Category Archives: general

Around The Table


Another more central view looking straight down the long table with the members gathered at the April 21st meeting. It was an unexpected development as described in the accomapying report, but all found it intimate and very enjoyable. While not likely to become a regular feature, it is something that may well be tried again in the future.
Another more central view looking straight down the long table with the members gathered at the April 21st meeting. It was an unexpected development as described in the accomapying report, but all found it intimate and very enjoyable. While not likely to become a regular
feature, it is something that may well be tried again in the future.

On a glorious late spring evening, the members of Fermoy Toastmasters gathered for what was to prove a particularly memorable and enjoyable meeting. At the last minute circumstances beyond our control prevented us from using the room that had been allocated for our use, so the kindly and pleasant staff of the Grand Hotel told us we were very welcome to use the very familiar surroundings of the River Room. However it had been prepared for the meeting of another body that had been deferred earlier leaving in place a long table covered in a white cloth and chairs all round. It was rather different to our usual arrangement but there was no opportunity to make changes.

As our Sergeant-At-Arms and General Evaluator Frank O’Driscoll so well put it later, there was no complaining or grumbling, but with that characteristically positive upbeat spirit and in the very best can-do tradition of the club where you always have to be ready to respond to the unexpected, it was decided to sit around and make it a table long on friendship and goodwill and enjoy the pleasure of trying something different. Glancing out the bay-window a pair of beautiful swans was seen gliding along the placid evening waters so gracefully and serenely.

As always our President, Mary Whelan, extended a very warm and gracious welcome to all present, setting everyone at ease and in a warm receptive mood. Mary has this extraordinary ability from the first by her kindness and charm to instantly fill the room with such a lovely and relaxed atmosphere.  Kevin Walsh had taken over at short notice as Toastmaster of the evening and guided the proceedings along with the keenness and enthusiasm of one who has for so long truly loved this club of special friends and its fine traditions.  Beside him was John Kelly working the lights with precision and keeping a careful cordial eye on things as Timekeeper. The unexpectedly changed seating arrangement won instant approval with everyone speaking later of the engaging intimacy and sense of closeness it brought to the meeting.

 Knights Of The White Table!  Club President Mary Whelan (extreme left) and some members attending the April 21st 2015 at the long white cloth-covered table in the River Room. On the far right is one of our newest members, Seoirse Neilan, who is visually impaired but brings to all our meetings a new and vivid insight and a very unique contribution. Fifth from left is another new member Michelle O'Brien, who on that evening made her Introductory or Icebreaker Speech for which she won the Best Speaker Ribbon of the night, together with the Best Topic Award, a very rare achievement that both such honours are attained by the same Toastmaster on the same occasion.
Knights Of The White Table! Club President Mary Whelan (extreme left) and some members attending the April 21st 2015 at the long white cloth-covered table in the River Room. On the far right is one of our newest members, Seoirse Neilan, who is visually impaired but brings to all our meetings a new and vivid insight and a very unique contribution. Fifth from left is another new member Michelle O’Brien who on that evening made her Introductory or Icebreaker Speech for which she won the Best Speaker Ribbon of the night, together with the Best Topic Award, a very rare achievement that both such honours are attained by the same Toastmaster on the same occasion.

Then it was onto the eager spontaneity of the topics session with the lectern set up at the far end of the long table to which our topicsmaster, Jerry Hennessy, went and delivered a series of light and stimulating themes and challenges that quickly got everyone to their feet and actively contributing and getting involved. The essence of every Toastmasters meeting is participation so that all members may air their views and make their voices heard. You can be assured that no one ever dozes off at these gatherings. There is too much creative energy whizzing around the room, too much happening to engage and uplift the mind and heart. Guests are never asked to speak, of course, although they may do at the appropriate time if they wish.

With his relaxed and genial style, Jerry presented us with a wide selection of subjects, among so much else ranging from the arrival of the swallows to children using social media, from the prospects of Hilary Clinton in the American Presidential race to the restoration of a steam railway in Youghal, everything from the local to the worldwide, from the great events of our time to the quiet realities of everyday living, made for a most bracing and effervescent topical time.

The three set speakers of the evening could not have asked for a better warm up. Michelle O’Brien spoke first with her debut Icebreaker speech telling of a very happy rural childhood in Bartlemy, of her university studies in Analytical Chemistry and Engineering followed by progression to the world of work in the pharmaceutical industry in Clonmel where she also discovered romance and marriage followed by the joy of motherhood. Michelle’s presentation was a lovely and well-told introduction to a varied and interesting life so rich in accomplishment and so full of future promise. We welcome Michelle to our club and look forward to the pleasure of her contribution in our forum of warm friendship and mutual goodwill where together we all strive to help each other to make our inner light brightly shine.

Kieran Connolly gave an immensely informative talk on the industrial drying of cut timber, comparing the painstakingly slow but highly effective methods of former times –  as exemplified by wooden churches of Norway which even after more than a thousand years are still in perfect condition –  to the high-powered techniques of today. Kieran well elucidated the highly efficient processes used to drain timber of its moisture and ready it for purpose in the construction industry. We learned of the way in which young trees grow with an inner spiral pattern for the first fifteen years or so which turns in the other direction as the tree approaches maturity and of the impact this has in the drying processes. We were given a most valuable insight into the working of the timber industry that in our homes and furniture supplies so much of the tangible fabric of our lives in a speech that was delivered with winning style and assurance.

We were then carried on the magic carpet of the imagination by Johanna Hegarty into the cerebral spheres of poetry that at the very outset she so aptly defined as the spontaneous expression of powerful feelings and emotions.  Johanna gave us a highly entertaining reading of an invigorating selection of favourite poems encompassing a wide canvas of human experience, celebrating this vibrant, exciting and lively art that brings to all so much colour and enrichment recalling as we all do the loved poetry of schooldays that still echoes down the corridors of our memory. We were left in no doubt that poetry is for all ages and seasons of life in a way just rather like participation in Toastmasters.

Another view of the Long Table meeting, this time looking towards the ornamental fireplace with various club honours and awards displayed on the mantelpiece.
Another view of the Long Table meeting, this time looking towards the ornamental fireplace with various club honours and awards displayed on the mantelpiece.

No speech is left without follow-up by way of positive assessment, the offering of all due praise and encouragement with suggestions for how things can be done even better in the future as was so adroitly done by evaluators Fanahan Colbert, David Walsh and Michael Sheehan, with a very fine summing up and overall impression of the meeting from General Evaluation Frank O’Driscoll. The Toastmaster, Kevin Walsh, in his concluding remarks spoke of seeing the members seated around this long white cloth-covered table evoked for him the memory of the late Padraig O’Braoin, co-founder of the club, once telling the story in this very same River Room many years before of how when the British garrison in Singapore were forced to surrender to the besieging Japanese in February 1942 during the Second World War, it was the tablecloth from the officers’ mess that served as the white flag of surrender.

