Category Archives: general

FIRST NIGHT AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by: Kevin Walsh.

On a night of wintry weather, Fermoy Toastmasters Club once again displayed its very best and most mettlesome spirit by going ahead with the first meeting of the year on Tuesday, January 16th, at the Fermoy Youth Centre. The early signs seemed not entirely encouraging as many members were unable to attend given the very inclement conditions. We waited to see what would happen uncertain as to whether things could proceed. But as the minutes ticked down to starting time some very welcome and beaming friendly faces appeared and with the mutual exchange of cordial New Year’s greetings and expressions of gladness at coming together like this in defiance of the elements, the meeting was called to order by Club President Kevin O’Neill and our New Year and another New Season of immense enjoyment and personal growth had begun.

    Whether dear familiar friends and ever so welcome first-time visitors and guests, we delight in making everyone feel at ease and that their coming to us is an occasion of such great joy and pleasure to us all. Mallow President and ever special friend of all of us here in Fermoy, Helsa Giles, came to enhance our gathering by her kindness and warmth, bringing along some perfectly delicious creamed jam scones for the tea and coffee break that she had so thoughtfully and generously made for us.

     As in all aspects of life, helloes and goodbyes form an inescapable part of the Toastmasters story also.  Sadly we had to bid farewell to Clare Guy who over the last three years has been a most valued member of this club making an outstanding contribution for which we are most grateful. Her career path that brought her to Fermoy now takes her away to Dublin and Meath, but she leaves us with so many happy and cherished memories.  It is very encouraging to hear that Clare intends continuing active participation in Toastmasters with all of our warmest good wishes for the future.

Best Wishes To A Dear Friend:- Clare Guy pictured with Kevin Walsh (right) and Michael Sheehan wishing her well on her departure to the next phase of her career in Dublin. January 16th 2018

      Tim Fitzgerald readily agreed to step into the role of Toastmaster of the evening or chairman which he carried through with noteworthy humour and panache together with and an assured lightness of style that imparted such a special effervescence to our gathering. John Sherlock then steered us through a memorably entertaining and original topics session encompassing such themes as the living of a good life which drew a very thoughtful and apposite response from John Kelly on how the early idealism and good intentions of many people are tarnished by self-centredness and cynicism, which can however be successfully overcome through personal development, the widening of outlook, the enrichment of character and the fostering of rewarding friendships, all of which can be so amply achieved through participation in Toastmasters. Then too among so much else members were asked to speak on whom they considered their most admirable celebrities and the weirdest thing any had ever come across in someone’s house and – best of all – every member was asked to contribute a one sentence response summing up their views on the Internet that posed a very engaging and stimulating challenge.

The Top Table for the first Club Meeting of January 16th 2018 :- President, Kevin O’Neill (centre); John Sherlock, Topicsmaster; Tim Fitzgerald, Toastmaster of the evening.

     We then were treated to two very fine and uplifting speeches. Tasking himself with an assignment to deliver a talk on a subject that required extensive research and presented in a way that is illuminating and informative, Kevin O’Neill took us on a journey back to the late 18th century when a young English governess on an annual salary of forty guineas assumed the care and direction of three daughters of the Kingston family of Mitchelstown Castle.  Mary Wollstonecraft spent a fruitful and absorbing year there, dazzling her young charges with her intellectual powers and her passionate belief in the rights of women to education and a better life, for which she incurred the displeasure of her employers who dispensed with her services. Nothing daunted she maintained her resolve to make her own way in a harsh world where women had so few opportunities and where an improvident father had left her without fortune.

     With her outstanding gifts she successfully earned a living by her pen, writing reviews, translations and books advocating a radically different vision of women’s place in the patriarchal and male-dominated society of that time.  Kevin displayed a fine picture of this extraordinary woman on the flipchart and in this well-crafted and succinct presentation traced the course of a remarkable life that brought her to eventual marriage and becoming the mother of two daughters. Tragically, Wollstonecraft died from septicaemia as a result of that second birth; however the baby survived and grew up to become famous as Mary Shelley. Exactly two centuries ago in 1818 she published the horror novel Frankenstein, which has haunted the world’s imagination ever since.  This was a most enlightening talk on a great pioneer of our modern age. Later evaluator Helsa Giles expressed her admiration for a speech that had so effectively and adroitly captured the essence of an outstanding and unique individual who remains so relevant to our times.

     At the centre of the concerns of our times are the likely consequences of Brexit, which Kevin Walsh set firmly in the context of Britain’s imperial tradition and pointing up how that great country is trying vainly to makes its future out of the vanished glories of its past, a past to which it is shackled and enthralled. It is now, he said, as if a century later Germany had won the First World War leaving Britain isolated and exposed having failed to come to terms with its much reduced international status, withdrawing into a fortress state from the challenges of a vastly changed world where China is now the dominant power. Kevin advocated the only true and lasting empire that can now be built is not one of maps and territory but rather based on people, letting go of lost grandeur and replacing it with a vision of a society where everyone is helped to achieve their full potential and their dignity is unequivocally affirmed.  Later his evaluator Michael Sheehan complimented Kevin on such a wide-ranging address on a subject of great relevance to all of us.

‘Happy First Night Back for Fermoy Toastmasters January 16th 2018’

      In summing up the meeting, General Evaluator Mary Whelan with all of her unique charm and grace that makes her such an especially well-loved and highly regarded personality in our circle of friends, spoke of her enjoyment of a meeting that had gone ahead against all the odds and offered great inspiration for the coming season, offering boxes of chocolates to those who had made an especially noteworthy contribution to the success of the evening. And so we go forward and look ahead joyfully to our next meeting on this coming Tuesday, January 30th, at the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm., and hoping for better weather and to seeing everyone coming together for a wonderful evening. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

NEW YEAR AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by: Kevin Walsh.

The year 2017 now belongs to the ages and the river of time carries us ever forward on the great adventure of life. In the depths of winter we see a beautiful world renewed and reborn as here and there a snowdrop glistens brightly in morning light and early flowering daffodils sound a silent but commanding fanfare of springtime. The glow of Christmas lights has faded away as the promise of returning brightness touches the land with a hint of new vigour. We still have some way before we will hear the humming of the first bees, one of the most wonderful sounds in the world. Next Tuesday, January 16th, the members and friends of Fermoy Toastmasters Club, embrace that happy promise and set out again on a bright and joyful new season with their first meeting of the New Year, in the local Youth Centre beginning precisely at 8.15 pm. After a warm and cheerful Christmas holiday, we face the New Year with warmth of heart and a delightful eagerness.  To the dedicated staff of the Youth Centre a sincere word of appreciation for all of their kindness and help to us and the very genial welcome that gives an even added pleasure to our regular gatherings here.

‘Fermoy Toastmasters looking forward to a very Happy New Year 2018’.

     And we all come together at this time and follow these pursuits because we love it to bits. For you will always do well in what you love doing best and there is no limit to what can be achieved and the happiness attained when people assemble and come together in a spirit of mutual goodwill and support.  You are certain of a very nice time when you are among nice people. Our meetings give are the source of immense pleasure, joy and comfort. The warm handshakes and the broad smiles, the words of amity and bonhomie, the peals of laughter and the expressions of pleasant feeling as we all gather once more for the latest of our two hour meetings, this is the sure and certain source from which all our activities derive their energy and sparkle and why we are all certain of a rewarding and very happy time.

