting of Fermoy Toastmasters was held on the evening of December 4th at the riverside Youth Centre. Such a great pleasure to come from the darkness of winter outside into a bright, warm and welcoming meeting room to join in the company and share in the good cheer of dear friends. From the very beginning you feel so completely at ease with a real and deeply-felt sense of having left home to come to our other home with a real and most inviting sense of belonging where everyone is so special and needed.  Yes, that is one of the key attributes of our happy club: that everyone is vital and cherished each with our own unique and very special role to play. In such an intimate and cordial setting, we all come to listen, to learn and above all to enjoy in friendship and mutual support and goodwill in that happy atmosphere that makes all of our meetings so great. It is always such a joy and pleasure to be with such lovely people filled with a sense of anticipation of a most delightful and happy evening ahead.

       This is what makes each meeting so remarkably satisfying and rewarding. Each member and participant whether in chairing the meeting as toastmaster, in drawing up the list of subjects for the impromptu topics session or preparing and rehearsing the short set speeches; whether acting as a speech evaluator, a general evaluator giving an overall impression of the evening, in contributing to the topics and sharing in the chat and convivial interlude of the tea and coffee break, as an individual acts on their own without any awareness of what others are planning and doing. Then on the night not knowing what to expect many strands weave themselves together into a vibrant and beautiful living tapestry with all giving of their best and in turn bringing out the best in everyone. That is where the wonder and magic it all truly lies.

      This is an occasion where we can all discover the richness within ourselves and explore our full potential. Padraig Murphy for the first time took on the role of Toastmaster and chaired the meeting with style and distinction.  He is our current Meeting Organiser who has the most challenging task of all in arranging the meeting programme, making the phone calls and getting people to speak and to fill all the roles that are so vital to our every gathering, a task that requires dedication and commitment and a great love of the club and a deeply sincere appreciation of all the benefits and blessings that comes with being in Toastmasters, qualities that Padraig so amply exemplifies as throughout the season he fashions meetings that bring immense pleasure, variety and illumination. He has a great way with people and enjoys his assignments with a gentle and winning enthusiasm. Anything that a person enjoys doing they will do it well and what is well done will always bring out the very best in everyone else.  In turning in such an outstanding performance as chairman, Padraig passed another great milestone in the shared journey of success in Toastmasters that leads to a better and more rewarding life.

       In the role of topicsmaster Mary Whelan also excelled with all of her grace and charm presenting a range of original and engaging subjects to get everyone thinking briskly on their feet and actively involved with eagerness and spontaneity. In Toastmasters, it is all about participation.  No member is left sitting on their hands being a mere passive spectator: this is a game where everyone is a player and all are on the same ever winning side. That is the challenge and it is also the essence of every meeting that sends you home feeling stimulated and full of joy.  To listen, to be engaged and interested, to make new discoveries of the depth of what others can offer and achieve and at the same time astonish yourself by how much you can advance, improve, boost confidence, have fun and be so much happier, renewing that great personal journey at every meeting which is such a refreshing new beginning.

     Our three speeches celebrated and affirmed that theme of newness and personal growth. Kevin O’Neill made a wonderful speech acting the role of a radio talk show presenter with Tim Fitzgerald as his special invited guest having a sparkling discussion on the pleasures of social dancing. A presentation in that format was another first for the club and saw two of our most accomplished members exploring new paths to self-expression and more effective communication. A form of acting to be sure but where you use your own words and ideas rather than interpreting those of someone else. It is direct, instant, funny and most rewarding. To push out the borders of what you may once have thought were your limits is so life-enhancing and expansive, with mutual encouragement climbing to heights than none can do their own.