We now look forward to the penultimate meeting that will see an all-male line-up of speakers assessed by all-female team of evaluators that will be held at the Grand Hotel on Tuesday evening next, May 5th at 8.15 pm. We look forward to seeing you there. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on


The evening of Tuesday, April 7th was gloriously fine and it was in the very best of good spirits that we came for our meeting in celebration of friendship and the joy of life. We gathered in the River Room of the Grand Hotel, with its two wide bay windows looking out over a delightful prospect as inside our members joined by very welcome visitors from our sister clubs of Mallow and Charleville served up a delightful evening of sparkling entertainment and conviviality.

   The Top Table:-  President, Mary Whelan with Toastmaster David Walsh (left) and Topicsmaster, John Quirke at the Fermoy Toastmasters meeting in the Grand Hotel, Tuesday, April 7th
The Top Table:- President, Mary Whelan with Toastmaster David Walsh (left) and Topicsmaster, John Quirke at the Fermoy Toastmasters meeting in the Grand Hotel, Tuesday, April 7th

Our President, Mary Whelan, opened the meeting by extending a very cordial welcome and warming the hearts of us all by her gracious kindness and charm. Or Toastmaster of the evening, David Walsh, then steered proceedings forward; relaxed, affable and at ease, he fostered that relaxed and pleasing atmosphere where everyone can give of their very best and make for an evening that was special and most uplifting.

With all of his humour and vast experience, John Quirke served us up a wonderful topics session that got everyone thinking and responding and interacting with such eagerness and enthusiasm. His choice of subjects were wry, thoughtful and compelling, such as loving your neighbour, but don’t cut down the hedge; commonsense is like a deodorant, those who need it don’t use it; no matter what happens, we can all wake up in the morning knowing there is always someone worse off, to name only but a very few.

This last drew a particularly moving response from Seoirse Neilan who spoke very movingly of his difficulty in coping with his initial loss of vision, of a very natural human resentment against others who follow selfish and mean pathways and who seem to enjoy the undiminished use of their faculties, yet with time he came to terms with his situation and found within himself a great resilience and sources of strength which he previously had never known, telling us that no matter what may happen, not alone can life still be worthwhile, it can be so rewarding and very beautiful if we truly want it to be.  For this, Seoirse won the blue ribbon for the Best Topic of the meeting that gave us all such eloquent testimony to the power of the human spirit. I must also mention an outstanding contribution from our President, Mary Whelan, on the theme of friendship, emphasising how real friends do not burden us or try to take over our lives, but are with us always in times of sadness and joy always letting us be ourselves and enabling us to be our better selves.

 At Fermoy Toastmasters - always a convivial atmosphere.
At Fermoy Toastmasters – always a convivial atmosphere.

Four great speeches provided us with remarkable diversity and interest. One of our new members, Claire Guy, took us on a journey of discovery into the fascinating world of the hive and told us something of the lives of the bumblebee that from now on should be a regular visitor to our summer gardens, its distinctive humming a sound that never fails to strike a happy chord, of how these amazing insects can travel at speeds of fifty-four kilometres an hour and at two-hundred wing-beats a second. Claire emphasised the vital role of bees in the pollination and preservation of plant life upon which everything depends and on how we need to respect these tiny creatures that are among our very best and most indispensable friends. We were given a glimpse into a most fascinating aspect of the natural world and we warmly look forward to hearing so much more from our new and most welcome friend, Claire, who in her short time with us is already making such a special and illuminating contribution to the club.

Eilish Ui Bhriain brought to us a very lovely speech indeed focusing in on the human and gentle aspects of life, entitled ‘Tay And Cake’, taking a humorous look at visitors calling in and the hilarious things that can accompany the provision of hospitality. Like the man who dropped in to see his neighbours and while he was there weather closed in but his mind was fixed not on the torrential rain outside but on the drop that hung from the nose of his hostess who was coming down with a nasty cold and how it remained pendulously suspended there for the whole evening as they sat and chatted by the fireside. When she at last urged him to stay and not to venture out again on such a bad night, he replied, ‘It all depends on how the drop will fall’. Then Eilish went on to tell us of an occasion many years ago when American visitors were expected at short notice and her Mother had baked a cake for them and left it on the windowsill outside to cool off, only for the dog Shep to snatch it away, bringing her to the brilliant concluding line that ‘we can’t have our cake and eat it’.

Another of our newly joined members, Peggy O’Donovan, gave us a very well-informed talk on the abolition of milk quotas, telling of the great potential and opportunities that await this country as one of the world’s leading and best milk producing countries where a much reduced number of producers have unattained levels of unsurpassed productivity and with barriers to expansion now removed have the opportunity to go in a big way into the Chinese and other huge international markets. It is estimated that twenty-eight thousand extra milk loads will soon be trundling along the roads of County Cork. Peggy’s vision was strikingly optimistic and that is the spirit in which we can all move forward into a brighter and better future.

        Another view of the April 7th meeting looking towards the bay window which all unseen here affords a splendid riverside vista either in broad daylight or  after dark.
Another view of the April 7th meeting looking towards the bay window which all unseen here affords a splendid riverside vista either in broad daylight or after dark.

Our visiting speaker form Mallow, Rona Coughlan, gave us a fascinating speech on the world of Greek mythology and legend, a world of often vindictive and capricious gods, creatures of the human imagination that yet offered a very realistic portrayal of existence that was in those distant times as it still is today so often random, precarious and unpredictable. This message was central to Rona’s very fine and impressively researched speech and her presentation was rounded off by printouts distributed to the audience explaining the relationships between the principal gods of Mount Olympus.

I often refer to speakers as giving their speeches. And that is no mere chance, for Toastmasters flourishes only because everyone is so generous with their time, their efforts and creative energies so in the meeting room we can do and achieve so much together that none of us could ever do on our own. No speaker stands alone – all receive positive feedback from the evaluators, a role that night so well carried through by Kevin Walsh, John Sherlock, Johanna Hegarty and Kieran Connolly, with Jerry Hennessy offering his overall impression of the meeting as General Evaluator. Before summer rolls out there are still a few chances left to attend a Toastmasters meeting in Fermoy.  We look forward to our next gathering on Tuesday next, April 21st, in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, at 8.15 pm and we look forward to seeing you all there. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to


Club President Mary Whelan flanked by Topicsmaster Eilis Ui Bhriain and Toastmaster for the evening John Sherlock at the club meeting ob March 24th 2015.
Club President Mary Whelan flanked by Topicsmaster Eilis Ui Bhriain and Toastmaster for the evening John Sherlock at the club meeting ob March 24th 2015.

It was the week just before the clocks went forward the hour to summertime, the sky after sunset was a rich dark velvety blue, the evening star was gleamed like a beautiful jewel in the west, the crescent moon and the constellations studded the night with their timeless glory. Here on earth the members of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club on the evening of Tuesday, March 24th, came together for their meeting of conviviality and humour, of enjoyment and stimulation, a forum where the stars of friendship and warmth of heart always shine so brightly and cheerily.  As ever our President Mary Whelan bid us all a genial and kindly welcome that instantly set everyone at their ease and in a spirit of looking forward to the promise of the meeting ahead. Anything that is truly good and worthwhile in life can be achieved only with effort and dedication and that is where the pleasure and fulfilment comes from.

