Report by: Kevin Walsh.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 8th, Fermoy Toastmasters gathered for the final meeting of the current season in the pleasant and relaxing riparian setting of the local Youth Centre. How swiftly time has passed since we commenced last autumn and maintained a brilliant and most enjoyable series of meetings all through the dark winter months, having to cancel only one because of the blizzard conditions in early March. And now the time for our Annual General Meeting had come round where the outgoing officers’ committee rendered an account of their stewardship over the previous year to be followed by the election of their successors to bring us forward into the next season. It is one of the purest forms of democracy in the world that has at its heart the principle of accountability to the entire membership to whom the club belongs in the warmest friendship and mutual generosity of spirit.
Sincere sympathies and heartfelt condolences were expressed to our dear friend Jerry Hennessy on the recent passing of his brother Denis. Before the important business of the evening could be addressed and as there were no set speeches to be heard, proceedings were called to order by our Meeting Organiser John Sherlock who has worked so tirelessly and with such immense enthusiasm to put together varied and hugely rewarding programmes for all of our gatherings over these many months past. He then handed control of the meeting to Tim Fitzgerald who presented a highly original and engaging set of topical themes which evoked a wide and eager response. One of the most memorable posed the question of whether the job you had dreamed of doing in schooldays had come to reality in adult life.
This drew a very thoughtful and illuminating response from one of our most admired and best loved personalities, John Kelly, which succinctly encapsulated almost his entire life story. He recalled how in his youth he had thought of becoming a motor mechanic, in that era before self-service filling stations he gave warm personal service and attention to motorists at the pumps for the essence of good business is genial personal interaction with the customer. He then went on to pursue the wave of the future assuming the challenge of television service before returning to the world of the motor trade with a brilliantly successful career as one of the best and most successful car salesmen in the country for more than three decades. A truly amazing record embracing the opportunities presented by ever changing times and always seeking to do one’s very best in every situation. Above all John emphasised the importance of being true to oneself and therefore always being true to others which leads on naturally and readily to a lasting fulfilment and happiness in what was such a very illuminating impromptu talk distilling the rich wisdom of a lifetime.
The issue of the huge cervical smear test scandal was also addressed beginning with a thoughtful contribution from David Walsh deploring the lack of any sense of responsibility by those in high positions in our society, contrasting this with the noble example and character displayed by American President Harry Truman of many years ago who placed a sign on his desk in the Oval Office bearing the words: The Buck Stops Here. He argued that what we urgently need in Ireland today is an injection of that same spirit of responsibility by those who govern and administer us. This in turn drew from Johanna Hegarty a very compelling add-on recalling a decade ago the warnings conveyed from those working in pathology laboratory testing to the HSE and the Department of Health and Government that the outsourcing of cervical smears to an American facility where very different methods and standards applied would lead to serious difficulty further down the line. These warnings went unheeded and ignored. Today the cost of this bitter legacy of failure and suffering is having to be counted. Moreover once clear and simple management structures have congealed under bewildering layers of bureaucracy so that the buck is not so much passed as cannot even be found. Never was the need for the restoration of simplicity and directness more greatly and urgently felt. In these and so many other highly original and well-chosen topics, Tim gave us a thoroughly refreshing, thought-provoking and engaging interlude of spontaneous off-the-cuff speaking offered an outstanding finale to a truly great and highly successful season of great meetings and active participation.
After a very convivial tea and coffee break richly enhanced by a delicious sweet cake baked specially by our dear friend Eilish Ui Bhriain, we then settled into the business of the AGM proper. Special thanks were expressed to our unavoidably absent President Kevin O’Neill for his distinguished service throughout the past year. Our Meetings Organiser John Sherlock praised the membership for their readiness to take part and to help in every way that made his task a very real and rewarding pleasure. Mary Whelan as Membership Secretary was delighted to place on the record of the meeting the overall expansion in the number of actively participating members throughout the year which augurs well for the future of our cherished club. Johanna Hegarty as Treasurer has done an outstanding job managing our finances which are in excellent shape and no increase in fees will be needed next year. Kevin Walsh as PRO said that his task was made so much easier and pleasant by the wonderful quality of the meetings he promotes and records.
Then Fanahan Colbert came to take the chair and with skilful assuredness presided over the election of Club Officers for the coming year:- Eilish UI Bhriain makes a very welcome return as President; Padraig Murphy assumes the role of Meeting Organiser; Mary Whelan will with all of her dedication further the vital work of building and sustaining Membership; Jerry Hennessy returns to the Committee as Secretary; Johann Hegarty continues her sterling work as Treasurer; Tim Fitzgerald as Sgt-at-Arms is custodian of club property and ensures the meeting room is well arranged and prepared for every gathering; Kevin Walsh retains the post of PRO. To all of our newly elected officers we extend warmest best wishes for every success in the next season and throughout the coming year.
Over the next two years together with clubs all across the world, we will all have to work together to learn, assimilate and utilise the new Pathways system with its emphasis on internet feedback and the resources of social media to promote and further the work of Toastmasters everywhere. It can seem daunting and does represent a major challenge. But again as John Kelly said, this merely represents the latest chapter in the never ending story of change in Toastmasters and life to which we must adapt while also seeking to influence and change. This is the heady optimism with which we will go forward to the future. And remembering the warmth, geniality and radiant goodwill of Eilish in her previous spell as President, we know she will make a strong and successful leader and the club will thrive under her wise and committed guidance and direction. Wishing to all a very happy and pleasant summer and we look forward to our next meeting on Tuesday, September 11th. 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.