     Now as another year begins we are reminded of the passing of time. But in Toastmasters time is made to work for us and managed so effectively and adroitly that so much is so readily achieved.  Meetings themselves last no more than two hours; they begin and conclude precisely on time; three or four set speeches usually lasting no longer than seven minutes each; impromptu topics contributions of no more than an initial two minutes and then one minute add-ons. This careful, ingenious, well-balanced structure and programme is at the heart of all that we do: stimulating our inner powers, dispelling the distractions of every day cares, bringing clarity to awareness of what you know and want to share with your listeners, cutting out all that is superfluous and unnecessary, delivering the truth with simplicity and elegance, in a style that is light and economical and leaves the listeners with something that they will take away with them for a long time to come. There is something delightfully larger than life about standing up to give a speech, to express something of your very best distilled from your own thoughts and feelings, to make it fly on the words of heart and mind, to receive the applause of the audience and the satisfaction of knowing you have done well, is indeed a very lovely and wonderful feeling.

     For everyone has something invaluable to contribute and everyone has the strength of their own voice and their own originality, whether as a set speaker, an evaluator who provides assessment and positive encouraging feedback, a participant in the topics session with its refreshing and bracing spontaneity and immediacy. Every meeting has that tonic and salutary effect, filling you with a new energy and vigour, making the spirit rise to the occasion and before you know it proceedings have concluded and it time to head for home feeling rejuvenated and full of a new zest for life and activity.  And what you give and gain in Toastmasters does not merely stay there but carries over into other areas of life whether at work, in recreation, with family and friends, enriching the personality, strengthening character and proficiency, imparting a new sense of purpose and fulfilment, all in an atmosphere filled with fun, achievement and friendship.

     The expression of ideas and the harvesting of inspiration in friendship and good cheer sums up the life of the club. We each have our personal experiences to recount and to share; we all have our own ideas and insights on life and the wisdom that living teaches us all; everyone has something unique and invaluable to contribute and our inspiration is something that issues from each individual in their own particular form and way. You will be presented with the delightful challenge of all that is fresh and new. And the art of communicating is an act of sharing based on generosity of spirit. And the more that you give to the cultivation of the speaking and listening garden that is Toastmasters, the more that you receive back in a sense of achievement, in the building of personal growth and the enhancement of self-confidence, the higher you climb and the happier and the more renewed you will feel. This is a great joy and a source of immense reward to anyone willing to give it a chance. And do not be put off if for the very first time you feel a little hesitant or unsure. So was every other member before you. We are all following the same path of mutual strength and encouragement. Stick with it and pursue the beautiful living tapestry of this superb art with its emphasis on brevity and clarity of thought and expression, bringing together the power of gesture and appropriate body language, the use of tone and pitch of the speaking voice to underline meaning and to heighten the portrayal of truth, the joy of smiling that warms the heart of the speaker and brings the audience along with you readily, lightly, gladly and so eagerly.

     For we are all friends together and we rejoice in our shared achievements and the progress we follow towards our common goals. You will find that the journey is the destination. And we all come together to celebrate the joy of friendship. Indeed, I recently purchased a Thomas Kinkade calendar with its charming scenes of rustic life bearing a quote for January which is most illuminating: ‘My soul is inspired by the gentle music of living’. And thus we are all so happy to be together and at ease with each other in that sweet task of celebrating the joy of life.

     We hope that as many as possible can join us for our celebration of life on Tuesday evening next, January 16th, in the Fermoy Youth Centre, beginning at 8.15 pm. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

CHRISTMAS AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by: Kevin Walsh.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 12th, Fermoy Toastmasters held their final meeting of the year and annual Christmas celebration.   Arriving at our meeting venue in the Fermoy Youth Centre with a warm exchange of festive greetings with the staff there who are ever so kind and helpful to us. The room is all set and ready, the club banner prominently displayed, the places are set at the top table and that great symbol of free speech and the beauty of the spoken words, the gavel and its sounding block, are on the desk. Then the members and guests begin to arrive with an exchange of warm words and seasonal good wishes, warm handshakes and genial smiles light up the evening, the joyfulness of friends gathering together once again is sweet and palpable, the murmurings of genial conversation and flashes of laughter delight the heart and makes the spirit feel happy. Then our President Kevin O’Neill strikes the gavel at 8.15 and once again the dignified and serene ceremony, a stepping away from the everyday routine of life to mark out a very special space in time, a time for communication and good listening and self-learning and huge enjoyment in the mutual support of good fellowship and shared kindness has begun.

Club President Kevin O’Neill congratulates Kevin Walsh on winning the Christmas 2017 Tall Tales Competition

      On this night the role of Toastmaster of the evening is held by David Walsh who bids everyone welcome to our Christmas celebration and to what he described as an evening of fun and frolics. The chairmanship role is rather different for instead of the usual introduction of speakers and evaluators, this is an occasion of gentle and good humoured competition, a contest that of its nature does not take itself seriously but is an celebration of fun and letting the spirit of imagination explore where it may bringing enjoyment, happiness and good cheer. The annual pre-Christmas Tall Tales competition where each contestant stands up to tell an unlikely and incredible yarn of five minutes’ duration with entertainment and bonhomie.

     But first the engaging freshness and spontaneity of a few quick-fire topics from Eilish Ui Bhriain who had just arrived after returning from a family visit to Bantry, with all of her sparkling dedication and commitment to Toastmasters and to friendship in this club that is such an inspiration to us all. She spoke of how lovely it was to be with everyone and served up a well-chosen selection of seasonal themes. One speaker referred back to the happy memories held in by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the joy of our present togetherness and looking forward to the traditional celebration around fireside and table with nearest and dearest now drawing near. John Kelly evoked the spirit of previous Christmases many years ago that were filled with such a sense of simplicity and joy and especially going around the town and even further afield with the Wren Boys on St. Stephen’s Day and divvying up the proceeds at the end of the evening ensuring enough for going to the cinema – or to ‘the pictures’ as it was then called – in the evening.  A delightful evocation of the true meaning of Christmas filled with warmth of heart and brightness of cheer.

John Sherlock is congratulated by President Kevin O’Neill as Runner-Up In the Club Tall Tales Contest’.

     Our contest then got underway.  Mary Whelan recalled a childhood friend who was a keen student of the violin and whose parents proudly boasted of their having given her no less than a genuine Stradivarius (itself quite a tall tale considering these instruments are worth millions). While she and her parents had gone out one day leaving a group of friends back in their home in Cork, the temptation to play the ‘Strad’ proved too great. All were having marvellous fun until one of the strings snapped and broke. Frantic efforts had then to be made to find a shopkeeper who might have the necessary replacement before the student and her parents returned home. Eventually one was located and a new string set taut and ready for that evening’s concert recital. However the first touch of the bow revealed a strikingly discordant note and the truth was out as it always does. But all was brushed aside with the sweet music of laughter.