This is most worthily exemplified by our Toastmaster and chairman of the evening John Sherlock who also as our Educational Vice President of the year, works tirelessly to put together our fortnightly meeting programmes that sparkle with interest and variety. It is a great and noble achievement in the very finest spirit of so many of his predecessors over the years and one for which he deserves the very highest praise and admiration. It is that commitment and enthusiasm driven by sheer love of the craft and the joy of friends that has sustained our club here in Fermoy throughout four and a half decades.   John guided the proceedings seamlessly forward with immense skill and finesse ensuring a memorably pleasant meeting.

Our topicsmaster, Eilish Ni Bhrian, presented us with a rewarding selection of topics and themes gentle and yet engaging that drew a warm and very fine response from the audience that as always is crucial to the development of a good and happy atmosphere. These included the arrival of springtime turning a young man’s fancy to thoughts of love,  the depths of beauty and wisdom contained in the poetry we tried to learn and remember from our school days and indeed it was so very heartening to listen to members reciting verses that hold a cherished place in their hearts. The retirement of Kilkenny hurling star Henry Shevlin drew a number of very interesting comparisons with other legends of the game from times past, such as Cork’s own Christy Ring. John Kelly recalled his having watched so many of Ring’s masterful performances on the field and contrasting his quiet and humble departure from the game with the media intensity that accompanies the retirement of today’s crop of sports stars. That is the thing about every topics session – you will always hear something new, something that you will take away with you giving food for thought with quiet smiles and mellow reflection long afterwards.

Club members in a relaxed and genial form after another memorable and successful meeting
Club members in a relaxed and genial form after another memorable and successful meeting

We had three very notable speeches to follow, all so remarkably different and varied, yet all coming from the heart and given with proficiency and grace. Beginning with Johanna Hegarty who delivered a spirited and vibrant reading of a short story from the Cork-based author Gerald O’Callaghan, entitled Peas In A Pod, describing a woman’s involvement in a local committee that apparently led through various unfolding pathways to the prospect of holiday romance in a Spanish villa, but as with all good stories which return at the conclusion to their beginning in the title the outcome took a rather unexpected twist. Interpretive reading sets the challenge of taking a literary work and presenting the written word with all the vividness and immediacy of an oral presentation using nuances of language and demonstrative gesture so that the story leaps from the page and becomes fully and colourfully alive in the imagination of the listeners, and this Johanna achieved with great effervescence.

Michael Sheehan then took us far away to the American West in the great frontier days of adventure by recalling the life of the legendary US marshal Batt Masterson, who won immortal fame by taking on so many bad guys in such wild and lawless places as Dodge City and Tombstone, a flamboyant character who loved to gamble and mete out rough justice to troublemakers at the end of a long black cane with a silver top. In a meticulously researched presentation, Michael brought this great hero to life once again and evoked the many films and TV dramas that have been made over the years depicting his extraordinary larger-than-life story that was so compellingly well told by such a highly accomplished master of the art.

Finally, Mairead Barry has always been a very keen admirer of the works of Irish poet Paul Durkan whom she described as a fascinating man of mystery and went on to read one of his later works, Death Of A Corkman with its extraordinary intertwining of different story lines that simultaneously bring the reader from one place and time to another creating ever changing new realities that send out a powerful message about the meaning of life and love. Mairead’s sensitive approach captured the beautiful use of language and sparkling turn of phrase for which Durkan is rightly famous, describing mourners at a funeral moving ‘through the furrows of pews’ that is so richly evocative and descriptive. A pleasure shared with others is increased and enhanced as Mairead brings her joy in literature to our meetings with such warmth and kindness and charm that is so enriching and illuminating that marks her out not only as a very special Toastmaster but as a very dear and special friend to us all.

Every speaker receives the encouragement and help of positive evaluation from Frank O’Driscoll, John Kelly and John Quirke with a final overall impression of the meeting by Kevin Walsh. There are now just a few more meetings left before we rise for the summer recess, still plenty of time for all of us and for those who have never been with us before to enjoy the very special pleasure of a good Toastmasters meeting, as will take place in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, on Tuesday next, April 7th at 8.15 pm. We look forward to seeing you all. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to

Club members at the March 24th meeting with Peggy O'Donoghue (right)  who was timekeeper on the night.
Club members at the March 24th meeting with Peggy O’Donoghue (right) who was timekeeper on the night.

Contest night at Fermoy Toastmasters

"The Top Table" Club President Mary Whelan, Contest Toastmaster Maire Corbett and Topicsmaster Fanahan Colbert at the 2015 Speech and Evaluation Contest
“The Top Table” Club President Mary Whelan, Contest Toastmaster Maire Corbett and Topicsmaster Fanahan Colbert at the 2015 Speech and Evaluation Contest


Fermoy Toastmasters returned to their traditional Grand Hotel venue for their annual Speech and Evaluations contest held on the evening of Tuesday, March 10th. The aptly-named River Room with its pair of fine wide bay windows looking out over a serene and beautiful riverside view with the tall spire of Christ Church glimpsed through the branches of the still bare trees has been greatly enjoyed over the years by so many club members both past and present.

This room has been the scene of so many wonderful occasions in the club’s history and has so often rang with dazzling word-play, presentations of vivid power and remarkable illumination and moments of memorable mirth and entertainment that ever glow warmly in treasured memory. But we are not a group who merely value a proud heritage and glory in past achievements, but instead eagerly looking forward with enthusiasm and commitment towards an ever brighter and better future and to ever greater accomplishment, a future that is built and advanced in every successful and rewarding meeting.

This gathering was not just a Fermoy-based event but a celebration of the links of friendship and mutual support that bind us to our sister clubs in Mitchelstown and Mallow and beyond whose representatives were lending their support as participants and judges in our shared dedication to the Toastmaster ideals of communication and leadership, of personal growth and good fellowship as members of a great worldwide family joined together in the pursuit of what we love and hold dear.

Our esteemed President, Mary Whelan, bid all welcome to the event and expressed the joy of everyone to be here once more marking yet another link in the chain of continuity and tradition that has secured for Fermoy Toastmasters such a very honoured and well loved place in the social, cultural and recreational life of this community for the greater part of half a century. We were all ever so delighted by the presence of Maire Corbett of Mitchelstown, our Contest Chairperson of the evening, who brought to this vital role her ample qualities of warmth, charm and grace that ensured the proceedings went forward with pleasure, assurance and ease. Our Chief Judge on the night coordinating the gathering of the judges’ votes and overseeing the making of the results was Liam Flynn of Mallow, who fulfilled his task in such a happily genial and cordial way

The topics session sets the keynote at every meeting and is especially crucial at a contest event in the building up of a warm and pleasant atmosphere with the audience in a most relaxed and receptive mood to ensure the success of the evening. The task was accomplished on the night with consummate skill and aplomb in the hands of Fanahan Colbert with a range of thoughtful and musing themes and subjects that drew a keen and convivial response from the meeting with so many eager to rise to their feet and get involved and make their contributions, releasing that creative energy that makes everyone feel uplifted and refreshed. Indeed Maire expressed her regret at more then one point in the course of the evening that she had to curtail the discussion to facilitate the contest programme such was the volume and intensity of the interest and enthusiasm of that spirit of participation which is what Toastmasters is really all about.

