Report by: Kevin Walsh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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