Club president Mary Whelan with Toastmaster for the evening John Kelly and our inimitable smiling Topicsmaster, John Sherlock at our meeting on August 21st
Club president Mary Whelan with Toastmaster for the evening  John Kelly (left) and our inimitable smiling Topicsmaster, John Sherlock at our meeting on August 21st

We enjoyed a very lovely time at our meeting in the Grand Hotel on Tuesday, October 21st. It is gratifying to receive a warm welcome from our greeter at the door setting a relaxed and genial tone for the members and visitors for the evening ahead. Club President Mary Whelan rises to her wearing the chain of office with the names of all her predecessors stretching back four and a half decades so richly symbolic of a proud and distinguished tradition. The gavel comes down on the sounding block; the meeting is called to order; there is a sense of eagerness and anticipation for what the next two hours have in store.

There have been countless such meetings held over the years, but each such occasion on every second Tuesday throughout the season from September to May is unique and special with its own beautiful once-off content and flow, sparkle and originality which is always so refreshingly new and innovative. Control is passed to the Toastmaster or chairman of the evening, John Kelly, who exemplifies by his many years of dedication and commitment to this club its finest achievements and its promise of endless enjoyment and personal growth for all who are willing to give it a try.

John Sherlock with his easy relaxed style and ready sense of humour was called upon to fulfil the role of topicsmaster at relatively short notice. Through the years many stars have shone in the firmament of Fermoy Toastmasters: John is one of the most outstanding and best of all. To him this year has been given the most challenging of roles as Educational Vice President to make out the programme of all our meetings ensuring that they are varied, stimulating and entertaining. A daunting task it would be if it were not for the motivation, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit of the members who are eager and delighted to make their contribution and play their part, as they did yet again with such remarkable energy and zest during what was such a bracing and invigorating topics session encompassing such themes as being from Cork is a badge of perfection to the telling of little white lies, the traditions of Halloween to what you would do if you were Minister for Transport  and the pleasures of going for a walk, to mention but a very few.

We enjoyed the pleasure of three very different but highly impressive speeches. One of our new members, Margaret Goggin, gave a very polished speech on the rival extremes of generosity and meanness, citing the three personality types of spendthrift who squanders money with reckless carefree abandon and never cares about tomorrow. The frugal, who are careful and considered in their spending and have a deeply-felt respect for the value of money, whose minds are not closed to kindness but who want to see that they receive value for every penny they spend. And then there is the cheapskate who buys only what is shoddy and trashy and is altogether lacking in any sense of rightful pride in what they have or who they are. Margaret skilfully wove these strands together pointing the way to a healthy and positive relationship with money and material things in general that can be achieved by bringing all of these human these traits into a creative and harmonious balance.

Jerry Hennessy brought vividly to life the story and achievements of Fr. William Casey of Abbey Feale in West Limerick, hero of the Land League and champion of the oppressed and downtrodden, who in the late nineteenth century defied the rack-renting landlords and organised successful boycott campaigns in favour of the evicted and the dispossessed. He made a huge contribution to the cause of bringing the mighty propertied interests to their knees and obliging the British Government to arrive at a fair and equitable resolution of the Land Question. But as Jerry told us in his illuminating presentation, Fr. Casey also understood the importance of expanding and developing the human spirit in his ardent support for Gaelic games and in the music of the brass band that he founded, their melodious strains often heard wafting through the warm summer evenings of Abbey Feale then as they still do today. The story of a great man so well and aptly told, a truly remarkable priest who stood with his people and fearlessly led their struggle against the social injustices of his time, his example still holding a powerful resonance in our time as Pope Francis once again urges the pastors to be ever among their flocks in all of their pressing needs and concerns.

Our third and final speech was from Padraig Murphy who took us on a very different journey to the present moment where far too people actually live. In a very lucid and elegant style, Padraig depicted the extent to which we are creatures of habit and routine, our attention span far too narrow leaving us open to memory loss, losing car keys, forgetting appointments, daydreaming vacantly, relating how one man totally forgot to drop his child to school one morning while en route to work until called back to reality by a light juvenile voice from the back seat, whereupon he just had to turn around and drive back again. As Padraig so amply demonstrated, we all remember the past and our minds are filled with the hopes, anxieties and dreams of the future, but the vital present moment scarcely merits a thought. A timely and relevant message delivered with grace, skill and humour.

All three speeches were evaluated in turn by Kieran Connolly, Michael Sheehan and Eilish Ni Bhriain, with a very fine concluding general evaluation from Eddie O’Sullivan. And so our evening concluded with a warm glow of satisfaction and pleasure shared by all, the hallmark of a successful and pleasant gathering that sends everyone home Toastmasters. Toastmasters are good for you.  Why not try that out for yourself at our next meeting in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, on Tuesday next, November 4th, at 8.15 pm. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100.