President Mary Whelan congratulates Kvin Walsh as Winner of the 2015 Club Speech Contest. Maura Corbett prepares to present him with the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy.
President Mary Whelan congratulates Kvin Walsh as Winner of the 2015 Club Speech Contest. Maura Corbett prepares to present him with the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy.

We had three really beautiful and very engaging speeches. Eilish Ni Bhriain gave us a charming evocation of times past and life in West Cork based around home, family and fireside. She told of that while embracing the blessings of modernity with her use of Kindle and Skype, nevertheless in her beautiful word- pictures of simpler, calmer, gentler times there is a source of lasting enrichment and pleasure. Then we had Kevin Walsh with a story of murder and betrayal set in a 1940s Irish village but not without a glimpse of redemption and hope shining through. Finally and on a much lighter note, Jerry Hennessy told of his great love of the waltz, speaking of its remarkable elegance and style, of the enjoyment that it has brought to his life and of how a shared love of the dance brought him to matrimonial happiness and looking forward to many more years of happy waltzing together on the dance floor of life.  All speeches were limited to seven minutes marked by a system of lights with the green light coming at five minutes, the amber at six and the red at seven after which the speaker has seven minutes’ grace to finish with incurring a silent disqualification.  After all speakers have concluded, the judges finish marking their score sheets and then the gathered ballots are taken to another room and counted.

Eilis Ui Bhriain recieving her presentation as Alternate Winner of the Club Speech Contest from our President Mary Whelan.
Eilis Ui Bhriain recieving her presentation as Alternate Winner of the Club Speech Contest from our President Mary Whelan.

But the result is not given until the Evaluation Contest is completed. A guest speaker – on this occasion Rona Coughlan of Mallow – delivered a powerful and impressive talk on the second and little noted referendum of next May, namely that the age of Irish Presidential election candidates should be lowered from thirty-five to twenty-one years. She spoke with great passion and conviction on the imagination and the generosity of spirit of so many young people all of whom would make an outstanding future Head of State.  Having listened to Rona all one could say was that as a brilliant young person herself, a political career could well be hers and indeed she would make a most illustrious occupant of Aras an Uachtarain.

John Kelly Recieves the compliments of club president Mary Whelan, as Winner of the Evaluation Contest . March 10th 2015
John Kelly Recieves the compliments of club president Mary Whelan, as Winner of the Evaluation Contest . March 10th 2015

Our three contestants, Johanna Hegarty, Michael Sheehan and John Kelly were then ushered from the room by Sgt-at-arms, Kieran Connolly and following a brief further interlude of topics, were called back in one at a time to give their assessment on what they had just heard. For the audience, it is fascinating to hear the diversity of views and the marked differences in emphasis and interpretation that makes this contest always so engaging and rewarding. Once again the gathering and counting of votes and then the results: – in the Evaluations, John Kelly and Johanna Hegarty were the first and second placed contestants, with Kevin Walsh and Eilish Ui Bhriain respectively in the International Speech Contest who now go forward to represent Fermoy at the Area Contest in Mallow on Wednesday, April 1st with the heartfelt support and good wishes of us all.

Club President Mary Whelan Congratulates Johanna Hegarty as Alternate winner of the Evaluation Contest  on March 10th 2015. Contest Chairperson Maire Corbett is Standing on the right
Club President Mary Whelan Congratulates Johanna Hegarty as Alternate winner of the Evaluation Contest on March 10th 2015. Contest Chairperson Maire Corbett is Standing on the right

Our next regular club meeting will be held in the Grand Hotel on Tuesday next, March 24th, at 8 15 pm. We look forward to seeing you all then. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on

"Relaxing after the meeting" Fermoy Toastmasters and visitors from Mallow and Mitchelstown clubs enjoy an easy, convival atmospher after the contest on March 10th 2015
“Relaxing after the meeting” Fermoy Toastmasters and visitors from Mallow and Mitchelstown clubs enjoy an easy, convival atmospher after the contest on March 10th 2015
Keeping time at the contest:- Timekeepers Eddie O'Sullivan and John Sherlock at the 2015 Club Speech and Evaluation Contest.
Keeping time at the contest:- Timekeepers Eddie O’Sullivan and John Sherlock at the 2015 Club Speech and Evaluation Contest.
Jerry Hennessy (right) and Kevin Walsh hold aloft the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy.
Jerry Hennessy (right) and Kevin Walsh hold aloft the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy.
Engraved with the names of many past winners, Club President Mary Whelan congratulates Kevin Walsh on Retaining the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy
Engraved with the names of many past winners, Club President Mary Whelan congratulates Kevin Walsh on Retaining the Niall Brunicardi Perpetual Trophy


Always a smile from our club Greeter Kevin Walsh
Always a smile from our club Greeter Kevin Walsh

The members of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club have found the experience of recently holding their meetings in a number of different venues to be very refreshing and stimulating. The latest was at the Fermoy Youth Centre on the evening of Tuesday, February 24th. We are most grateful for the warm welcome and all of the kindness and help that we received from the centre manager, Kieran Barry and his team.  Our room was spacious and comfortable and the pleasant and hospitable ambience helped ensure a very fine and enjoyable meeting.

Our President, Mary Whelan, inaugurated our proceedings with charm and grace that set such a genial and convivial tone for the evening, as she always does with such winning style and finesse.  Johanna Hegarty then took on the role of Toastmaster or chairperson, introducing the speakers, maintaining continuity between the varied phases of the meeting and explaining the roles and functions of the various participants with enthusiasm and bonhomie.  Then it was on to the impromptu topics session with Frank O’Driscoll, presenting themes and ideas to the gathering with all of his smiling humour and ready affability that invited a full and eager response. Once people are put at their ease and they just know they are going to enjoy themselves in the hands of brilliant toastmaster like Frank, you will get only the very best and most entertaining.

Club President Mary Mary Whelan, Toastmaster on the night Johanna Hegarty and Topics master Frank O'Driscoll.
Club President Mary Mary Whelan, Toastmaster on the night Johanna Hegarty and Topics master Frank O’Driscoll.

With the usual two minute initial responses followed by one minute add-ons, subjects ranging from the planned mass exodus of the whole Government for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, imagining your acceptance speech for an Oscar, the use of Facebook, the decision by FIFA to hold the Qatar World Cup of 2022 in December to the changing face of retail shopping in Fermoy over the years.  Several contributors spoke of how little the absent ministers would be missed, Kieran Connolly offered an excellent suggestion that could save Cork Airport by emphasising the huge potential of the old terminal building as a leading international air freight hub. Michael Sheehan reminded us that major world sports events in mid-winter are not unprecedented: the Melbourne Olympic Games of 1956 were a case in point. Kevin Walsh evoked the old family hardware business on McCurtain Street, the smells of linseed oil, putty and paint, of dusty floorboards and the fantastic gantry that was the overhead cash railway operated by springs and pulleys with its screwed-in jars with their dockets and change clattering over and back throughout the day, for which he received the blue Best Topic ribbon at the close of the evening.