     Then Michael Sheehan took us on a journey he and some friends made last summer beginning in Dublin and then heading across the midlands and to the far western seaboard finding many striking and interesting experiences along the way. Johanna Hegarty told us of the frenetic preparations for her niece’s recent wedding that evoked memories of another such Yuletide nuptial occasion some forty years ago when the bride got stuck in a snowdrift but still managed to arrive ahead of the groom. A brief flurry of anxiety but all was well. And then across the bridge of years came light tapping at her window on the night after the wedding with a reminder that those who may have left our sight are never far away from our hearts in the depth and mystery of love. Jerry Hennessy recalled going for a bicycle ride one Halloween night in the 1970s passing an old ruined Georgian mansion with its gates surprisingly thrown open and through them came a lady in white riding her dark mount, reputedly the shade of a Victorian bride to be whose lover disappeared shortly before they were due to be wed, serving yet again to illustrate the strange and immense power of love.

    John Sherlock took us on a fascinating journey back in time telling of his great-grandfather David Moher who was born in Famine times and like many others of that era sought his life and fortune in America. After his death, an attempt to raise a headstone to his memory in his native Kildorrery ended with its falling off a horse-drawn cart and shattering on the roadside in the 1920s. Or so it was thought at the time. For some fifty years later during roadworks the headstone was rediscovered and finally in God’s own time was placed on the grave where it was meant to be.  Finally, Kevin Walsh told of a couple whose attitude to Christmas could be summed up in the Scrooge words – ‘Bah Humbug’ – but who underwent an amazing experience finding a live Nativity scene in their barn on Christmas Eve. Or so it seemed in a dream until going to look the next day and there was a golden star in the straw.

     The judges were Padraig Murphy, John Quirke and Helsa Giles with Fanahan Colbert as Chief Judge, the votes were tallied and counted and John Sherlock received Runner-Up prize with Kevin Walsh as Winner. The formal proceedings then adjourned and we reassembled in the Grand Hotel for party food and an informal and convivial gathering.  We all chatted and laughed at our ease while across the foyer came the sounds of merriment and carolling from the members of the local Camera Club also celebrating their Christmas party. They capture the world’s richness in pictures; we paint pictures in words; all of us celebrating the joy of life.  All were happy and filled with gladness and as we dispersed into the cold winter night outside there was a vivid sense of the year about to turn yet again and the promise of brighter and better days ahead. We wish all our dear families and friends a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas. Our first meeting is scheduled provisionally for Tuesday, January 16th at the riverside Youth Centre for another season of friendship, pleasure and enjoyment. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

TUNING IN TO FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

On the evening of Tuesday, November 28th, Fermoy Toastmasters gathered in the ever warmly welcoming local Youth Centre for our penultimate meeting of the current year and season.  On our way in the town looked wonderful bathed in festive brightness and colour, the majestic bridge draped with ivory lights reflected serenely in the dark waters was a truly most impressive sight.  It was still November but the glow of approaching Christmas had already arrived and it felt very nice and pleasant indeed, enhancing the sense of anticipation of our meeting ahead.

Against the revered backdrop of the Club Banner, President Kevin O’Neill at the top table of the November 28th 2017 meeting. Ready to chair the proceedings is Michelle O’Brien and waiting to act in the role of Topicsmaster is Michael Sheehan.

     As always proceedings began promptly at 8.15 pm for starting on time ensures that everything is concluded with equal precision two hours later: this is an essential part of what we do.  When meetings are run efficiently and to time everyone goes away with a light and relaxed feeling. Our President Kevin O’Neill sounded the gavel and extended cordial greetings and good wishes to all, control was then passed to Michelle O’Brien who as Toastmaster or chairperson for the evening introduced the speakers and participants and who adroitly and gracefully ensured the smooth and seamless continuity from one phase to the next in a free flowing, gentle and most effective way. Chairing a meeting well is an accomplished art and Michelle showcased then at its very best.

     With wry humour and ever winning enthusiasm Michael Sheehan led the way in two excellent topics sessions, the first in the earlier stage of the meeting and the second following just after the tea break.  This is where everyone gets a chance to become involved and make their contribution, tapping into the creative energies, talents and insights of the gathering which is ever so stimulating and refreshing. An interesting, humorous and thoughtful selection of themes were set before us with the initial respondent asked to speak impromptu for up to two minutes to be followed by one minute add-ons.  For instance, Padraig Murphy gave a very fine contribution on Ireland’s recent failure to win the hosting of the 2023 World Cup which he said represented a failure of imagination and nerve by the international governing body of the sport for if this country had been given the chance there is no doubt we would have risen to the occasion and turned in something innovative and exciting. Another topic concerned the highlights of 2017 with a particularly lovely response from Fanahan Colbert describing a renewed sense of activity around the town as we put the dark recessionary years behind us combined with a very warm spirit of looking forward to Christmas. Our tea and coffee break was enhanced by a delicious apple tart flavoured with cloves so kindly and generously baked for us all by Eilish Ui Bhriain.

A section of the attendance at the club meeting of November 28th 2017

     Three prepared speeches then followed. David Walsh gave a very thoughtful and well-researched talk on the ever worsening lack of vocations to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. While the bishops fail to address the issue, there is a growing certainty that in the next decade the celebration of the Eucharist will disappear from the lives of many of the faithful. He went on to say that this represents a huge wake-up call for the Church and that any institution which fails to change and adapt is certain to wither and fail. There is an urgent need to widen the base of potential new labourers to the Lord’s harvest with the need to urgently consider the eligibility of married men and women for ordination.  But striking a note of uplifting Christian hope, David concluded that we all have the power within us to do good and to show compassion, quoting John F. Kennedy that the work of God on earth must truly be our own. Delivered with poise and conviction, this speech was well received and liked by the audience, a sentiment echoed by Evaluator Jerry Hennessy who added that we would all to enjoy the pleasure of hearing David’s speeches more often.

      Our Meetings Organiser, John Sherlock, took us on a journey back to the beginning of the 19th century , a world of oral tradition and horse-transport, a dark and difficult time in Ireland, when in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns a remarkable woman emerged named Mary Hanigan,  of striking physical strength and virility, who loved and lived with intense passion, acquiring the nickname of Petticoat Loose after a dance where her skirt had snagged on a protruding nail but she kept spinning regardless around the floor with her petticoat flying.  Both admired and feared, her tempestuous life came to a sudden end when she collapsed and died after an epic drinking bout. However not even the chains of death could hold her for she returned as a terrifying ghost haunting the bleak mountain roads, boarding any passing cart and weighing it down until the unfortunate horse perished between the shafts. A priest eventually banished this baleful spectre to the bottom of Baylough, that dark lake nestling in the cup of the mountains where legend has it she remains for all eternity trying to drain its waters with a thimble. Winter is the time for ghost stories and John told it with notable aplomb and style, for which he was warmly lauded by evaluator John Quirke.  Perhaps the true significance of the tale has little enough to do with witchcraft and the supernatural but reflects the age-old masculine fear of the strong and determined woman.

     Our third speech was a most welcome Icebreaker from Derek Noonan who painted a lovely and most engaging portrait of his life thus far, recalling his childhood in his native Castletownroche, evoking all the activities of the thriving family business, his great love of Gaelic games and of the countryside and nature. Inheritance opened up a life dedicated to farming which he finds immensely fulfilling and rewarding. Married to Aine and with two cherished sons and finding in his devotion to the Catholic faith a great source of strength and inspiration, Derek told us of a life filled with traditional values and shaped by a great sense of belonging to community combined with the wonder of knowledge and discovery, indeed beginning his talk with an invitation to us to imagine that the sun is over a million times larger than our planet Earth. Evaluator Frank O’Driscoll congratulated Derek on his very fine Icebreaker and the authenticity and rootedness that pervaded it and wished him well in what he is certain will be a great future in Toastmasters.

