Report by: Kevin Walsh.
It was so good to be back. That was the universal feeling of the members and friends of Fermoy Toastmasters Club as we gathered at the commencement of our new season of meetings on the evening of Tuesday, September 11th, at the Fermoy Youth Centre.
The room quickly filled with one of the largest attendances ever seen at a first night after the long summer break. It was such a pleasure to greet so many dear friends and also to welcome both new guests to our club for the first time and to see a number of familiar faces so delightfully back with us again after some while. It lifts the spirit to hear the buzz of friendly chatter as warm handshakes are exchanged and cordial sentiments are spoken. Our Club President for this year, Eilish Ui Bhriain called proceedings to order with a very amiable and genial welcome that set a relaxed and pleasant tone for the evening ahead. Having served in this office previously with great distinction and accomplishment, we look forward to another very successful and enjoyable year with the warmth, grace and kindness of her leadership.
The President presides but it is the Toastmaster or chairperson of the evening who introduces the speakers and guides proceedings forward smoothly and seamlessly. In this role Jerry Hennessy turned in an outstanding performance with his always winning lightness of touch and ready humour as in reminding the audience to turn their mobile phones back on after the meeting had concluded, for the whole purpose of our gathering is to live well, laugh a lot and to be happy.
And it was in that optimistic and effervescent spirit that Johanna Hegarty provided us with two highly entertaining and very stimulating topics sessions. The essence of Toastmasters is participation, that is its challenge but also its strength tapping into the talents, idealism and creative energies that we all have. In topics one person is asked to speak impromptu on a chosen subject without prior notification for no more than two minutes. One minute add-ons from other speakers then follow. This gets everyone thinking quickly and actively involved, for one contribution will usually spur someone else to join in with a perspective of their own taking in a rich, colourful, witty and stimulating variety of views and ideas all so very fresh and original. It is a very bracing and most effective mental exercise broadening our individual horizons and what is good for the mind is most conducive to overall physical health and well-being.
The travails of the Irish soccer team, the brilliance of the Cork camogie players, the current trends in popular music, the race for the Presidency and the question of how Donald Trump should be received in Ireland even as the news was just beginning to filter through that the American Presidential tour had been put off, these and so very much more in the two topics sessions on either side of the mid-way tea/ coffee break with scones and cream brought to us by the kindness of our dear friend Helsa Giles from Mallow, made for a brilliant and most entertaining meeting.
This sets the stage perfectly for the prepared speeches which form the core of every meeting. Speakers do not read from a text but use notes as prompts and reminders when necessary, the ultimate ideal being to speak with confidence and proficiency without use of any notes at all. Our first speech was from one of our most dedicated and committed members, Michael Sheehan, who shared his interest in all things historical and archaeological as he took us on an epic journey through the centuries around Listowel Castle in Co. Kerry, charting its course of ages through times of power and prestige as the seat of the great Anglo-Norman Fitzmaurice family and through darker days of war and siege. By the mid- 18th century the castle was abandoned and fell into utter ruin and dereliction, reclaimed by nature in the grip of wind, weather and ivy. But then just as all seemed lost it was to undergo an amazing renewal: acquired by the State, the castle underwent extensive restoration and since 2005 has been open to the public with guided tours as a deservedly popular attraction. A fascinating story so well told by Michael in such a very well-researched, richly evocative and outstanding presentation.
Kevin Walsh then took us on a threefold journey through the theme of love, illustrated by the story of a man he once met who fondly remembered the excitement and joy of his first romance many years ago. But love’s young dream had failed to bear fruit and they had sadly parted. Four decades later that man found himself alone and unloved and his thoughts wandered back to his first sweetheart. Against all odds contact was re-established and both discovered they were now free to enjoy a mellow and delightful friendship. Then he went on to describe a visit to Kilmainham Gaol during the past summer and being most impressed by the execution yard where Pearse, Connolly and the other 1916 leaders had made the supreme sacrifice for their fervent love of their country, a love that had not failed for above the place of their martyrdom now proudly flies the flag of the free and independent nation to which we belong today. Finally, Kevin shared some memories of the recent wedding in Cork of that outstanding Toastmaster and dear friend Brian O’Farrell with the lovely Michelle Murphy, a day of sunshine, celebration and happiness, summed up in the words of Brian’s brother Sean who as best man said of Brian that ‘he has a heart as big as the ocean’. The essence of love is boundless generosity of spirit. Kevin said that love is the only thing that heals and elevates our lives in this broken world and concluded with the famous quote of St. Paul that we should all make love our aim.
John Sherlock then took us on a very different journey with a very practical, well-crafted talk full of sound and sensible advice on the buying of cars, cautioning against purchase at the beginning of January when demand is highest but citing the end of June as a good time to make that deal when garages pre-register many of their unsold models. John advised it is now better to think of petrol rather than diesel and that hybrid is a far better option than purely electric cars which have only very limited range. All of the financial options were carefully examined, beginning with PCP higher purchase arrangements which are quite manageable even if the vehicle is never fully yours, but representing a considerably lighter interest repayment burden as compared to bank and credit union loans. He went on to say laughingly that of course the best thing to do might be to invest your communion and confirmation money in a new car! This excellent speech was such a pleasure to listen to and was delivered so stylishly by a true master of the art.
Nothing in Toastmasters ever stands alone: everything is part of a much bigger picture. To every speaker there is an evaluator giving positive feedback, praising the speaker’s achievements and pointing the way to ever further improvement as was so well done by Tim Fitzgerald, Fanahan Colbert and Frank O’Driscoll. Then there is a final overall assessment and impression of the meeting on this occasion from David Walsh who expressed the gladness of us all at the success of this first night back and particularly focused in on the precision and diligence of Mary Whelan in her vital role as Timekeeper working the stopwatch and lights that regulate each phase of the meeting. One of our most well-loved members Mairead Barry said a lovely few words of thanks for the floral bouquet she had received from the Club during her recovery from surgery some months ago.
At the end of one meeting there is a looking forward to the next which will take place at the Fermoy Youth Centre on this coming Tuesday evening next, September 25th, at 8.15 pm. We joyfully look forward to seeing you all then. 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.