We listened and enjoyed to three memorable and wonderfully entertaining speeches. Utilising a CD player, Mairead Barry gave a very illuminating presentation on the life of the great Kerry poet and playwright, John B. Keane. The voice of fellow Kerry literary giant Brendan Kennelly was heard reading one of the poems,  called ‘The Street’, telling of simple lives and simple things, of tears and laughter, of sadness and joy, vivid word pictures of little boys sailing ‘paper galleons in the drain’. Mairead focussed on John B’s celebration of life in all its pain, beauty, sorrow and hope, recounting his career path from pharmacist to publican to internationally acclaimed writer and icon, even giving effective and concise summaries of such theatrical masterpieces as The Year Of The Hiker and Sive. She expressed the complexity of John B’s personality by reminding us of his devout Catholicism combined with his strong opposition to the harsh puritanical values imposed by the institutional Church on Irish society and of how in his great works sex was rightly celebrated in a fun way and a respectful way. Mairead’s wonderful speech hailed the achievements of a literary genius who made his country a better and kinder place.

It is always such a pleasure to welcome an Icebreaker speech to any meeting and we were especially delighted to hear the first presentation from Claire Guy, a research scientist based at Moorepark, who told us of her early childhood enthusiasm for the natural world and collecting all sorts of specimens of insects, butterflies and bees which was to open her path to a highly successful career in the pursuit of knowledge and ever greater understanding. We welcome Claire to our club and are most grateful for her participation and support, to her sharing with us in the wonders of science and discovery and we look forward to her active membership and support.

Our final speaker of the evening was Padraig Murphy, a Stage 5 from the Communication & Leadership manual emphasising the importance of natural and relaxed gestures and body language as an aid to verbal presentation. Taking Change as his theme, Padraig gave by far his very best speech to date, documenting the failings and fallacies that underpinned the bitter controversies surrounding the establishment of Irish Water, especially its disengagement and aloofness from the needs and concerns of real people. Padraig generously cited the Toastmasters organisation as one which is successful precisely because it is deeply rooted in the lives of real people and in meeting their needs and aspirations in what was a very well-crafted and adroitly delivered speech.

We learn by doing and we learn by listening in receiving the due praise and positive feedback of experienced evaluators as was so well done on the evening by John Kelly evaluating Mairead’s biographical presentation on John B. Keane, revealing he had played with him in a Gaelic football team when the great Kerry bard had worked as a trainee pharmacist in Doneraile in the early 1950s.  Fanahan Colbert and Kevin Walsh gave their assessments of the speeches of Claire Guy and Padraig Murphy respectively. The Best Evaluator ribbon was awarded to Fanahan Colbert and the ribbon for Best Speaker went to Claire Guy. A very special pleasure to welcome back Brian O’Farrell in the role of Timekeeper and to enjoy his unique style of warm effervescence and amicable zest that he brings to our meetings and our lives.

Members of our happy club pictured at the meeting in the Youth Centre.
Members of our happy club pictured at the meeting in the Youth Centre.

      Our next meeting will be the annual Speech and Evaluations contest that will be held back in the familiar surroundings of the Grand Hotel on Tuesday evening next, March 10th at 8.15 pm. It promises to be a great and most entertaining meeting to which all are welcome. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to

Fermoy Toastmasters in a place of learning


The Fermoy Toastmasters Club held its first ever meeting at the Education Centre on the evening of Tuesday, February 10th. We made our way through the wide entrance hallway and were warmly greeted by the Director of this fine facility,


View of the top table smiling with relaxed enjoyment at the education center meeting. Mary Whelan Club President, John Quirke Toastmaster and David Walsh Topicsnaster on the night.

Mr. Gus Kelleher, who bid us welcome and hoped that we would enjoy our evening there. The meeting room was intimate, comfortable and brightly lit and proceedings were soon called to order by our honoured President, Mary Whelan, who expressed pleasure on behalf of us all to be here and then handed control of the meeting to the Toastmaster or chairman for the occasion, the vastly experienced, witty and ever amiable John Quirke who spoke very nicely on the very good attendance and very full programme to which we could all look forward.

Then it was straightaway into the first round of topics with David Walsh who as always brought a wining relaxed style and lightness of touch to this vital role that always makes the atmosphere of ever good and memorably enjoyable meeting. Members are asked to speak without prior notice on a subject for some two minutes with other participants following on for one minute add-ons. Of course, the first respondent always faces the greatest challenge by having to speak off the cuff thinking quickly and sharing ideas that crystallise with amazing swiftness. It is a wonderful mental exercise and stimulus. The add-on contributors have a little more time to think yet their contribution too is so vital for a topic that evokes only one response from the individual first asked – no matter how good it may have been – will invariably fall a little flat unless you have add-ons by which new ideas and original insights are released and tossed around the room in a beautiful cocktail of thoughtful words, of humour and wit and creative energy. For everyone has something to say and something new and fresh to give and share with their fellows.

I cannot begin to convey the true richness and variety of this or any other great topics session. It is something that no one can do alone for this is a social pleasure that can only be enjoyed in a roomful of friends gathered to celebrate the joy of communication with conviviality, eagerness and good cheer, a wonderful example of how a pleasure shared is a happiness vastly increased.

We then had the pleasure of listening to three delightful speeches. One of our new members, Peggy O’Donovan, told us of the history of tobacco smoking, tracing its origins across many centuries and following its source to the New World in places such as the Carolinas and Kentucky as well as its ever changing place in popular culture, with the celebration of the cigarette as something glamorous and sophisticated in the Hollywood movies of the 1950s and 1950s, to its current pariah status in the light of the overwhelming weight of evidence of the harmful effects of smoking on human health. Peggy’s presentation was ever so well-researched, thoughtful, concise and informative in a gentle style that underlined the substance of the message.

Some of the attendance at the Fermoy education centre meeting on Feb 10th 2015
Some of the attendance at the Fermoy education centre meeting on Feb 10th 2015

Our second speech of the evening was from Kieran Connolly who brought us on a journey of discovery into the murky, mysterious but fascinating world of the intestinal tract. With the catchy title of ‘Forty Million Flies Can’t Be Wrong’, the unglamorous but vital role of this complex region of the body was compellingly illuminated and especially the crucial role of bacteria in the digestion process. Attention was brought to the use of antibiotics which while eliminating the harmful bacteria also destroy the benign varieties that we need for healthy living. Their disappearance can lead to undigested food fragments passing through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream giving rise to serious illness. Kieran underlined the need to take pro-biotic drinks while taking a course of antibiotics to restore the natural balance. Moreover a hale and hearty intestine means not only a healthy body but a keen and vigorous mind also, throwing a new light on the expression ‘having a good gut feeling’. Told with great candour and wit, Kieran’s presentation gave us a better and clearer understanding of all those complex internal processes that make us tick and which allow us to lead full and active lives.

