Although we were still only in November, at the latest Fermoy Toastmasters meeting on Tuesday, the 18th, there was more then a hint of the spirit of Christmas all around. The hotel foyer was bedecked with trailing festive garlands and illuminated by two magnificent Christmas trees ablaze with stars and lights imparting a lovely seasonal atmosphere. And this sense of anticipation of a time of joy and celebration gave an added zest to what was to prove a memorably happy and successful meeting.

Our President, Mary Whelan, set a very genial note for the evening with the warmth of her welcome to all members and guests present. Then Fanahan Colbert as toastmaster or chairman seamlessly guided proceedings along with accomplished skill and charm and introduced the speakers to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. A good topics session makes for a great meeting by its ready spontaneity in getting everyone involved thinking briskly and speaking impromptu, bringing to its fullest expression the Toastmaster ideal of participation by everyone – though I should point out that guests are not asked to speak, although are very welcome to do so at the appropriate time if they wish.

John Quirke with all of his vast commitment and engaging style was brilliant in the role of topicsmaster, rolling out a stimulating array of themes wry, humorous, ironic, thoughtful and whimsical which drew a huge and impressive response with eagerness and flair together with a marked proliferation of add-ons as so many wanted to come in to share their views and ideas, their wisdom and insight drawn from the richness of life’s experience. That is what we are all about: the mutual generosity of spirit and the shared dedication to something that we all love doing and which everyone can so hugely enjoy and so enhance their lives.

We then had three very fine and excellent set speeches of great diversity and interest.  One of our new members, Padraig Murphy, delivered a very original and well-crafted talk simply entitled The Telly. Not your usual take on the social impact of the glowing screen that rules the living room nowadays, but rather a journey of very personal milestones through the years with the television set at the centre of every scene. He captured his boyhood excitement of getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch weekend programmes for younger viewers; then took us briskly forward to the evening he came with his fiancé to tell his family of the joy of their engagement punctuated by the add-breaks throughout the favourite soap operas. Then he told us of his Mother’s switching off from television drama with the onset of serious illness, something with which I can readily identify recalling our own dear Mother going the same way. Finally, the wheel came full circle with his sharing his young family’s enjoyment of television today on the ongoing journey of life. All of these episodes were told in the present tense which gave them a powerful immediacy that brought the audience right into the heart of the moment.

One of our best loved members, Eilish Ui Bhriain, gave a beautiful presentation that touched upon something so important when she said that to be alone too much is a sure recipe for gloom and despondency, while coming here to our meetings and looking around the room filled with smiling faces brings great joy and gladness to the heart. Taking on an assignment from the Humorously Speaking Manual which requires the speaker to address a serious topic framed by a humorous opening and closing, Eilish told us of the life of the comic actor and writer, Spike Milligan, born of Irish parents and who fought in the North African campaign during the Second World War. A severe mortar wound left him with lifetime psychological wounds manifested in bi-polar depression, but Spike found salvation and redemption from his inner demons through his power to make people laugh. His comic style and work can still be seen online, much of it marked by a pervasive cynicism tempered by good feeling. Eilish brought something of Spike back to life again for those of us who remember him, while offering a very absorbing informative introduction to those coming to his legacy and achievements for the first time.

Frank O Driscoll used exactly the same template to construct and deliver a very different but highly accomplished speech, taking the old nursery rhyme of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and weaving it so skilfully and adroitly into the huge controversy of our time today that is the whole issue of water charges. Frank identified the issue as one of going straight down the middle: when the Government introduced property tax, they were careful to grade and balance the measure, setting limits on what homeowners would be asked to pay. But the water charges in their original version were a sloppy and ill-judged piece of work, leaving everyone fearing the imposition of enormous bills that they just could not afford. The result was the rebirth of street politics in this country that took on an ugly and nasty turn. But Frank’s presentation was so strikingly light and airy, given with a smiling face and with gentle words and great charm, so very clever and well thought out. This is the hallmark of the true professional, outstanding Toastmaster and brilliant friend that Frank is to us all.

There followed worthy and illuminating evaluations for each of our speakers in turn from Kieran Connolly, Kevin Walsh and Jerry Hennessy, with a very fine overall assessment from John Sherlock. Our very welcome guest speaker of the evening, Michael Cronin of Mallow, gave us a very informative talk on the art of good evaluation, while Area Governor Noel O’Connor spoke of his continued support and encouragement for the club.  The art of enjoyment is the delight of being in Toastmasters. Why not find that sparkling enjoyment for yourself by coming to our next meeting on December 2nd, at the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, on Tuesday evening next, December 2nd, at 8.15 pm.  For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100