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The meeting of the Fermoy Club on Tuesday, November 12th, was one of the very best and most entertaining to which I have ever been. A great and memorable night of fun and enjoyment and illumination with all of us expanding our horizons by sharing in something that we love doing, finding out something new about ourselves every time and pooling our creative energies and talents, wisdom, insights and humour to make such a very happy occasion.

Our Club President, Jerry Hennessy, calls the meeting to order and bids fond welcome to so very many dear friends as well as new members and welcome guests who have come to join us for an evening of brilliant atmosphere that is truly inspirational. On his shoulders he wears the chain of office with pride and dignity, that powerful symbol of continuity with an accomplished past of more than four decades adorned with the names of all his predecessors in a tradition of promoting personal growth and enhancement of life for all members and participants that stretches far into an endless future. Every meeting is a celebration of life and about going forward in a spirit of optimism and hope.

This is never a game of solitaire, for the glory of the craft of Toastmasters is that we can only give of our very best as individuals by working together in mutual support and encouragement. Each has their own unique voice and gets their chance to speak – the meeting gathers to listen to what we all have to say. Fresh ideas and personal renewal are brought forward by taking a full and active part in all the club’s activities. We all need constantly to learn and improve by receiving positive feedback and support, and here the club supplies the ideal self-learning environment where we are all joined together for our enjoyment and to the making of better life.

Our toastmaster or chairman of the meeting, Oliver O’Reilly, with his ever pleasant and relaxed style guided proceedings seamlessly along and fostered a conductive atmosphere for an outstanding topics session from Frank O’Driscoll who once again proved himself such a great master of the art of getting people to speak impromptu. It’s not so much what you do but the way that you do it. Frank went to the lectern and straightaway proved that the spoken word is not the only direct means of communication between people, for you can say so much that is kind and generous and beautiful in a warm, friendly smile that comes from the heart as he brilliantly did that night.

In his easy and affable manner, Frank presented to the meeting a range of topics humorous and yet subtly thought-provoking with a winning lightness of touch that elicited a huge and varied response from the audience, with a record number of add-ons so full of zest and enthusiasm – subjects ranging from the poor we shall always have with us while the broke still have hope; to the issue of how do you relax; the ultimate Nanny State spend in the UK of £200 to encourage mothers to breast feed; the man in a Dublin pub who reportedly swung a crutch at Bertie Ahern and the delights of the great personal ritual that is shaving.   These and so much more had everyone thinking, speaking and contributing,  their minds racing ahead with uplifting ideas and expansive sentiments, peals of laughter resonating around the room, making for perhaps the liveliest, the most animated and very best topics session we have ever had.

The effervescence and often comic nature of the topics session was well-balanced by three set speeches that touched on the more serious side of life, but in all cases in a positive and hopeful way. Mairead Barry read from an essay by early African-American civil rights activist Belle Hooks describing the role of women in the struggle for freedom against discrimination and oppression by building homes of security and warmth for themselves and their children where they could dream of being free, imparting the wisdom of life and a sense of values that insists on rights and respect. Read with grace and conviction, this was a fine and very illuminating presentation from Mairead who always takes us to somewhere rather unexpected and vividly compelling. Eilish Ni Bhriain told us with compassion of an Irish family whose son emigrated to Australia, leaving behind hardship and difficulty, to make a new and far better life and whose expected homecoming visit some years later was awaited and looked forward to by everyone with great joy and anticipation which turned to dismay and trauma when the news broke of a fatal air crash from which nothing could survive except the healing promise of undying love.

Finally, Kevin Walsh spoke on an aptly chosen theme of war and remembrance evoking the memories of the veterans of the Great War and their example of heroism and self-sacrifice, then carrying forward to the more recent savage conflict in Northern Ireland, of the witness of forgiveness offered by the late Gordon Wilson pointing the way to the building of a civilisation of goodness which reminded us that eventually hatred and bitterness gives way to the timeless power of the human soul yearning for peace. All of these speeches were so astutely and well evaluated by David Walsh, John Quirke and Kieran Connolly, with a very fine and all-encompassing overall assessment from our general evaluator, Joanna Hegarty.

Believe it or not, but our next meeting will be the penultimate of the current pre-Christmas season. This is a wonderful time to share in the happiness and cheer of Toastmasters by coming to our next meeting on Tuesday evening next, November 26th, in the Grand Hotel, Fermoy, at 8.15 pm. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to