Timekeeper Johanna Hegarty (extreme right) with members and guests at the meeting of November 28th 2017. Keeping a careful eye on time is vital to everything in Toastmasters.

     Fanahan Colbert as General Evaluator then gave his overall assessment of what had been a memorably enjoyable and successful meeting, with Derek making such a very fine debut and a number of very welcome guests joining in our celebration of life in all its richness and variety together with the joys of friendship. And now we look to our annual Tall Tales and Christmas party night which will be held on this coming Tuesday, December 12th, at 8.15 pm in the Youth Centre until around 9.30, when we shall then adjourn to the Grand Hotel for party food and a convivial gathering. Have your favourite Party Piece ready! For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

MATCHLESS WIN FOR FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

It was the night which all Irish football fans would dearly wish to forget but never will when the Danes came to Dublin and after waiting over a thousand years took their revenge for the battle of Clontarf. But so happily far away from all that on Tuesday, November 14th, in the riverside Youth Centre, Fermoy Toastmasters Club came together for a memorably pleasant and entertaining meeting. It was a great pleasure to welcome again Robert Hegarty, son of our star member Johanna, who is ever so kind, thoughtful and friendly and a real joy to have with us. Also we were given the opportunity to bid most cordial welcome to very special visitors from Toastmasters in Upstate New York bringing the spirit of the New World to our gathering, that spirit to which Toastmasters International owes its origins. Also it was such a very special pleasure to welcome back our dearest friend Mairead Barry who brought her own uniquely genial, wise and kindly contribution to our meeting.

The Top Table November 14th 2017:- Club President Kevin O’Neill with Topicsmaster Johanna Hegarty and Toastmaster Frank O’Driscoll. All three either currently hold or have held the post of Club President with its one year term of office. While any other office can be held consecutively, that of President cannot: the wearer of the chain of office must change every year at the Annual General Meeting. However previous Presidents can and sometimes do serve again. The talent, experience, enthusiasm and dedication here in this photograph is a source of joy and inspiration to us all.

     Our President Kevin O‘Neill called the meeting to order at a moment when World Cup hopes were still high and remarked jokingly on how dedication was ‘severely tested’ as we gathered on that evening so filled with illusory football promise. But then we turned to our beautiful recreation which is all based on friendship and goodwill, on the spirit of generosity and mutual sharing of talent, time and enthusiasm to make such lovely and wonderful meetings. None better then Frank O’Driscoll who then assumed the chairmanship of the proceedings as Toastmaster of the evening, providing an engagingly relaxed introduction and steering the meeting along with cordial grace and humour, setting everyone in the perfect mood for a very nice and very special time.  Johanna Hegarty then took on the role of Topicsmaster and presented us with one eager impromptu challenge after another on such a diversity of themes as the ideal Christmas party, the aftermath of the banking tracker mortgage scandal, what you most like and dislike in life, what was your favourite music and the ongoing national disgrace that is homelessness, among so much else. Subjects serious, light, thoughtful and gently provocative in the very best sense, all acting as a powerful mental tonic and instant source of inspiration, getting all of us actively participating with a special emphasis on those members not on the set programme.

      You are asked a topic, you rise to your feet to speak for two minutes and it is astonishing how in those few seconds inspiration suddenly flashes into your mind and a bracing creative energy is released in the meeting room that soon has all of us eager to take part and make a contribution, spurred on by the views and responses of our fellow members and dear friends. Guests are never asked to speak although if they wish to do so at the appropriate time, we are most delighted to hear from them. All of us began as guests coming to that first meeting not knowing what this was about and what lay ahead. We embarked on a journey of endless discovery into activities that bring such immense joy, fulfilment and a tangible sense of personal growth and expansion of horizons.

     We also enjoyed three outstanding set speeches where participants bring together their skills of voice, word power, gesture and eye contact to deliver highly effective and rewarding presentations. First up was Michelle O’Brien with the engaging subject of How To Breed A Thoroughbred Winner, a speech with an instant resonance in this area with its great equine tradition. With the poise and calm assurance that comes of intimate knowledge of the subject, Michelle delineated those features that make up the champion racehorse: lineage and outstanding past form, the need to obtain a good cross leading hopefully to strong physique and that essential combination of deep pockets with the heights of good luck that brings winners between the finishing posts.  A most illuminating and informative speech from Michelle that was later well evaluated by Patricia Neilan who did as all evaluators should by pointing the way to doing things even better, in this case suggesting the use of visual aids with pictures of these splendid creatures that look so regal as befits the sport of kings. Good evaluators turn good speakers into distinguished communicators through praise and positive encouragement.

Members of Fermoy Toastmasters with Club President Kevin O’Neill relaxing after the very successful and enjoyable meeting of November 14th 2017.

     Our next speaker was Conor McAree who as a good Limerick man brought us on a hugely enjoyable whistle-stop  tour around the neighbouring and very beautiful mid-west county of Clare, carrying us in imagination across the wonders of The Burren, the fascinating heritage of Bunratty Castle and Folk Village, glimpsing the majestic cliffs of Moher and the sparkling waters of such lovely seaside resorts as Lahinch to name but a few of the scenic and visual attractions that together with its good-natured and hospitable people make Clare one of the premier tourist regions in the country.  As an introduction to the delights of Clare or an incentive to make a return visit, Conor’s engaging presentation could not be beaten for which he received a very fine evaluation from Tim Fitzgerald who complimented him on the outstanding progress he is making in Toastmasters.  It is worth remembering that every speaker has a set time allocation – usually seven minutes – so that everyone gets their chance to express themselves while allowing everyone else their share of the time available in whatever capacity. But within that limitation, all the more reason to use that time to its fullest and best.

     No one has the endurance of the dogged door-to-door sales representative. And no one has ever spoken about the lives of the salesperson or the cold caller with the power and eloquence of Seoirse Neilan, of the inexhaustible stamina and energy and motivation that is required trying to persuade people to buy unsolicited goods or services, knowing that most people send them away empty-handed but a few will always take the bait. To seek out those few is the doorstep or telephone seller’s arduous task.  With the help of his wife Patricia, we were treated to a well-paced, witty and highly entertaining role play with Seoirse acting as a salesman of burglar alarms and Patricia the sceptical householder.  The interaction between doubt and reluctance against persistence and quickness of mind was very telling and most effective. Later evaluator Eilish Ui Bhriain praised the enjoyment value of the presentation and the warm rapport achieved with the audience.