    In keeping with the spirit of the recent Armistice centenary, Mairead Barry then came to the lectern to present a poetry reading by Francis Ledwidge with a haunting evocation of his service in the trenches of the First Word War. Like so many idealistic young Irishmen of his time, Ledwidge dreamed of a new era of freedom for his beloved homeland but he saw too the greater danger unfolding in rampant German militarism threatening to place all Europe under a brutal domination. He saw his duty as one of fighting for the rights of subjugated countries and the assertion of human dignity. Exposure to the horrors of modern industrialised warfare dimmed his idealistic impulses and brought disillusionment, yet this splendid young man who all the way through wrote poetry of great depth and beauty, did not desert the colours but carried on his war service until the dark rain of death fell upon him in a sudden blinding moment of annihilation under shellfire near Ypres, Belgium. Today long after the smoke of battle has cleared, Ledwidge’s verses full of a sense of the beauty of nature and the place of human life within it emerged out of the past on the lilting and gentle voice of Mairead capturing the pathos of a young sensitive human soul caught up in vast terrible events but whose memory living on in his poetic works asserts that the pen is always mightier than the sword.

      Our cherished President Eilish Ui Bhriain presented a comic after dinner speech with her own witty take on the ICA and how it should open its membership doors to men. The audience loved it and the peals of laughter that punctuated her delivery made for a memorably entertaining performance. It is always a great challenge to try to make people laugh. With subtlety and wry humour and an ever appealing warm presence, Eilish carried through a tremendous success that we hope she will reprise in the near future.

     And now the bright and colourful lights of Christmas beckon us to the closing of the year. However we have one more great night of 2018 to which we look forward with a short meeting on Tuesday evening next, December 18th beginning at 8.15 pm at the Youth Centre with a few well-crafted Tall Tales speeches to be followed by our annual festive party in the Grand Hotel. It is always such a lovely and most enjoyable occasion and we look forward to seeing you all there. We thank all our members and friends for their help and support throughout the year and wishing you a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

To meet together in a spirit of good cheer, to be with friends, build confidence and achieve enhanced communication, leadership and listening skills, to have a couple of very pleasant and happy hours together with very nice and lovely people, it was in celebration of all these joys that are at the heart of being a member and friend of Fermoy Toastmasters that the club gathered on the evening of Tuesday, November 20th, at the riverside Youth Centre. Our President, Eilish Ui Bhriain, extended warm greetings and words of welcome to the meeting and glancing through the pages of the Holly Bough evoked that rose-tinted festive time of year that is now rapidly approaching.

The chairmanship of the meeting was then passed to Michael Sheehan who steered proceedings forward with great expertise, humour and aplomb. What makes a very good meeting is a live and engaging topics session and this was stylishly achieved by Jerry Hennessy in his selection of themes that encompassed the light-hearted and the great controversies of the day such as the racial bullying recently featured in an edition of Joe Duffy’s Liveline What Happened Next programme, the resilience of the spectators who brave the harsh winter elements to attend GAA matches, the illegal dumping of waste which drew from more than one contributor the view that the upcoming byelaws coming into force in the New Year whereby householders will be obliged to prove that they are disposing of their refuse in a legal and correct way is a move very much  to be welcomed. A complete change of mood followed with contributions on the continuing popularity of Christmas Pantomine with its combination of childhood innocence, topical humour and satire, its enduring appeal as a form of live mid-winter entertainment that flourishes in this era of video games and social media. And it succeeds people both the young and the not so young are prepared to make the effort to rehearse, prepare and learn to achieve something that celebrates the simple joy of life. A little bit like what we do here in Toastmasters. Everything worthwhile requires thought and effort but it is all so very pleasing and fulfilling. Topics sessions are not a discussion forum,  but rather an opportunity for people to exercise their minds instantly and spontaneously when they are asked to ask to speak off the cuff about something there and then for up to two minutes with subsequent one minute add-ons. It is amazing how it so quickly gathers pace and gets everyone in such an eager and receptive mood. The last topic of the night asked where the annual TV licence fee represented good value to which one member responded by saying that it was a lot of money even if you don’t pay it!!!

