It was good to be back was the universal sentiment shared by everybody at the first meeting of the New Year of Fermoy Toastmasters held at the Grand Hotel on the evening of Tuesday, January 7th. Our President, Jerry Hennessy, extended cordial greetings and a very warm welcome to all, voicing good wishes for a full and speedy recovery to a few of our members currently unwell and unable to join us but looking forward to seeing them very soon again.

Control of the meeting was passed to our Toastmaster or chairman of the evening, Frank O’Driscoll, who with his affable smile and engaging charm, kindness and humour, carried the proceedings forward with confident ease and assurance. Having expressed the hope that all had enjoyed the recent Christmas festivities, he immediately struck an upbeat and strikingly optimistic note by asserting that in coming together for our meeting we were carrying forward a huge and unique local tradition of recreation, pleasure, personal growth and betterment of life not only for ourselves but for others to enter into and in their turn to build on and enhance in the years and decades ahead.

It is the same wonderful spirit and character that drives our cherished club which has driven it forward these past four and a half decades, with such eagerness and creativity that is forever vibrant and young. Because what we are doing today in the footsteps of those who have gone before us and as we hope so many more will follow long into the future, is the celebration of all that is best in life, about being among friends, raising the music of laughter, affirming individual uniqueness in a setting where we all have so much to give to and receive from each other and the thrill of doing something unique, original and different every time, giving everyone a voice so that all might be good listeners.

Those qualities were amply and wonderfully displayed in our topics session when our Educational Vice President, Mary Whelan, now acting as topicsmaster, was faced with the challenge of keeping the session going that bit longer then usual as one of our planned three set speakers for later on was unable to make it. She rose to this challenge quite magnificently and inspired the entire meeting to do the same, displaying that lively spirit of wanting to take part, to contribute generously with spontaneity and enthusiasm that is at the heart of all that we do. With her gentle style and grace, Mary presented a stimulating variety of themes that got everyone thinking on their feet with quickness of mind and response. Ranging from highlights of the Christmas holidays, to coping without electricity during the storms which prompted one member to tell us of individuals who could not go to church because with a power failure found themselves trapped in their homes unable to open their electric gates! Our President spoke of the pleasures of sitting by candlelight and the rediscovery of the beautiful lost art of conversation.

The theme of the starting of another year being an opportunity to set things right, drew from John Kelly the wry observation that some people believe themselves to be so perfect that they think they get it right all the time. Among many issues touched upon were unwanted gifts, the wrong that is the telling of lies and the woman who gave up the security of the teaching profession to embrace her dream of being a chef. All of this made for a truly effervescent gathering, with everyone taking part and sharing something valuable and insightful, challenging and entertaining us, just the very uplifting tonic that was needed in the drab early days of the immediate post-Christmas period with this invigorating freshness and sense of renewal.

Frank O’Driscoll then spoke of his special pleasure in welcoming an Icebreaker speaker to the lectern to deliver his first ever speech to the club. There stepped forward our newest member, Daniel Mullins who spoke very tellingly of the contrast between the prospects facing a graduate of today like himself as compared to a decade ago. But he saw in this no reason for pessimism, but rather struck a bright upbeat note in the pursuit of every opportunity for personal self-development and growth to add and enhance in every way possible to what he called his jigsaw of life. Daniel’s speech was delivered with conviction and in a very thoughtful way that struck a most receptive chord with his listeners who now warmly and most cordially welcome him to our circle of enjoyment and mutual good fellowship and wish him every success and happiness as member and friend. In Daniel we heard the spirit of young Ireland expressing itself, articulate and resilient, humane and generous, determined to build a rewarding and fulfilling life in this country. His message was one of hope and optimism that gave ample food for thought and great encouragement.

Then too we had a really excellent Stage Four speech from Mary Murphy who evoked a delightful chapter in her life when she and her husband and family embarked for a number of years on annual motoring holidays to France in their somewhat basic but ever so cherished 81 WD camper van called Jenny that was a celebration on wheels of the spirit of freedom and adventure. Listening to Mary’s very well-crafted talk, we were all taken up on this journey of the imagination and travelled with her right across the most refined and cultured society in Europe. There was a sense of fun and eagerness about it all; of casting aside life’s cares and responsibilities for a few weeks every August and just going wherever the mood takes and enjoying the day and the moment to the full. Of course, today Jenny is a collection of rose-tinted memories, the kind that always warm and cheer the heart as Mary so well did in her beautiful speech.

Our speakers then received positive and encouraging feedback and assessment from our evaluators Johanna Hegarty and Michael Sheehan, with a very fine overview of the entire meeting with a sense of what had been learned, enjoyed and achieved from our general evaluator, Fanahan Colbert. Learning, enjoyment and achievement form the essence of everything we are and all of what we do. Why not come to listen and see for yourself at our next meeting on this coming Tuesday, January 21st, at 8.15 pm in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to