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.
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.
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 totoastmastersfermoy.com.