The middle section of the meeting had a threefold presentation of very fine, thought-provoking and entertaining speeches. The first talk was delivered by Denis O’Brien who took on the challenge of getting to the point and making a speech that was purposeful and designed to stimulate enthusiasm. Denis has a very pleasant and relaxing speaking voice and presence, easy on the ear and gentle to the mind which enables him to convey his message all the more effectively and thoughtfully. He addressed the myriad of distractions in everyday life from satellite television and smart phones which has left so many people with a very limited concentration span. How many times in conversation people ask you something that you have already just told them – they have not been listening. We need to listen more, tune out a lot of the background noise, find more time for each other and for ourselves in moments of quiet reflection which leads to a world that is more compassionate and human. As Denis spoke, we heard music and singing coming from a performance or rehearsal wafting up along the hall which made us concentrate on his beautiful delivery all the more. The sound faded away as drew to his conclusion calling for greater peace and stillness in these overly frantic times.

And it was on a theme of reflection on the recent Armistice commemorations of the Great War centenary that John Sherlock came to the lectern reading the full text of the speech given by President Michael D. Higgins at Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin, recognising the all too long neglected and ignored contribution by those many thousands of Irish soldiers who fought in British uniforms all over the world throughout that dreadful conflict. The worldwide cost was enormous: over 14million dead and millions more injured, while long-established empires came crashing down and the political face of the earth was forever changed. Afterwards many were baffled and perplexed by how such a terrible calamity could have originated in Europe, the cradle of so much of the world’s finest scholarship, culture and philosophy. The solemnity of the speech was counter-balanced in John’s very unique and informal interpretation clad in his shirt sleeves and funky braces that brought a winning touch of lightness and directness telling us that beyond the darkness of war there is always a saving place where we can be human and at ease. After John had concluded, Toastmaster of the evening Michael Sheehan captured the poignancy of these times by reminding the meeting of a woman now in her eighties placing a poppy wreath at the tone’s War Memorial honouring the sacrifice of her grandfather who fell in battle on the Western Front all of a century ago.

Our third and final speaker was Tim Fitzgerald who with his London Irish background, brought his own very illuminating perspective to theme of finding direction in journeys and in life, calling to mind the colourful names and signs of many old English like the Red Lion or the Stag’s Head pubs and taverns that in an age of almost universal illiteracy were a very useful guide to travelers finding their way. Nowadays the satnav has become the new guiding hand to so many of us on our journeys. It is seldom that anyone needs to stop to ask for directions now. But finding our way in life remains as difficult and our paths are as elusive as they have ever been. So many tell of feeling lost and disoriented and looking for a new sense of purpose and meaning, a sense of direction. Tim concluded his timely and thoughtful presentation that we all need to stop our overreliance on technology and communicate and to listen to each other so much more. Listening, communication, using our voices and our minds to share with others, to give and to receive the very best of what we have distilled from our varied experiences of life, is the very heart of everything we do in Toastmasters.

Nothing in Toastmasters is ever free-standing or detached. Every speaker receives a positive and constructive evaluation from other club members pointing up all that has been achieved and recommending suggested further improvements as was so well done by Kevin Walsh, Mary Whelan and Johanna Hegarty. Throughout the evening our Timekeeper Padraig Murphy kept a close eye on the stopwatch and the coloured lights ensuring that the meeting ran smoothly and efficiently, for as our General Evaluator Fanahan Colbert said in his final summation it is vital that meetings should conclude on time so that everyone can go away felt refreshed and happy after a most entertaining and stimulating couple of hours.  And it is always a good time to be happy. We look forward to another great evening on this coming Tuesday, December 4th, at the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm where a warm welcome awaits you. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

On the evening of Tuesday, November 6th, when the members and friends of Fermoy Toastmasters Club gathered to host the annual Area Humorous Speech and Topics Contest and to welcome visiting participants and judges from the Mallow and Charleville Clubs, the club displayed the spirit and resilience and strength of character and great warmth of heart that has carried it forward and sustained it all through the past almost five decades. The two speech contestants chosen at the club competition a fortnight before were both feeling unwell and precluded from attending. This posed a serious difficulty to our outstanding Meeting Organiser Padraig Murphy and to the entire club having to fill this gap at such very short notice. However once again the members rose magnificently to the occasion and both Jerry Hennessy and Michael Sheehan reprised their speeches from that earlier occasion and represented the club with honour and distinction.

