First meeting of 2019/20

It was so very pleasant to come to the first meeting of the new season of Fermoy Toastmasters at the riverside Youth Centre on the evening of Tuesday, September 3rd.  Such a joy to see John Kelly sitting at the top table with the chain of office of Club President once again proudly draped around his shoulders with great distinction and grace. Beside him John Quirke who will take over the role of President next January until the summer of 2020, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Club by consecutively sharing as our two most revered and dedicated members the role of President in recognition of the very many years of splendid commitment and enthusiastic participation and most heart-warming friendship for all by which both men continue to bring such light and joy to our club.

     Also at the top table was our newest and youngest member, Chris O’Sullivan, who after the meeting was called to order with nice words of greeting and welcome from our dear President, then for the very first time assumed the role of Toastmaster or chairman of the proceedings for the next two hours with warmth and charm and a gentle easy style that moved everything forward in such a relaxed and yet very effective way. Last season our meeting room had in daylight hours doubled-up as the seat of learning of Educate Together adorned with the innumerable trappings of schooling. They have now moved on to pastures new with our very best wishes leaving our room returned to the open simplicity where friends come together to find in each other an incomparable depth and richness.

      From the outset the familiar rhythm and shape of a Toastmasters meeting took hold and were swiftly launched into the impromptu topics session. John Quirke acted as topicsmaster setting himself the challenge of getting us all into a keen and lively mood with spontaneity and immediacy. Topics can as the name implies encompass the newsworthy events of the time or as John chose to serve up a selection of humorous and light-hearted themes.  The first respondent is asked to speak for up to two minutes: one minute add-ons usually follow and are essential to achieve that invigorating effect that brings such a bracing freshness to any meeting. We heard so many outstanding contributions witty, whimsical, engaging and thoughtful: for instance, Frank O’Driscoll recalled the brilliant film comedy that was Being There starring Peter Sellers as a reclusive gardener whom the American Establishment come to see as a brilliant sage; Johanna Hegarty lauded the freedom and fulfilment that can come with the single life; David Walsh observed on the very last topic of the evening that if Christ returned to earth today he would be crucified anew not to a cross but on social media.  We all felt a great sense of how good it was to be back among friends again and enjoying this craft of the spoken word that fills our lives with the music of a lovely satisfaction and a huge enjoyment.  The feeling of standing up to let your ideas take wing is very stimulating and rewarding. A reminder if one were needed why Toastmasters is truly a fantastic organisation to be a part of.

     We also had three set speeches delivered from the lectern that stands at every meeting as a vital focal point and potent tangible symbol of all that we are and do. Johanna Hegarty took us on a journey back in time to the life and career of a politician who shaped the future that is our present day, namely Donogh O’Malley, Minister for Education in the mid-1960s, who introduced universal free secondary education that brought opportunity and advancement within the grasp of so many previously excluded. This is a classic example of how a politician in power can change the lives of people infinitely for the better. Tracing his life and origins among the well-to-do, Johanna related how O’Malley had wanted to give everyone a chance to do what he had done, namely to achieve their full potential and pursue their dreams. He announced this epoch-making measure and set it in train and then – although still at an early age – O’Malley died suddenly as a pioneer who began an epic nation-shaping task then left to others to continue. This was a very fine and beautiful tribute from Johanna to a great statesman of vison and imagination which resonated in the  memory of evaluator Michael Sheehan recalling the classroom announcement that ‘the boss of all the schools’ as he was referred to had passed away and a free day was given as a mark of respect.

     Eilish Ui Bhriain took us on an enchanting odyssey through the world of poetic imagination and the beauty of rhyming verse, calling to mind so aptly the lines of John Keats that have forever marked this time of the year as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. She referred to the great modern Irish bard Seamus Heaney whose poetic works always succeeded in masterfully combining the cadence of poetry with the smooth texture of prose. And of course with all of her love of the Irish language she read a brief extract from a lament to the lost community of the Blasket Islands so silent without its people save for cry of gull and crash of wave and the steady dripping of the raindrops into old hearths now chilled that once had been so full of cheerful warmth. But most delightful of all was her own very fine and elegant poem celebrating her love of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club, evoking the anxiety of going into the first ever meeting but put at ease by the warmth of the welcome, the kindness and goodwill of everyone, responding to the impulse to speak for the first time and the happiness that she felt then, the same happiness felt by all who come and give a chance to this noble craft based on confidence, generosity of spirit and enjoyment Evaluator Jerry Hennessy expressed the pleasure of all of us in listening to this speech that celebrated the mystery of the poet’s journey into truth.

     We were all ever so pleased and delighted to welcome back Conor McAree returning to active participation again after an extended interlude. Delivered in a relaxed and pleasing style, he presented a most engaging and wide-ranging introduction of himself, the intricacy and rewarding complexity of his work with the leading engineering firm BAM, his passionate love of cycling, his enjoyment of a good hot cup of coffee offering just a few of the many flavours gained of a life so filled with interest and diversity and containing ample material for many other well-crafted future presentations to which we look forward, a sentiment so handsomely expressed by evaluator Mary Whelan.

    It was a very good and encouraging opening first night to our Fiftieth Anniversary Season.  But merely the first step in a long and very happy journey that now stretches joyfully before us through these autumn evenings and well beyond with the next gathering on this coming Tuesday evening next, September 17th, at 8.15 in the Fermoy Youth Centre. For further information please contact Fanahan Colbert on 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh on 087 1228684