Another view of the meeting of November 14th 2017. Each and every one of our gatherings represents a lovely coming together of friends to celebrate the arts of communication and explore the boundaries of personal growth with enjoyment, pleasure and the most genial of cheer.
Attachments area

      A concluding overview of the meeting was given by Helsa Giles, President of Mallow Toastmasters and an outstanding friend and generous benefactor of our own club here in Fermoy, who spoke so warmly of the ever friendly and welcoming atmosphere of this and all our gatherings. On a night when the lads in green took a heavy drubbing, we had enjoyed another matchless win of achievement and good cheer. A very warm welcome always awaits you at Fermoy Toastmasters which you can check out and enjoy for yourself at our next and penultimate meeting of the year on this coming Tuesday, November 28th, at 8.15 pm in the riverside Youth Centre. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

CAKES, DREAMS & GARDENS AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

The Top Table at the October 31st 2017 meeting:- Club President Kevin O’Neill (centre); Toastmaster Tim Fitzgerald (left) and Topicsmaster Padraig Murphy.

On Halloween Night, Tuesday, October 31st, Fermoy Toastmasters gathered in the ever genial and welcoming local Youth Club for what was to prove our best and most enjoyable meeting yet since the commencement of the present season back in September. How swiftly that time has gone by as it is always does when people are having fun. It was such a particular pleasure to welcome back several very dear friends, very especially Patricia and Seoirse Neilan and Conor McAree, who are all such perfectly delightful and lovely people whose presence with us so joyfully enhanced our gathering.  Such a very great pleasure also to welcome again the President of Mallow Toastmasters and always such a kind and genial visitor and participant to our meetings here in Fermoy, Helsa Giles, who brought with her a mouth-watering mint-flavoured chocolate festive creation and yummy sweet sauce that was so hugely enjoyed in the course of our ever cheery and relaxing mid-time tea and coffee break.

Outside groups of happy young people had gathered in a festive spirit along the quay while across the town fireworks whooshed into the inky night sky exploding in clouds of evanescent multi-coloured falling stars, driving back the night.  As the meeting room filled up it was as ever so very nice and heartening to hear the warm buzz of chatter and bursts of laughter that mark a gathering of dear friends. That is what keeps bringing you back to Toastmasters: all of the communication and leadership activities are ever so stimulating and mind-broadening and richly expand everyone’s skill-sets and capabilities in so many ways. But over and beyond all of that it is the gladness that comes from being among friends and having a very pleasant, relaxing and genial time. At this late time of the year the winter darkness comes down but within our meeting room all is cosy, warm, bright and happy that we are together and sharing in such great fun.

Once proceedings had commenced, the evening was adroitly guided by our Toastmaster or Chairman, Tim Fitzgerald, who carefully explained the role of each participant for the benefit of our guests, with very nice and apposite remarks seamlessly leading each phase of the meeting into the next. Good chairmanship is a lovely and very rewarding art, setting everyone at their ease and keeping things going freely and with lightness of style.

Members of Fermoy Toastmasters enjoying their Halloween Night meeting October 31st 2017

And on this Halloween night we had a very lively and bubbly topics session from Padraig Murphy with subjects encompassing everything from the current housing crisis to favourite childhood memories, from the setback to Ireland’s prospects of hosting the Rugby World Cup to the celebration of Halloween. In that context one speaker referred to the seven week gap that separates Halloween from Christmas and how the two festivals should be seen as complementary of each other: Halloween with its emphasis on everything that is dark and scary in the mystery of life, while Christmas is full of warmth and generosity of spirit. The joy and wonder of Topics is that they give an instant verbal snapshot of a person’s thoughts, ideas and feelings without any prior deliberation. They are immediate, natural and come straight from the heart. That is what makes a good topics session such as what Padraig gave us so bracing and invigorating and pleasurable.

We also enjoyed three beautiful speeches. Firstly, our President Kevin O’Neill once again leading so worthily by example, spoke on finding inspiration to meet the challenges in his life, whether acquiring enough French to get by on holidays in that country, or learning to dance and taking on the challenge of doing live presentations for work which led to his joining Toastmasters and gaining in proficiency and confidence with the emphatic message that there is no greater fulfilment than to be able to say not alone that I Could or I Should, But I Did. This truly uplifting speech from Kevin was praised highly by his evaluator Nina Keating.

From Mary Whelan, we were given a stylish poetry reading double feature, taken from a venerable 1912 book that had once belonged to her grand-aunt, beginning with The Land Of Nod that so richly depicted the delights of visiting in slumber the magical world of dreams, while her second poetic choice, Allaire by Eleanor C. Donnelly, evoked poignant memories of loss and abandonment in an old derelict village. Read with charm and elegant cadence, evaluator Johanna Hegarty praised Mary’s accomplishment in reading poetry aloud which as she rightly pointed out represents the earliest form of public speaking. Our General Evaluator Eilish UI Bhriain spoke for all of us later that she could gladly listen most pleasurably to Mary’s mellifluous voice all night long.

Finally, Jerry Hennessy took us on a most informative and absorbing journey through the creation of a new garden, describing a bare open grassy space as being like a blank canvas waiting for the artist to paint a masterpiece.  And as we listened colourful floral borders rose into the sunlight and bloomed in the eye of imagination, white roses shimmered in the moonlight and we learned that humble beetles, worms and bacteria are our essential allies in working with nature so as to improve on it and to fashion with patience, skill and commitment another little corner of cultivated heaven under the sky.

There followed a very informative and illuminating question and answer session for Jerry is an unrivalled expert and authority in the superb art of gardening, explaining not least the meaning of The Chelsea Chop – but if you would like to find out more about this and so much else why not come to meet Jerry and all of us at our next meeting at the Fermoy Youth Centre on Tuesday evening next, November 13th, beginning promptly at 8.15 pm.   For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

LAUGHING THE STORM AWAY AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

On the evening of Tuesday October 17th, the very day after Storm Ophelia had wreaked havoc and destruction right across the country, Fermoy Toastmasters together with very welcome visitors from our sister clubs in Mallow, Charleville and Mitchelstown, assembled at the local Youth Centre to celebrate the joys of speaking in the beautiful language of humour and wit. It was an opportunity to step away from the dark shadows of adversity and to proclaim that side of our nature that finds in laughter and happiness everything that is most wonderful in life. With a large and diverse attendance there was a very lovely atmosphere of friends gathered so cheerfully together that ensured a memorably entertaining evening ahead.

Members of Fermoy Toastmasters and very welcome visitors and participants from Mallow, Mitchelstown and Charleville enjoying the Area Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contest held in the Youth Centre Fermoy on October 17th 2017.

Some were not able to join us busily coping with the disruption wrought by the terrible storm. Our President Kevin O’Neill sent his apologies but David Walsh was invited to assume the presidential chain of office for the evening and did so with a marked grace and dignity. Our Meeting Planner, John Sherlock, called to wish us well but then had to leave straightaway on account of a very sad bereavement: we send to him and his family our very sincerest sympathies to him. Johanna Hegarty as Acting Area Governor guided proceedings forward with exuberance and precision. We were delighted to welcome her son Rob as our special guest and all enjoyed the pleasure of his company. After a brief but very effective Topics session from Mallow’s Anne Buckle based around Kerry footballer Colm Cooper’s testimonial match, the contest then got underway with five participants.

he Other Side Of The Room – a Full House sharing in the pleasure and entertainment of the Area Humorous and Table Topics Contest hosted by Fermoy Club on the evening of Tuesday, October 17th 2017.