Then Frank O’Driscoll, with the adroit use of the flip-chart, held out the vision of The Fair Society, drawing attention to the many cruelly and unjustly mistreated victims of the recent years of economic recession as exemplified by the cutting of the blind pension and children with special needs denied their entitlement to medical cards. He contrasted this with the interaction between government and powerful sectional interest groups where all too often resources are divvied out to the advantage of the privileged and well-connected while those most in need are further neglected and excluded. Much of this can be attributed to the social composition of the political class where there is an unhealthy over-representation of those of a professional background and a marked absence of people working in industry or the retail sector, still less of the poor and marginalised. This marked bias has skewered our political system so that it lamentably fails to meet the needs of ordinary people struggling to survive in favour of the well-to-do.  Given in Frank’s inimitable warm and affable approach, his speech was all the more thought-provoking for that.

     After helpful and positive feedback from evaluators Eilis Ui Bhriain, Jerry Hennessy and Padraig Murphy and a fine general evaluation by Fanahan Colbert, our evening concluded with our looking forward to our next meeting that will be held at the Fermoy Youth Centre on Tuesday evening next, February 24th, at 8.15 pm. We look forward to seeing you. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on


Fermoy Toastmasters held their first meeting of the New Year in the Bridge Club on Tuesday evening, January 27th. It was our first time being there and there is always an uncertainty attached to a different venue. But this House of Cards that has seen so many happy and pleasant games of kings and queens and aces came up trumps for us. Its inviting convivial atmosphere in spacious well-heated ground floor high-ceilinged room made us feel immediately welcome and at our ease and long before the gavel had sounded on the block the room had filled with the hum and buzz of chatter that makes for atmosphere and enjoyment.

Members and guests attending a meeting in the Fermoy Bridge Club on Jan 27th
Members and guests attending a meeting in the Fermoy Bridge Club on Jan 27th

Our President, Mary Whelan, called the meeting to order and bid everyone welcome to this first meeting in new and congenial surroundings. This convivial note was further taken up Eilis Ni Bhriain who then assumed control of the meeting in her role as Toastmaster guiding the proceedings forward over the next two hours with charm and grace, introducing the speakers and explaining for our guests the function of all the various participants who together act together in that same wonderful alchemy of brevity, wit, commitment and pleasure that makes for ever memorable and uplifting evenings.

Our club president Mary Whelan  flanked by Eilis Ui Bhriain Toastmaster and Michael Sheehan Topics master and John Kelly Timekeeper (far left)
Our club president Mary Whelan flanked by Eilis Ui Bhriain Toastmaster and Michael Sheehan Topics master and John Kelly Timekeeper (far left)

The first of these was Michael Sheehan as topicsmaster who set before us a selection of light and thoughtful topics evoking a huge range of spontaneous and stimulating responses from all present, an initial two minutes from the person first asked followed by one minute add-ons thereafter. It was a most entertaining mix of the whimsical and the serious encompassing everything from the tradition of New Year pantomime to the proposed IAG takeover of Aer Lingus, the recent TV drama on the life of Charles Haughey to aspirations for 2015. Some of these quick off-the-cuff responses have a directness and immediacy about them that you can never achieve in any prepared talk.

Words given off the top of the head in an instant can sometimes long flourish and glow warmly in the heart. Such as Mairead Barry’s observation when looking ahead to the coming year that ‘contentment is rare and wonderful’, words so filled with wisdom and grace and truth. Or Frank O’ Driscoll’s hilarious telling by way of example of pantomime not just on stage but in everyday life, of how things serious can so easily turn hilarious in a way that can only happen in Ireland as when a nurse went to a day care centre for the elderly and wrote the word, ‘Osteoporosis’, on the notice board and then asked her listeners as to whether they had any idea what it meant. One person thought about it for a moment and then said, ‘Isn’t that the fellah out in South Africa who shot his girlfriend’.  Such gold nuggets of humour are quite simply priceless.

Kevin Walsh as greeter at the bridge club meeting
Kevin Walsh as greeter at the bridge club meeting

With John Kelly keeping a watchful eye on things as Timekeeper, it was on to our set speeches for the night beginning with Jerry Hennessy who gave a beautiful classic short speech crafted with the simplicity of true brilliance in the form of a toast to the club itself, to all of its members past and present and their combined achievements. Jerry told of the joy and pleasure, the rewards and satisfaction that he and so many have derived from club membership over the years.. Above all, Jerry said that since becoming an active and committed club member in 2009 it is the sheer unalloyed joy and pleasure of meeting and getting to know and sharing in all the club’s activities with a fantastic group of people, a sentiment with which any of us can most wholeheartedly and cheerily concur.

We were then taken on a journey to the darker side of life when James Keating delivered a very well-researched and compassionate speech on a theme so sadly seldom out of the news these days. He has been deeply struck by the numbers of homeless people he encounters every day in Cork City and told of how the issue has spread far beyond the traditional image of bearded old men down on their luck with wine bottle in hand to affect both men and women and even whole families from all walks of life. It is no longer good enough, he said, merely to ascribe all this to alcohol or drug abuse but reflects the breakdown in community ties and in welfare supports under the strain of recession that have left far too many sleeping in doorways. James highly praised the work of organisations like the Simon Community and the St. Vincent de Paul Society that do so much to help and assist people suffering on society’s cold margins and said that it was long overdue that Government and all of us acted to put an end to this appalling scandal.

Kevin Walsh gave an engaging talk on the life of the often overlooked and little regarded first leader of an independent Irish State, namely W. T. Cosgrave, the subject of a recent first biography by Professor Michael Laffan, who took over the reins of a new country in a very dark time of civil war in 1922 and for the next decade put parliamentary democracy here on firm and lasting foundations, set up an unarmed police force, repaired the visible scars of conflict and ensured this State an honoured and respected place among the nations of the earth. He left a powerful legacy by which we all live today in freedom and dignity.

Club President Mary Whelan with our guest speaker on the night Michael Cronin from the Speakeasy club in Mallow
Club President Mary Whelan with our guest speaker on the night Michael Cronin from the Speakeasy club in Mallow

Our guest speaker, Michael Cronin of Mallow Toastmasters, spoke of another great if now somewhat also half-forgotten historical Irish figure of the early 19th century, Richard Martin, Galway-based great landowner, politician, philanthropist, boundlessly generous benefactor of all, known in his lifetime as Humanity Dick, in every way a larger than life character whose passionate detestation of all forms of animal cruelty and commitment to their welfare has also left a great living inheritance in the form of the very first legislation protecting all creatures from cruelty and abuse. Told with enthusiasm and ready admiration by Michael, this speech recalled to life something of a brilliant personage who made the world a far better and kinder place.

We then had positive and most insightful evaluations from Kieran Connolly, Fanahan Colbert, Johanna Hegarty and David Walsh, followed by a very accomplished overall summation by John Quirke as General Evaluator who so succinctly defined the role of the evaluator to speakers as one of giving ‘not constructive criticism, but qualified praise’. Ribbons for best evaluation went to David Walsh, to Jerry Hennessy for Best Speaker and Best Topic to Kieran Connolly for his contribution on the place of the Late, Late Toy Show in Irish society. We would like to express a very special word of gratitude and warmest appreciation also to Kieran for arranging our very successful meeting at the Bridge Club.

