The essence of the art of Toastmasters is the constructive use of time. You can go around shopping centres without catching glimpse of a clock anywhere – presumably they want to induce that sense of timeless unreality surrounded by a consumerist abundance that makes it easier for the customer to part with their cash. But in Toastmasters we understand that to utilise the time we have to the very fullest brings out the very best in everyone.
This was underscored at the outset of our most recent lovely meeting on the evening of Tuesday, January 21st, in the Grand Hotel by Toastmaster or chairman of the evening, Kieran Connolly, who before performing any other function, introduced by our timekeeper, Frank O’Driscoll, sitting at the bay window, controlling the lights and on cue to ring the bell during the topics session. This is not to induce an anxiety about time but rather to emphasise how much we can say and do and achieve and the enjoyment we can have with brevity and precision and clarity of thought and expression. This essential discipline ensures the lightness and vitality of all of our meetings, managing time in such an effective and balanced way that everyone is given their say and allowed their opportunity to contribute but where no one can monopolise things for themselves. It is the guarantee of fairness, variety and zest that brings personal development and ever great fulfilment.
We were all delighted to welcome back John Quirke from his recent time away and once again we were treated to a wonderful topics session on themes and issues that got everyone thinking, speaking and taking part, all feeling stimulated and enlivened by the eager pleasure of participation. In two bracing topics sessions, we encompassed such subjects as the use of windmills for power generation to the educated guesswork that is long-range weather forecasting, from the quietness of meditation to the ringing quote from George Bernard Shaw who described Ireland as a prison run by the inmates. Here we had everyone getting involved and offering their own ideas and insights on the great and small issues of the day. It is not a debate but rather a sharing of originality of mind and freshness of understanding with the whole meeting, giving everyone something to think about and to take away with them after the meeting is over.
Now an essential feature of any Toastmasters meeting is the halfway tea break when everyone goes to the hotel lobby and relaxes with a steaming cuppa and biscuits for a pleasant and affable chat. This is outside the formal proceedings but yet it is such a huge part of it. For it is a genial interlude and a time of ease, celebrating the pleasures of friendship and conviviality, of social grace and good chat all of which serves to broaden every smile and bring added light and warmth to every heart. There is no greater celebration of the beauty of the spoken word than stimulating and pleasant conversation and no nicer or better people with which to share this pleasure than the affable, genial and most amiable members of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club at their fortnightly gatherings that illuminate our evenings and enhance our lives in the months between September and May every year.
Our meeting was graced by four truly remarkable and fine speeches. Mairead Barry with her warmth of heart and great enthusiasm for knowledge and for life once again brought us to a long neglected subject by telling us something of the life of a very distinguished Fermoy lady, Josephine McNeil, who enjoyed a brilliant diplomatic career, serving as Ireland’s first female ambassador in a variety of major overseas postings. Johanna Hegarty offered what the advanced manual stipulated as a presentation with self-deprecating humour by telling us of a number of hilarious anecdotes of her time working in the pathology laboratory of a major hospital.
Oliver Reilly reminisced of his days working machinery in London in the early 1970s and encountering some rather unusual characters in an ex-servicemen’s care facility in Richmond where one putative pugnacious war hero turned out to have been injured in nothing more adventurous than falling on an icy pavement. James Keating related of love of adventure on the high seas in the style of Master And Commander and finding just that by embarking on the Irish sail-training ship Asgard II which sank off the French coast after having struck a submerged container: a gripping adventure and a lucky escape which we were privileged to share with one of our most welcome new members.
And then the evaluations from John Sherlock, Fanahan Colbert, Eilish Ni Bhriain and John Kelly, with a final overall summation by general evaluator David Walsh, who praised the speakers and the participants for all they had done to weave the rich tapestry of yet another memorable evening of speaking, listening and broadening of mind with quickened interest and flashes of great humour. We can all go down to the sea of life in ships of fine words and well-crafted speeches that are a vivid and engaging delight to listen to. And so our voyage of discovery continues as we look forward to our first meeting of the second meeting of the New Year on Tuesday next, February 4th, at the Grand Hotel, Fermoy. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to toastmastersfermoy.com.