Liam Jones from Charleville evoked images of skiing holidays in the majestic snow-capped Alpine peaks with a particular emphasis on the merriment and tumultuous enjoyments of après-ski, at one point standing dramatically on a chair and delivering his speech in a disarmingly gentle and quiet style, striking a note of contrast that made a very great and most genial impression on his listeners.  Our own Jerry Hennessy reprised his delightful presentation on the pleasures of being a wedding guest. Now as anyone who watches soap opera will tell you, whenever a wedding is depicted all sorts of comic situations unfailingly arise. And so it was with Jerry’s warm and engaging portrait of an imaginary wedding reception, bringing all the different characters to life in a most pleasurable and charming way. Bobby Buckley of Mallow – who had travelled from Dublin specially to be here – gave a lovely and heart-warming portrayal of his early life and the search to find self-definition and identity that is the common thread that binds us all together, bringing the story all the way forward to today when his grandchildren greet him so joyfully and eagerly as they would such a gentle, refined and pleasant gentleman.

Divisional Governor Gerard Mannix of Limerick presents First Prize to the Winner of the Area Humorous Speech Contest, Frank O’Driscoll, October 17th 2017.

Frank O’Driscoll returned to his speech evoking the Sixties era of popular music and early television when all young boys and men went to the barber shop to receive the traditional short back-and-side haircuts which in a time of rapid change soon came to be superseded by the new styles of the hairdresser leaving the red-and-white barber’s pole as a forlorn sight in many an Irish town. But then bringing the story into our own time, Frank gave a hilarious and ever so well-acted account of going to the Turkish barber and describing with funny and winching vividness the use of burners to remove hair-roots from customers’ ears in a relaxed, smiling and most entertaining style.

Dick Lyons of Mitchelstown also took on a wedding theme and interwove this with the freedom of the outdoor motorbike lifestyle riding the hot wind and following the white line to wherever the mood may take, but finding that driving one’s daughter to her marriage in a German-style sidecar was not everyone’s cup of tea. All of this was in the speaker’s generous and colourful imagination and it is truly one of the great pleasures of Toastmasters that it allows you to go to the lectern and for seven glorious minutes to take on a new persona and to explore the golden fields of creativity. There is something so exciting and liberating in all of this as you search previously unvisited regions of the spirit and enter into a spirt of tremendous fun with a group of very lovely and special people. We are all there to support each other and to build one another as we proceed on life’s great journey.  And we travel together so much better and happier in the circle of friends that is Toastmasters.

One of the most enjoyable interludes of any of our meetings is the tea break when members and visitors can mingle and chat with warm tea and coffee served with biscuits and sometimes cake.  It affords an opportunity for good friends to share a very relaxed and convivial interlude and for new members and guests to get to meet and to know everybody. It is such a joy to hear the buzz of chatter and warm personal interaction with laughter and people happy in each other’s company. This is something outside the formal structures of the organisation but it represents the most valuable thing that we do: offering a centre for people to come and be happy together, each and every one of us using our own communication skills to relate to others and to discover our mutual richness. By being together and sharing everything with each other our lives are greatly enhanced and become so much more satisfying and rewarding in every way.

Divisional Governor Gerard Mannix presents First Prize in the Area Table Topics Contest to Pat Sexton, Mallow, October 17th 2017. Also pictured is Acting Area Governor Johanna Hegarty.

David sounded the gavel after fifteen minutes to call the contest back to order, for we now had to enter the second event of our evening, the Topics Contest. Participants leave the room and are ushered back in an order previously drawn to speak off the cuff for just over two minutes on a subject without any prior notice. This ensures that they do not know what their fellow contestants have already said. It is fascinating both for the judges and the rest of the audience to hear the widely different and contrasting responses affirming personal uniqueness and how there are always so many ways of looking at things. Bobby Buckley, Eilish Ui Bhriain, Pat Sexton (Mallow), Mary Whelan and Tadgh O’Keeffe all came to the lectern to speak on their concept of Perfect Happiness. Eilish gave a delightful response based on her joy in family, in writing and baking, on the pleasures of being among friends in Toastmasters and her long-time enjoyment of Vincent Browne in his talk show manifestation from which he has recently retired, leaving a marked void in her life, which drew a ripple of appreciative mirth and applause from the audience.  Pat Sexton struck a chord with his listeners when he spoke on how at a time when the terrible storm had cast such darkness over the land, we had now come together in the light of friendship and conviviality and in so doing had won a very gentle but most emphatic victory for the cause of happiness and of all things that make our hearts warmer, more human and more joyous.

After another short topics session from Anne Buckley and a very positive talk from our visiting Divisional Governor in Killarney, Gerard Mannix, the counters in the meantime gathered the judges’ ballots and retired briefly to add and verify the results which Johanna then announced. In the Topics Contest the Second Placed speaker was Eilish Ui Bhriain and the Winner Pat Sexton. In the Humorous Speech category, Liam Jones gained Runner-Up position and the popular and acclaimed Overall Winner was Frank O’Driscoll, who so richly merited his great success. Another round of competition at Divisional level in Limerick is to follow while our own next meeting will be on that spookiest night of the year, Halloween, Tuesday next, October 31st at 8.15 pm.  So be sure to bring a friend!  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

FUN NIGHT AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

The evening of Tuesday, October 3rd, marked the annual Fermoy Toastmasters Club Humorous and Table Topics Contest in the riverside Youth Centre. Humour is immensely valuable and not surprisingly nothing comes harder than that of trying to get people to laugh as any comedian will ruefully tell you.  However on this occasion the participants with the eager receptive atmosphere and enthusiastic support of the club created a memorably pleasant and enjoyable evening when laughter so often rippled around the room and everyone had a really lovely and delightful time.

Our top table on the night. (ltoR) Contest Chair David Walsh, Club President Kevon O’Neill and Topics Master Tim Fitzgerald.

We had five contestants competing for the honours and wishing to represent the home side at the next Area level of competition that will also be held in Fermoy on Tuesday evening next, October 17th, at 8.15 pm. Willingness to take part and give it a go is the hallmark of the true and eager Toastmaster. After a brief introduction by our President, Kevin O’Neill, the meeting was managed and led skilfully, lightly and successfully by our very fine Toastmaster and chairman, David Walsh. Tim Fitzgerald supplied the topics for the evening which on this occasion more than any other are essential to get the attendance going, feed the gentle glow of motivation and get everyone in the mood for entertainment and laughter. Issues of what to do if you had too much money or whether Ireland was losing its quaintness among so much else drew a wide range of stimulating and engaging responses that radiated creative energy and genial feeling that soon had everyone thinking briskly and contributing effectively. This set the scene for a truly outstanding Humorous Contest.

Club President Kevin O’Neill congratulates Frank O’ Driscoll on winning the Club Humorous Speech Contest October 3rd 2017

Contestants are strictly limited to a seven minute time limit with a thirty second finishing period of grace after which they are no longer in the competition. Nothing is ever said, of course, but the timekeeper maintains a careful record while also operating the salutary system of green, amber and red lights that tell speakers five, six and seven minutes have passed and it is time to get finished. It means you have to really concentrate and cut away everything unnecessary and be absolutely sure of what you have to say in the time allowed.  It is a superb discipline that brings out the best in us all.