Success on the night belonged entirely to our fraternal and ever welcome visitors from Mallow as Pat Sexton and Ray Ryan carried away the top honours in the Topics Contest addressing the subject of the relationship of the fantasy world of TV soap operas with the reality of life while Kieran Butler and Claire O’Connell were First and Second placed speakers respectively in the Humorous Speech Contest. A large attendance and a great atmosphere made for a memorably pleasant and enjoyable occasion. Contests form an integral part of the Toastmasters calendar and are an opportunity to celebrate our ideals of proficiency of expression, clarity of mind and effectiveness of delivery in a very powerful and meaningful way. But it only forms a very small part of everything that we do in Toastmasters. For in this club and throughout our entire organisation everyone is a winner.

Pictured at the Area 17 Humorous Speech Contest in Fermoy were – Eilis UI Bhriain, President Fermoy Toastmasters, Claire O’Connell,2nd Place, Kieran Butler, Winner and Helsa Giles, Area 17 Director.

The recipe is so simple and yet so very beautiful. Our club just like every other in the world has no existence outside of a coming together of friends.  Every two weeks on alternate Tuesdays between September and May we gather at the riverside Fermoy Youth Centre for our enjoyment. An enjoyment that is never diluted but rather so greatly increased by actively sharing in it with others. You can never be a Toastmaster on your own. It is a social activity, a coming together to communicate, to interact, to have fun and to build friendship. Its power rests on a free giving by so many wonderful people of their time, talents, energy and commitment so that for two hours every two weeks we can all participate in something that so enhances our lives and makes us so much happier. It is so easy for anyone to sit on their hands and find excuses for doing nothing and people who are good at making excuses are seldom good for anything else. The challenge of Toastmasters is not that it seeks to take you out of your comfort zone but rather to expand that comfort zone with a new focus and dedication and a real sense of adventure so that together each and every one of us can discover and improve the very best of what we can be and what we have to offer in every sphere of our lives.

At the Area 17 Table Topics Contest in Fermoy – Eilis UI Bhriain, President Fermoy Toastmasters,Pat Sexton, Winner, Ray Ryan,2nd Place, Helsa Giles, Area 17 Director

We come together to enable all of us to grow and to become stronger and better people by reaching our fullest potential together. We build each other up with enthusiasm and with enjoyment in a spirit of mutual support and goodwill. Quite simply we are all about having fun and in that way to learn more about ourselves and our fellow-members and dear friends on the shared road of happier and more fulfilled living. Each evening there are three or four prepared speeches all drawn from the various manuals that set a challenge to the speaker: a brief introduction of yourself and a flavour of your life so far in your introductory Icebreaker maiden speech. Then in other assignments you are asked to use words constructively and effectively so as to convey your meaning all the better and with greater vigour and clarity. The use of body language and hand gestures to underline the depth and truth of your message. To vary the tone and rate of your speaking voice so as to hold the attention of your audience and to bring your listeners all the further into the mystery of your thoughts and the depth of your insights you are bringing to them.

At the Area 17 Table Topics Contest in Fermoy – Pat Sexton, Winner, John Kelly,3rd Place, Ray Ryan,2nd Place.

At another time the focus is on the use of eye contact emphasizing the importance of looking around the room and establishing a natural and stimulating closeness with your audience.  In another assignment you may be asked to make a presentation on a subject you have researched and have attained an understanding of its significance or perhaps to make a speech that will uplift and inspire your audience to follow a goal or challenge that holds a special and vibrant place in your heart. For that is where it all is – with generosity of spirit, each giving freely of our time and effort to give something to our fellow-members and friends and to reach into the heart and find there a lovely and delightful common warmth that makes our journey together such a pure joy and pleasure. The more you give, the more you receive.

The joy of the spoken word: who can doubt it?  Ask any Mother and they will tell you what a magical moment it is when their baby utters the first clear and intelligible word.  It is usually Mama or the joyful simplicity of THE. And when that voice is heard for the first time uttering the beauty of the spoken word, when a tender young mind embarks on that great journey of self-expression, when the first words are sent fluttering through the air it is a moment of unalloyed wonder and pure joy as a new guest at the banquet of life announces their presence in this strange, precious and beautiful world, a world where we all belong and are called upon to make a unique and very special contribution that each of us can. And once that first beginning has been made there is no turning back.