Our next meeting will be held in a different venue again when we go to the Fermoy Education Centre in Fitzgerald Placeon Tuesday next, February 10th, at 8.15 pm.  We look forward to seeing you. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to


We had all been looking forward to a very fine meeting to inaugurate the New Year and our new season marking four and half decades of Toastmasters in Fermoy. We had been looking forward to our fellow-members and friends form our sister club in Mitchelstown for what promised to be a very entertaining and effervescent joint meeting. But on the planned evening of January 13th – unlucky as it turned out – the winter weather in its spoilsport way worked against us with hazardous icy road conditions. The decision had to be taken – sadly, reluctantly but very responsibly – to cancel the meeting for the safety and welfare of all due to attend.

No one ever likes having to take this step, but it has always been our watchword over the years at Fermoy Toastmasters that as we are all here for our enjoyment and recreation, the safety of everyone is our uppermost concern. Although our meeting season spans the winter months, it is remarkable how seldom this has happened. There will always be another evening – there will always be another meeting. There will always be another time for gladness and cheer, for memorable speeches and dazzling repartee, for humour and interest and the warmth of personal interaction. There will always be another time to come together and make fresh and new beginnings.

Fermoy has grown and expanded over the years but way back in 1970 when our Toastmasters Club was founded by the vision and generosity of spirit of two brilliant and remarkable men, Niall Brunicardi and Padraig O’Braoin, it was a much smaller town indeed. How many times I recall hearing in the school classroom that the population of Fermoy was but three thousand. Great sprawling housing estates that are today flourishing with the lives of young families in all of their brimming exuberance back then were green pastures grazed by herds of peaceable cattle. Yet this town successfully established what was then just the third ever Toastmasters Club in the country after Dublin and Cork.

It was a brave move made with the most extraordinary optimism and hope. Could Fermoy and its hinterland long sustain such an undertaking that asks of its members a high degree of participation and active involvement? Four and a half decades later that question is being answered now as it was then with a great resounding ‘Yes’!  The spirit that guided the original club founders and that first indomitable gathering of members remains as bright and animated today as it ever was.

Today in 2015 as in 1970 and in all the years since we all of us together with one clear and ringing voice say ‘Yes’ to belief in ourselves as individuals and in each other, to friendship and mutual goodwill, to the enjoyment of life and to building each other up by sharing in the development of all of our talents and creative energies, by boosting confidence and leading more rewarding and fulfilling lives, ceaselessly advancing in personal growth and going forward on an exciting journey of self-discovery and the discovery of the richness and depth of all those we share this wonderful journey.

The town and community of Fermoy embraced the promise of Toastmasters and given it a very special, warm and affectionate place right at the very heart of our social, recreational and cultural life, a place of achievement, enjoyment and gaiety. It is a proud tradition that draws strength from past achievements but is ever looking forward to a great and brilliant future. Through the years the club has transmitted and hugely enriched this vision that shines and thrives today with all the zest and enthusiasm of that which is timeless and ever young, always going forward, always seeking the better and brighter day.

Now at this time when Fermoy has entered in a New Year with the very welcome news of fresh industrial investment and the opportunities that will flow from it, there is a renewed sense of local confidence and hope. And we in the Fermoy Toastmasters Club are part of that story too for our every meeting, every act of involvement and participation by every member is an emphatic celebration of life and an affirmation of optimism and self-assurance in friendship and mutual goodwill that brings lasing joy and happiness.

Be it in Fermoy or anywhere Toastmasters recognise the voice of everyone in all their uniqueness and originality while ensuring to all their right to be heard and to make their special and life-enhancing contribution. Every one has a dynamic and positive role to play – every meeting is limited to two hours duration, allowing for a programme of usually of three or four set speeches of no more than seven minutes’ duration, a lively and impromptu topics session where participants are asked to share their thoughts and views on a variety of topical themes and issues about which they have received no prior notice and which always turns out the most engaging, stimulating and uplifting phase of the proceedings.

A half-way tea break allows us all to explore the joy of conversation and the warmth and convivial pleasures of interacting and chatting with friends who wear familiar faces together with those coming to us for the very first time. This is then followed by a further topics session always focussing in on those not on the set programme so that the objective of maximum participation is achieved. Guests are never asked to speak but can relax and enjoy the evening, however if at the appropriate time the spirit should move them we are always delighted to hear the music of a new voice. With this important exception, a Toastmasters meting that allows even one person home without speaking has not quite succeeded.

Then too for every set speech, there is an assigned evaluator who gives all due praise for the speaker’s accomplishments while also offering positive feedback by way of suggestion and encouragement for further progress. Finally, a general evaluator gives an overall assessment of the meeting and of how the main participants such as the topicsmaster who guides the impromptu session and chooses its themes and the toastmaster who introduces the speakers and steers proceedings along, have performed their task and upheld our finest ideals.

Our President, Mary Whelan, and all of us warmly look forward to our next meeting that will be the first of the New Year and season to be held at the Fermoy Bridge Club on Tuesday evening next, January 27th, at 8.15 pm. Please note the change of venue for that occasion. We look forward to seeing you. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to


Club President Mary Whelan and all our members extend to the very many friends and supporters of Fermoy Toastmasters warmest greetings and best wishes for a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

On December 16th last at our memorably entertaining and successful annual Christmas party we celebrated another great year of growth and achievement marked by so many bright and wonderful meetings. Now as the lights of festivity recede, we build on the achievements of the past and move forward with optimism and hope and eager expectation into the joyful promise of another year. We have reached the halfway point into the second decade of the twenty-first century. This is a great time to come together to enhance our lives and to find ever greater personal fulfilment by expanding our horizons and sharing in the richness of friendship and personal growth. The New Year is a resolution making time and in that a very deep-seated human wish to do better and to improve finds a clear and emphatic expression. As the Old Year slips away forever into history, the New offers tantalising opportunities for renewal and fresh adventure to be pursued with enthusiasm and vigour. There are few better ways of doing that than by coming to and participating in the wonderful activities of Fermoy Toastmasters.

On Tuesday next, January 13th, at 8.15 pm, we are setting out on the road of new beginnings once more. To underline our commitment to change and our openness to doing things in a different way, on this occasion we will be holding the first meeting of the 2015 season in the Fermoy Educational Centre, Fitzgerald Place (next door to McCarthy’s Insurance offices),a venue that is fully ground floor accessible and offers convenience and ease to everyone. Moreover it is a place where young people gather to study and try to build their future so indeed by coming here we are sending out a powerful signal that we too are an ever young organisation, a vibrant group seeking out new challenges and opportunities and ready to bring our message to the whole community with renewed confidence and joyful eagerness.  Pope Francis has said that just because something has been done in a particular way for a very long time does not mean that it has to be done that way always. We are prepared in our own way too to face that challenge and to attempt with trusting hands to write a new chapter. You will never know the potential fruits of a new initiative unless you give it a try.