The order of speakers is chosen by an open draw beforehand. Kevin Walsh went first taking as his theme the use of swear words in everyday speech without actually using any such terms at all – well, almost. It was a fresh take on something seldom aired in Toastmasters with the speaker concluding that while expletives have their place as safety valves when life is more than usually pressurised, but their ultimate meaninglessness serves merely  to underline the true significance and beauty of the proper spoken word when used as it should be.  John Quirke wryly described an encounter with our national hospital medical services some years ago when a garden mishap propelled him into that world of heroic waiting and endless queueing and baffling routines filling up forms asking all sorts of odd and irrelevant questions not to mention the sometime quirkiness of the medical profession. But eventually he received the necessary care was provided, his case was dealt with and a spell of very welcome rest ensued, proving conclusively that all’s well that ends well.

Club President Kevin O’Neill compliments Jerry Hennessy as Runner-Up in the Humorous Speech Contest.

Michael Sheehan told us of the adventures of a tour guide who had very bravely assumed the task of showing busloads of teenagers around the historic sights and castles that grace our capital city of Dublin and other adjacent counties that once made up The Pale.  Not too many dull moments are assured on such field trips and of course the ubiquitous Wise Guy is ever on hand to deflate any guiding ego in danger of becoming overly serious as for instance arriving at 10.30 one morning at the site of the battle of Clontarf in 1014 brought the observation from one chappie who glanced at his watch and announced that it was such a pity that they had missed all the action by just twenty minutes!  No wonder they say in Hollywood that it’s fatal to play opposite youngsters and animals.

Mary Whelan as Winner of the Club Topics Contest is presented with her prize by President Kevin O’Neill.

The final two speeches were both truly delightful gems that carried away the top honours on the night.  Frank O’Driscoll with all of his great charm and wit evoked the era of the young fellows trooping into the barber shop which together with going to confession were two great weekend rituals of life in the Sixties. A short back and sides seemed a daunting prospect when confronted with the barber’s array of cutting machines and cutthroat razors and strops. Yet there was an atmosphere to these fine old barber’s shops where men gathered and chatted even as the advent of the Seventies and subsequent decades marked the arrival of the unisex hairdresser and a bewildering array of changes in style and colour as tinting took hold. But still the old tradition of the barber shop lives on even if reinvented in Turkish hands and many of today’s barbers are female. To survive things must always change.  It was such a lovely and very warm and heartfelt journey through the changing ways of cutting hair through the years.

Eilish Ui Bhriain receives the Runner-Up Prize in the Topics Contest.

And if people will always need haircuts, they will also need to get married. Jerry Hennessy took us on a journey of the imagination into matrimonial celebration, beginning with the arrival of the scrolled invitation, the frantic search for style and fashion; the tumultuous comical events that form part of these celebrations of life and love and the dream of personal happiness. And Jerry took us through a whimsical and fictional exploration of all things nuptial with lightness and grace making for another very enjoyable and accomplished speech, the fruits of real inspiration for which he too will go forward to the next round of competition.

After the pleasures of the tea break, three members took part in the topics contest, leaving the room to be recalled one at a time to hear a challenge from Tim Fitzgerald as to what lessons you had learned in life before you fully understood them. Eilish Ui Bhriain spoke of the strength that comes of facing life’s challenges head on. Michael Sheehan recounted his realisation of many truths on life’s path not least the importance of thinking before you speak. Mary Whelan spoke impressively on how everyone ultimately needs to find out the truth of everything for themselves. For Mary this was her debut in a topics contest in which she gained First Prize underscoring the importance of Toastmasters as an ever ongoing challenge to reach out and do something new on the road of personal growth and development. Eilish will also take part in the next round as Second Placed Speaker.

And so our sparkling evening of comedy concluded as we look forward to our next special event on Tuesday next, October 17th, in the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm.  It is a showcase of Toastmasters at their entertaining best and we hope you can join us then for a wonderful and witty celebration. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

HAPPINESS AT FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

Club President Kevin O’Neill prepares to sound the gavel signalling the conclusion of proceedings at the September 19th meeting with Toastmaster of the evening Fanahan Colbert (left) and Topicsmaster David Walsh.

Fermoy Toastmasters enjoyed a most pleasant and entertaining second meeting of the new season on Tuesday evening, September 19th at 8.15 pm in the riverside Youth Centre where we always receive such kindness and hospitality for which we are ever so grateful and appreciative.  And this same bright and convivial and welcoming spirit fills all our meetings with a great sense of gladness and joy. Every member and visitor is greeted personally at the door and it is always so lovely to hear the air fill with the buzz of genial and cordial chatter in another delightful gathering of friends.   We were delighted to welcome the President of Mallow Toastmasters, Helsa Giles who as always enhanced our gathering with her charm and grace as well as the lovely sweet cakes of her own baking.

Club President Kevin O’Neill sounded the gavel and extended warm greetings and good wishes to all who had joined us on this autumn evening beside the Blackwater to celebrate the spoken word and the enjoyment of great listening that stimulates the mind and brings cheer to the heart.  Proceedings were then chaired by Fanahan Colbert who introduced the speakers and guided things seamlessly from one key phase of the meeting to the next with genial and relaxed informality. A good and lively topics session always makes for a very pleasant and successful meeting.  In the hands of David Walsh as topicsmaster, a very enjoyable atmosphere soon built up in the room as he presented us with a range of light but engaging topics that got everyone thinking on their feet and actively taking part. It can never be over-emphasised: Toastmasters is all about people expressing their own ideas in their own words. Apart from guests who are never asked to speak – unless they feel the spirit moving them at the right moment – every member is given the opportunity to have their voices heard.

David evoked the enduring romance of rail which prompted several lovely reflections of easy-going train journeys watching the countryside roll gently past the carriage window. Eilish Ui Bhriain spoke tellingly of her childhood memories of the West Cork railway when the hooter of the evening train heralded the time to boil the eggs and make the tea, a graphic illustration of how the passing of the trains shaped and regulated daily life for generations. John Kelly spoke with enthusiasm and feeling of his satisfaction and fulfilment in his long career as a car salesman in helping someone find the right vehicle for their needs and said he could write a book on the subject. Such a work would be a masterpiece and huge success written by such a gentle master of the art.

Other topics encompassed the pleasure of going to the cinema and whether Ireland was really a good country to live in. Most reactions were positive emphasising how beautiful the country is, if only we had a little more sun and less rain. Angela Ngethe contrasted her native Kenya with its turbulent politics with the peaceful orderly change of national leadership that occurred here last summer, while John Kelly drew attention to such stark national failures as the scandal of homelessness. From Padraig Murphy we heard a beautiful description of home as the place where we are with those whom we love and where our most significant memories are for our homes are not just bricks and mortar, but people.  All of this and so much more was featured in a truly memorable topics session in our club where in coming together as friends we make a very real sense of belonging and a wider home mutual support and goodwill.

All of this put us in an eager and receptive mood for the three very fine and accomplished set speeches just before the tea break. Nina Keating took us succinctly along the Five Essential Steps to Happiness with the message that we can do so much to make ourselves as happy as we are minded to be. She emphasised the importance of getting out with nature and enjoying the calming effect of natural light. Of enjoying pleasurable little treats such as fruit or books or friends or whatever that makes us feel good. She spoke insightfully of the beneficial effects of taking regular exercise whether in walking, playing sport, swimming or dancing and of paying attention with clarity to the everyday joys all around us whether in birdsong, of children at play and the pleasure of animals and pets to name but a few. Lastly and most importantly, we need to accept ourselves as we are and to be happy with ourselves. Evaluator John Kelly warmly endorsed this positive and optimistic well-researched and finely delivered message and of how much he looked forward to evaluating Nina’s next speech just as we will all enjoy the pleasure of hearing it.