What an amazing thing it is that that there is only one of every one of us in the world. Among all the global teeming billions You and I are special and irreplaceable, there is only one of us now at this moment and there never was before and never will be again. We are performing live now at this very moment on the great stage of life and the world. In Toastmasters you come to a deeper realisation of this dazzling and brilliant truth that fills the mind with awe and excitement with the fascination of limitless possibilities.  We all learn from each other for we all have so much to give to each other. For every speaker there is an evaluator who offers a thoughtful assessment of how the speaker performed to their task. There is no criticism, but positive feedback with praise for all that has been achieved and one or two pointers as to how things might be done better in future for this is a learning curve without end.

We learn from each so that each within our own selves discovers and utilises to the very fullest all of our talents and abilities to enhance and to further that unique and special and invaluable contribution that we can all make at all times of life not just in Toastmasters but in the wider world of work, family and community activity with a greater fluency, enhanced assurance and with skills of expression and habits of creative and original thought that makes life better and so much more rewarding and satisfying and enjoyable for ourselves and all those around us. Participation in Toastmasters sets us free to be the best people that we can possibly be.

On behalf of our dear Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain and all our friends we look forward to welcoming you to our next meeting by the majestic river that flows as freely as the gift of eloquence. Let us come out of the darkness of winter and enter the warmth and genial light of our meeting room, to a place of smiles, laughter, cheerful togetherness and the ease and comfort of friends happy in each other’s company and never happier than when guests come along to join and expand our ever growing circle of friends. Our next meeting is on this coming Tuesday, November 20th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

If all the world’s a stage according to Shakespeare, then we in Fermoy Toastmasters bring the insights and experience of the theatre of life to illuminate and enrich all the meetings of our club. So it was most apt therefore that on the evening of October 23rd that for our Humorous Speech and Topics Contest we should have left our regular meeting room in the Youth Centre to go down the hall to what was once known as the Palace Theatre for a tremendous evening of pleasure and good cheer.

The Top Table at the recent Club Humorous Speech & Topics Contest on the stage of the Youth Club Palace Theatre October 23rd 2018:- Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain; Contest Chairman David Walsh (left) and Kevin O’Neill, Topicsmaster.

    For so long this venue has been at the centre of the cultural and recreational life of the whole community and holds so many great and happy memories of brilliant musical productions of the Choral Society with its heyday under the baton of the late Edward Carroll, a time so fondly recalled by Mairead Barry for the glamour and entertainment that was given in what were otherwise markedly drab times. Of course the Palace also doubled up as a cinema so delightfully evoked by John Kelly who told of being there with his wife Marie watching the classic movie Wuthering Heights and walking home afterwards on a bitterly cold winter’s night with the heart so warm with youthful promise and hope, a warmth that John continues so joyfully to share with all of us in his very special kindness and friendship.  Music, comedy, films, magical images of so many wonderful local performers who graced that stage across the decades who gave of all of their talents, enthusiasm and commitment to bring happiness and gaiety into the lives of so many generations. And that vibrant local tradition lives on in this place with the young stars who continue to celebrate the glory of live entertainment here.

    The top table party of Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain, Contest Chairman David Walsh and Topicsmaster Kevin O’Neil sat on the elevated stage with the audience scattered through the auditorium. Eilish introduced the proceedings with words of warm welcome and well-chosen quotes from that great humorist Spike Milligan who after a lifetime of making people laugh, left this world as he lived: the undaunted eternal jester having inscribed on his headstone the legend, ‘I told you I was sick’.

     Then control of the meeting was passed to David Walsh who evoked the memory of his dear late parents, John and Margaret Anne Walsh, who met on this very stage while taking part in a production of Lilac Time, a much-loved musical comedy loosely based on the life of composer Franz Schubert. Each night the performance ended with their getting married; afterwards they would do it for real.  To them indeed music truly was the food of love and the story goes on all the way down across the years to this very recent October evening we were here to celebrate the joy of life once again at this special gathering of Toastmasters.