We come together to promote each other and to advance ever further on the road to personal accomplishment and fulfilment within a very warm and mutually supportive company of friends. Our club and our whole organisation is dedicated to the exploration of the arts of communication and leadership and to the enjoyment of the music of the spoken word. While many in these winter months actively and admirably take part in amateur theatrical groups bringing a playwright’s vision and imagination to life on the stage, our approach is to give a voice and an opportunity for personal expression and advancement to everyone in their own words telling their own story, sharing their own unique ideas and attitudes while bringing to every gathering the richness and depth and beauty of their own unique and original experience of life.

In Fermoy Toastmasters, there is a place for everyone and the club grows and develops and becomes an ever more rewarding and entertaining forum by the special contribution that every member brings and shares. It is all based on a readiness to open your heart and mind to others to give the best of what you have and what you are and equally to accept and to grow from the wisdom, the experience and insight of others with generosity of spirit and mutual good fellowship.  It is based on clarity of thought, on discovering the joy of vivid presentation with brevity and feeling, of developing the richness of a deeper kind of listening, encouraging spontaneity of response and quickness of mind in the topics section given over to impromptu speaking, to assimilating positive feedback and constructive evaluation. Above all, our meetings are occasions of the display of creative energies with commitment, stimulation and humour, where we all gather eagerly looking forward and go home some two hours later feeling greatly uplifted and ever so happy.

I can truthfully say that I have spent many of the happiest times of my life in this organisation. And the reason for this is quite simple – because they are some of the very nicest and best people that you will find anywhere. To come to Toastmasters is to be among the very dearest friends. And our friends do not change us to what they think we ought to be, but rather they support and help us, they guide us along as we tap into our talents and explore our full potential, bringing out the very best in each other and rejoicing in the success of everyone for the enhancement and benefit of us all. In a word, we are a happy club seeking to promote the enjoyment of all.

So we look forward to seeing you – familiar faces and new faces, all in the same welcoming spirit – as we inaugurate the New Year at the Fermoy Education Centre on Tuesday next, January 13th, at 8.15 pm.  For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100.


Fermoy Toastmasters held their penultimate meeting of the season and the year on December 2nd in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy. There was no sense of wind-down, but rather we had – as our EVP John Sherlock had promised – a very interesting and varied programme that made for a memorably rewarding and enjoyable meeting.

On a personal level, it was indeed a very great pleasure to welcome back after an interlude of quite some time one of our most highly accomplished and esteemed former members, prominent Fermoy businessman Michael Caplice, whose kindness and encouragement was instrumental in first opening the door of membership of Fermoy Toastmasters. He set me at ease and instantly welcome among friends who were all ever so kind and supportive. Sadly, other commitments in life were to carry him away from the club, so it was indeed very gratifying and a source of great joy to see him there that night and I most warmly and sincerely hope that Michael will be back with us again very soon and am certain that he has such a tremendous contribution to the life and continuing success of our club.

Our President Mary Whelan bid all welcome to our mid-winter gathering and drew special attention to the elegant mounting of the Gold Medal Achievement Award recently granted by World Headquarters to our club which ranks as the third longest-established in the country, a worthy tribute to all those members past and present who have made our meetings such occasions of enjoyment, gaiety and personal growth. Proceedings were then passed to our toastmaster, Jerry Hennessy, bringing to his role as introducer and coordinator all those qualities of warmth, enthusiasm and his trademark relaxed genial style that set such a lovely and pleasant keynote for the entire evening. Then too a sparkling topics session makes for a highly successful meeting and this we enjoyed most profusely thanks to the dedication and zest of our topicsmaster, Johanna Hegarty, who stood by the lectern and with ease of gesture and eagerness of word reeled off a sequence of stimulating topics which swiftly got everyone thinking and contributing readily and spontaneously, bringing forward an exciting and invigorating freshness of ideas and diversity of responses. Everything from winter motoring to travel broadening the mind, from Christmas shopping to taking up a new hobby or describing your favourite job and so very much more, enabled all of us to find the very best of ourselves and to stir the well-springs of motivation that makes for outstanding meetings and for better and more rewarding lives.

Three great speeches were to follow, beginning with Fanahan Colbert who gave a fascinating and very well researched talk on how countries throughout the world have chosen chose to drive on opposite sides of the road, some 35% on the left, 65% on the right. Here in Ireland we motor on the left which is a throwback to the old days of the gentry on horseback holding the reins with their left hand keeping the right free to use pistols against rebels and highwaymen.

In France the nobility had also monopolised the left side of the road, with the great unwashed on the right, until many an aristocratic neck started falling under the Revolutionary guillotine.  Then it became very expedient for the once high and mighty to discard their finery and hide among the common people, hence setting the trend of travelling on the right side of the road, a practice spread far and wide across Europe by the conquering armies of Napoleon Bonaparte and which has continued into today’s mass motorised age. Speculating on the possibility of driving on the right becoming mandatory here by the edict of the EU, Fanahan doubted it would ever happen through the likelihood of accidents and wholesale confusion, even if the motor manufacturers and car sales businesses would derive vast profits from any transition to left-hand steering vehicles.

This was an appropriate springboard for a brilliant speech from John Kelly recalling his many years as a successful car salesman, speaking of great colleagues and the different businesses where he worked throughout his very long career, bringing together his vast experience in the motor trade and in Toastmasters to give us an extraordinary presentation that could serve as the basis for a master class for today’s young sales people, not just alone of motor cars but of just about any product. He illuminated the essential steps of making the potential customer feel welcome and relaxed, having a genuine liking for people, to be true to yourself and relying on the support of family and friends to gladden the good and happy times and to carry you through the times of sadness and pain.

John was never set a sales target by his employers, but he set his own objective to sell twenty-five cars a month, and he always achieved well in excess of that target even in time of recession. He took issue with car sales reps who spend all their days in showrooms, but should venture out around the forecourt to meet someone in their working clothes who may feel uncomfortable about coming inside.  He concluded by saying that to him a car should be sold and seen not as a mere machine, but a friend. This was more then just a fantastic speech about salesmanship, but a powerful and revealing insight into human psychology and a beautiful distillation of the wisdom and experience of life told with charm, humour and grace from our great and wonderful friend, John Kelly.

By one of those peculiar coincidences that can only happen in real life, Kieran Connolly also happened to give a well-crafted presentation on almost the same theme with John Sherlock taking part in a role-play depicting the sale of a coffee-making machine. In a very telling manner the essential elements of the transaction were highlighted: identifying the customer’s need, building a rapport with them, seeking to improve matters while keeping away from the thorny issue of price for as long as possible: all of this and more lies at the core of the noble art of conveying goods and services from seller to buyer.  Our speakers each in turn received positive feedback from evaluators Frank O’Driscoll, David Walsh and Eddie O’Sullivan praising all that had been achieved and pointing the way to possible avenues of further improvement, with a very fine overall assessment of the meeting from Michael Sheehan.

And now as Christmas draws near we come to our annual Tall Tales competition and festive party, a time for fun and enjoyment and making merry for we are a happy club and a fun-loving group of people. This, our final gathering of the year, will be held on Tuesday next, December 16th, at 8.15 pm in the Gran Hotel. We look forward to seeing so many dear friends there for a great evening of cheer and celebration. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100