Kevin O’Neill is a hands-on President who leads by example and gave an absorbing talk on the health benefits of consuming milk. A prodigious source of vitamins and nutrition, Kevin pointed to the positive effects of regular milk consumption in terms of healthy skin and bones as well as offering a major energy boost so that the tale of the ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra talking exotic milk baths to maintain her legendary ravishing beauty has a real basis in truth if not in fact.  Using an assortment of dairy products from cartons of milk, yoghurt, creams and cheeses as an effective visual aid, this presentation encouraged us to look at the health benefits of milk in a new and original ways.  Its optimistic note might have been even further enhanced as suggested later by evaluator Michael Sheehan if a glass of milk had been raised by way of toast to healthier living with milk!

It is remarkable how several speeches in the one evening can sometimes follow a similar line of thought. Our final speaker Angela Ngethe strongly advocated the need for nutritional testing arguing that we are ultimately what we eat: for just as cars are subjected to NCTs, so all of us should make it our business to quantify the effects of the foods we are consuming.  Evaluator Mary Whelan praised Angela’s achievements and rapid progress as seen in the poise and confidence she displayed in her presentation.

After a thoughtful overall summation from General Evaluator Kevin Walsh, we adjourned with a warm looking forward to our next gathering which will be our annual Humorous and Table Topics Contest which is always such a sparkling and convivial occasion which will be held on Tuesday evening next, October 3rd,  in the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.

BRIGHT START FOR FERMOY TOASTMASTERS

Report by:  KEVIN WALSH

Club President Kevin O’Neill studies his notes before addressing the second meeting of the 2017-18 Season. Also pictured (left) is one of our most popular and best loved club members, Mary Whelan.

The journey of life is one of new beginnings. Fermoy Toastmasters Club got off their new season to a very fine and bright start at the Fermoy Youth Centre on the evening of Tuesday, September 5th in that great spirit of camaraderie and mutual goodwill that marks all of our gatherings and activities.

The club is a circle of very special friends who share an interest in improved communication skills, in enhanced powers of thought, in deeper understanding and an appreciation of the richness of good listening, in celebrating the power and the beauty of the spoken word, in the making of shared discoveries and constantly learning from each other and advancing on the never ending journey of ever greater improvement and personal growth. We love to meet up and be together, to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and to share in warm conviviality, good humour and heart-warming cheer.  Through the season of regular meetings and togetherness, those bonds of friendship and good feeling are nurtured and strengthened.

The bonds of joyous friendship that animates all our meetings are ever further strengthen and enriched by the more guests and visitors who come in to listen and to take everything in, wanting to see and hear for themselves what Toastmasters is all about and to get to know us and everything we do as we open our hearts to them in warm and gladdening welcome. It is always such a pleasure to come to the lectern and glance across the room to see happy smiling familiar faces of dear friends and also new faces of people who have come full of the spirit of inquiry and the sense of adventure reaching out in a willingness to have a go something new and different and exciting.  In the club holds the precious assets of so much wisdom, experience and insight together combined with so much kindness, goodwill and warmth of heart, that combines with the freshness and enthusiasm of new members and friends that adds an ever renewed vibrancy, zest and effervescence to all our meetings.

Some of the attendance at the September 19th 2017 meeting.

Our Club President for this year, Kevin O’Neill, is a brilliant new member who came in, liked what he saw and heard, embraced the challenge of Toastmasters and enjoys it hugely, setting and pursuing his goals and delighting in the pleasure and the geniality of the membership and of all our wonderful gatherings. From the very beginning he took on an active leadership role and with an inspirational eagerness of spirit offered to take on the role of meeting organiser a little over a year ago. From the very beginning Kevin was so hugely successful as time and again he brought together and presented to our fortnightly meetings programmes that were engaging, original, varied and stimulating, quietly but most effectively bringing out the best in all of us and moving things along with assuredness, calm precision and with ready affability and charm. Having mastered that greatest challenge in club leadership with that apparently effortless ease that is the result of immense commitment, effort and dedication, he has now assumed the Presidential chain of office which bears such powerful testimony to our club’s illustrious and distinguished history and traditions.

Every year a new bright and happy chapter is added to that wonderful record. And that is what Kevin most emphatically did at our first meeting as he led by the front and by example by also taking on the role of topicsmaster inviting impromptu responses from the members to topics, themes and recent events, which get everyone thinking, speaking and responding without any prior notice or preparation. A little hesitant at first to be sure after the summer break, but then as minds become concentrated and ideas begin to take shape, those responses quickly build up, becoming ever more immediate and bracing as everyone wanted to get involved. It is a splendid tonic to the mind and an admirable stimulus to everything that makes us tick and affirming of who we are as people.

This creative energy quickly builds up in the room and you get an atmosphere going and once that happens you are on a gentle but most joyful roller-coaster ride of fun, entertainment and pleasure, as new light is cast on some aspect of life you may never have thought of before or suddenly your long-held set views receive the delightful shock of a challenge, a new way of looking at things which makes you think and reflect and dig deeper inside yourself and you are often so surprised by how much there is to know about yourself because there is so much to learn and to see and share and enjoy in the talents, brightness, energy and creativity of others.  It makes you come alive in a new and powerful way as shooting stars of fresh inspiration and new thinking flash across the sky of your mind. Time and again this is one of the best aspects of every Toastmasters meeting that gets everybody going and actively involved and it is incredibly uplifting and will leave you feeling expanded and elated.  Suddenly life acquires a new depth of colour and everything is possessed of a new brilliance and excitement.  You just can’t believe until you observe and see and take part in activities that are just so rewarding, interesting and entertaining.

The meeting was illuminated by two elegant and thoughtful presentations by Tim Fitzgerald and Eilish Ui Bhriain.  Tim addressed the issue of never judging the book by the cover, of the need to see beyond the surface of how people look, to find the true identity and richness of the individual behind their outer appearance, image and style, to get to know our fellow human beings is a beautiful lifelong discovery. Eilish recounted the disappointment felt by many at the recent defeat of the Waterford hurling team in the All-Ireland Final while also celebrating the passionate love of the game and the cherished place that the games of the GAA has in our popular culture which goes far beyond the outcome of any one match.  There is always another day.

With a very fine overall summary of the meeting by General Evaluator Jerry Hennessy, the meeting concluded filled with optimism and great hope as we look ahead to the season that lies ahead gathering increased momentum and energy as we advance together to the dream of meetings full of happy and smiling faces, of beautiful speeches that strike chord in every listening heart, to moments of genial laughter and warm rounds of appreciative applause given so readily when something that came from  of the very best that a person has to offer is heard and shared, to times of bright togetherness and good cheer when we are all happy together sharing in a great journey to ever brighter better lives.  We have a made a good start: a journey of great promise to many more memorably happy and enjoyable meetings stretches before us.

Already we look forward to welcoming you all to our next meeting on the evening of this coming Tuesday, September 19th, in the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.