     Kevin O’Neill offered us a selection of well-chosen topics that got everyone – both our own members and very welcome visiting judges from Mallow – into the swing of things, rising to their feet and sharing their thoughts and views readily and spontaneously in unscripted brief contributions that swiftly built up a refreshing and bubbly atmosphere that had everyone in a good and eagerly receptive mood for the speeches to follow.

Kevin Walsh receives good wishes from Eilish Ui Bhriain after the Club Topics Contest.

     In the normal run of things a regular speech is of no more than five to seven minutes’ duration, with a green light showing at five minutes, the amber at six and the red at seven. In competition this time limit is all the more emphatic for after the timekeeper puts on the red light at seven minutes, just thirty seconds’ grace is allowed before the speaker incurs automatic disqualification even though needless to say no sign of this is given. And all the more pleasant it is to say that on this very special evening all speakers utilised their time to the full without exceeding it.  We were treated to four absolutely delightful comic speeches from some of our best and most dedicated members who in this temple of entertainment, presented themselves to the listeners with that winning spirit of giving of their very best purely for the joy and the love of it all.

     Jerry Hennessy told the story of an eccentric but lovable couple named Con and Mag and of their hilarious adventures in their remote mountainous farm. Like the stormy night when a visitor arrived and conditions precluding his travelling on any further, obliging the odd couple and their guest to share the same bed for the night. Now it transpired that Mag had baked a delicious apple tart that day and when in the middle of the night as the wind and rain howled and poor old Con was obliged to venture out for his necessities, Mag whispered excitedly to the visitor: ‘Now’s Your Chance’.  Whereupon the happy gentleman helped himself to a share of the pastry!  These and other amusing episodes vividly portrayed these engaging characters that embodied a way of rural life which has now disappeared forever.

     Michael Sheehan then ascended the stage to take us on a light-hearted and whimsical tour of Ireland, a gentle seven minute whirlwind of exploration and adventure that carried us to the four corners of this island, from the banks of the Shannon to the rugged western coast with its thunderous waters, stopping off at all the principal cities with many wry comments and droll quips along the way, making our dear ancient land fully present and real to us in the gift of imagination through the painting of so many appealing word pictures and clever puns as for instance with the town of Mallow conjuring an image of irresistible festive Halloween chocolate mallows of which Michael brought a large box to share with one for everybody in the audience and then some!

     Kevin Walsh remembered some of the great local characters that his late Mother often spoke of and fondly remembered in her native Cappoquin and also those whom he came to know himself in Fermoy, extraordinary people like Jack Devine, Sheila Dermody and Tommy Condon the housepainter. They have all long since glimmered off into the things of yesterday but in Kevin’s words something of them returned again with all of their humour and goodness of heart, drawing also on their originality, their gifts and ability just to be themselves that sends a still very relevant message to all of us today.

     Mary Whelan presented a beautifully well-crafted speech woven around her various attempts to declutter; quoting a noted Japanese author on the subject that to get rid of anything sparks joy. Mary deftly explored this theme balancing the desirable objective of attaining neatness and order with the importance of holding on to that richness of memorabilia that connects us to who we are. And sometimes by not throwing out what may seem worthless and superfluous as when Mary told of having acquired a folding seat to be used at the recent open air Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park Dublin, only to discover that it was of a type not allowed by the organisers leaving her having to face the dreary prospect of a very long and exhausting stand. Until she remembered the light folding seat lying in the attic ever since the visit of Pope John Paul in 1979 which provided comfort and rest in the waiting hours and throughout the beautiful ritual celebrated by Pope Francis that August Sunday afternoon on the doorstep of the nation’s capital.

     A short tea break was then observed inside the room just off the main theatre all filled with the sounds of conversation and laughter, followed by a quick resumption for the Topics Contest. Our four contestants except the first drawn left the theatre and were then recalled in turn to each speak for two minutes on the likely impact of the increased VAT rate on the hotel sector announced in the recent Budget. Kevin Walsh spoke passionately of his belief that the extra revenue thus raised would help to combat such issues as homelessness and hospital overcrowding, with the other speakers – John Kelly, Michael Sheehan and Tim Fitzgerald – broadly taking the view that the hotel and catering sector can carry this burden for the sake of those most in need of help. Then once again the judges’ ballots were marked, gathered and counted. After a further brief topics session, Chairman David Walsh then announced the results of the two contests, beginning with the Topics where Kevin Walsh and John Kelly emerged as First and Second. In the Humorous Speeches, Mary Whelan and Kevin Walsh were accorded First and Second places. All of the aforementioned will go on to take part again in the Area Contest which will be held in Fermoy Youth Centre on Tuesday evening next, November 6th at 8.15 pm, where speakers from the Mallow and Charleville Clubs will also participate.

Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain congratulates John Kelly as Joint Winner of the recent Club Topics Contest held in the Youth Club Palace Theatre October 23rd 2018

     We all greatly enjoyed our evening of fun at the theatre. However our more usual intimate setting is far more congenial and appropriate for our group and we look forward to returning there on that night and on the many other nights to come throughout the current season. We hope you will join us for a great evening of entertainment and pleasure. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website



Report by: Kevin Walsh.

It was such a joy and a pleasure to be at the third meeting of the current season of Fermoy Toastmasters on the evening of Tuesday, October 9th, beginning as always at 8.15 pm. Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain extended warm greetings to everybody with poetic wishes of bright and colourful rainbows in all our lives, that part of friendship that never ends, celebrating the essence of this club as a happy and cheerful meeting place of a brilliant circle of friends.  And no one more expresses that beautiful spirit of mutual warm fellow feeling and cordial sentiment than Eilish who instantly makes everyone feel relaxed and at ease, looking forward to the activities of the evening.  The vastly experienced John Quirke then assumed the chairmanship of the meeting with style, assurance and charm moving things forward at a smooth and well-judged pace and with the added pleasure of welcoming six guests to our meeting.

The Top Table:- Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain holds up our new poster with its Circle Of Friends motif. Also pictured is John Quirke, Toastmaster (left) and Michael Sheehan as Topicsmaster.

In Toastmasters there is no sitting on your hands and everyone is brought in and becomes actively involved. At no phase of every meeting is this better illustrated than in the topics session as we enjoyed with Michael Sheehan stepping up to the lectern with a range of well-chosen and engaging themes getting everyone thinking on their feet and bringing their own unique insights and ideas to the meeting with enthusiasm and zest. The key word of the evening as displayed on the Top Table was Ebullient, meaning cheerful and full of energy, with speakers set the challenge of weaving it into their contributions.

It could not have been more apt and appropriate for energy, cheerfulness, quickness of mind and wit, originality of thought, listening pleasure and the enjoyment of sharing in activities that enrich our lives and expand our personal horizons, sums up everything that Toastmasters are about. Among Michael’s excellent range of topics was selecting your favourite time of the year. This drew many thoughtful and interesting responses, as from Jerry Hennessy who cited Christmas Eve Midnight Mass as a special moment when heaven and earth draw so beautifully and joyfully closer together. Mary Whelan gave a very thoughtful add-on praising the often underrated month of January considered so drab by many as it sees the fading out of the bright cheerful glow of the Christmas lights, nevertheless there is about it such a hopeful and optimistic sense of leaving the past behind and with the dawn of another year embracing the future with all of its possibility and high expectation.

Johanna Hegarty made an outstanding contribution to the concluding topic of the evening concerning the reported refusal of a priest in the midlands to perform a wedding ceremony until a veritable forest of artificial trees were removed from his church. She believed he had acted quite reasonably in insisting this synthetic arboreal clutter being placed outside the church door to emphasise instead the openness and simplicity of God’s grace, for which she won the Best Topic Ribbon of the evening.

Johanna Hegarty delivers a thoughtful and illuminating overall assessment of the October 9th meeting in her General Evaluation.

At the core of every meeting are the set speeches, some drawn from the manuals designed to fulfill a stated objective, others are off-stage where a speaker sets a personal target of their own. Frank O’Driscoll embarked on a presentation involving the use of in-depth research. We were brought on a memorable journey of unexpected twists and turns beginning with the ardent love of the poet        Patrick Kavanagh for the young Kerry student Hilda Moriarty in mid-1940s Dublin. Her influence transformed his literary output from a preoccupation with all things rustic to a celebration of the life of real people as exemplified in that great classic poem of unrequited love Raglan Road.

For Hilda and the poet went their separate ways but she would go on to win the heart of another soon to be famous man, Donough O’Malley, talented and well-connected and supremely sure of himself, but in marrying him, Hilda also inspired and guided him in the path of improving the lives of real people against a background of four out of every seven children leaving school early. Her vision inspired his introduction of free secondary schooling in 1966 when O’Malley had become a radically reforming Minister for Education. Frank concluded that while we have many very gifted politicians today, none of them have the empathy and imagination to follow in that same path of investing in people, in their potential and their future. That is why the health service continues to guzzle vast amounts of money while the waiting lists grow ever longer or why the output of Irish medical colleges remains four times less than what is needed to meet the demand. Later Kevin Walsh as evaluator complimented Frank for having made such an illuminating speech on how the influence of one person can make such a vast difference for the better.

Our next speech from Jerry Hennessy giving a brief history of Spike Island saw our first ever power-point presentation.  With the expert help of our Meeting Planner Padraig Murphy, scribbling headings on the flip-chart was replaced by images beamed onto a screen beginning with a splendid vista of Cork Harbour and Cobh Cathedral, then evoking the ghost of the ill-fated Titanic before focusing on the great bastion with its impressive diamond-shaped fortifications built by forced convict labour which stand today in eloquent testimony to the story of the tens of thousands of wretched prisoners transported to Australia mainly for offences such as stealing a loaf of bread for sheer survival. Still used as a prison until the 1980s, Jerry had visited the island very recently when this once austere military stronghold flourishes again as a peaceful and popular tourist attraction.  Told with warmth and compassion, Jerry brought a refreshing gentleness and humanity to a story of inhumanity and of much darker times in Ireland, offering a very timely reminder that no matter what difficulties we may face today our country is a so much happier place than ever before, for which he was highly praised by evaluator Mary Whelan.

Finally, David Walsh told us something of the fascinating story of The Humble Spud, that quintessentially Irish vegetable but native to the high Andes Mountains of South America, brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors to become a staple diet of the poor, especially here in Ireland where high yields from tiny sub-divided holdings eventually led to acritical over-dependence that led to a population explosion followed by the terrible catastrophe of the Great Famine of the 1840s. But despite all that the potato remains a popular source of nutrition to this day as well as appearing under the guise of waffles, chips and crisps, proving its extraordinary resilience and versatility. David concluded that while he couldn’t bring a spud for everyone in the audience, he did have a bowl of crisps for all to share, which won an appreciative round of applause.  Evaluator Kevin O’Neill expressed his enjoyment at this well-informed ramble through the tubers of the ages linking our lunch plates today with the richness of a great history.

Another view of our very happy and well-attended gathering of October 9th.

After a very fine overall assessment of the meeting by General Evaluator Johanna Hegarty, ribbons were awarded for the Best Speakers, Evaluators and Topics, to Jerry Hennessy, Mary Whelan and Johanna Hegarty respectively. It was especially gratifying to revive this custom as for quite some time it was impossible to obtain performance ribbons from World Headquarters anymore, such is the extent of their fascination with online technology and corporate culture that the truly valuable simple things are overlooked. Through the initiative of Tim Fitzgerald who obtained a year’s supply of attractively-designed ribbons from a local printing firm, this symbolic but tangible recognition of commitment and excellence has restored a highly valued dimension to our meetings.

And so we look forward to our next meeting on this coming Tuesday, October 23rd, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre. It will be our hugely entertaining annual Humorous Speech and Topics Contest but please note it will not be in in our usual meeting room, but the much larger Youth Centre Theatre, as we will have outside judges and representatives of other clubs in attendance.  We look forward to welcoming you all to this very special occasion. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website