We celebrated a very significant milestone in our season with the annual Humorous Speech and Topics Contest held on the evening of Tuesday, October 9th in the Grand Hotel. On a dark and very wet night, we were joined by very welcome colleagues and friends from our sister clubs in Mitchelstown, Mallow and Charleville for an evening of laughter and entertainment, of gaiety and cheer.
Speeches are limited to seven minutes’ duration, governed by a system of lights operated by the timekeepers – on that occasion, so capably done by Margaret Goggin and Jerry Hennessy – carefully monitoring the stopwatch: green is switched on at five minutes, amber at six, red at seven, after which contestants have thirty seconds’ grace to finish. This is a powerful discipline which obliges participants to be clear in their own minds as to what they want to say, cutting away all that is superfluous and unnecessary; then come to the lectern, make their speech and then resume their seat with the satisfaction born of real achievement. All of our contestants well fulfilled their task within the set time limits with three beautiful and very different speeches that gave pleasure and enjoyment to the listeners.
Kevin Walsh took a whimsical look at that perennial aspect of the human condition – the all too prevalent tendency to broken promises. People failing to turn up, not keeping their appointments, not doing what they said they would do, perhaps the story is best told in a light-hearted and humorous way for it is in the very comedy of life we find the deepest and most profound truths. Then we had Frank O’Driscoll giving a wonderful and timely performance as a mock Seanad by-election candidate that also more than touched on the issue of promise for is there any profession more bound up with promising things and usually not delivering on them but that of the politician?
In his ever winning relaxed and genial style, Frank told of all the amazing things he will do with gondolas on the river and the local hospital will become a centre of excellence for something or another, finally adopting a parody of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ refrain that showed yet again how short is the distance between the sublime and the ridiculous. It was a very well-crafted and funny speech taking a satirical sideswipe at the nonsense and idiocy of so much that passes for our contemporary political culture. Finally, we had a very memorable entry by Johanna Hegarty told with great gusty and exuberance of the comedy of errors, accidents and incidents that buffeted her attempts to embark on a trip to Liverpool, her attempted progress there complicated by near eve-of-departure plumbing leaks and straying cattle among other things, leaving her so tired that indeed the stimulus and enjoyment of her holiday was just what she needed. A truly lovely, markedly animated and human speech that was most entertaining and pleasurable.
After every speech the judges were allowed a minutes’ silence to mark their score sheets with a two minute interval after all the contestants had finished to make their final deliberations. Then to the accompaniment of the tearing off of ballot papers the counters gather the votes which are then brought to a place outside the meeting room where the figures are totted up and a result duly arrived at to be announced at the conclusion of the meeting.
Our second competition of the night was the Topics Contest aptly based on the theme of ‘Laughter Is The Best Medicine’, with another three fine participants: David Walsh, John Quirke and Patrick Kavanagh. With the exception of the first speaker, the contestants leave the room and are called back in one at a time and it is only then they find out the theme to which they are asked to respond impromptu. Each in turn gave thoughtful and witty spontaneous entries, emphasising the importance of laughter in brightening our path through life, warming the heart and offering uplift to the spirit, dispelling the shadows and revealing the joyful vivid colours that surround us. Then it was time for the votes to be counted followed by the tea break, where everyone could relax and chat over a steaming cup of tea or coffee, the air punctuated with laughter and a steady hum of light and genial conversation making for a truly great and marvellous atmosphere of the kind that you only get when friends meet together in relaxed conviviality.
Proceedings were kept moving at a brisk and engaging pace by Fanahan Colbert as toastmaster and genial host for the evening, while Brian O’Farrell made a very welcome return to the club enthusiastically and zestfully assuming the role of topicsmaster at several interludes, with a range of themes encompassing among so much else everything from the privatisation of democracy to the burning of refuse, the reading of books to the lost art of cursing well and the abuse heaped on officials, referees and players in GAA matches, all serving to foster a most engaging and lively atmosphere with everyone thinking swiftly, speaking effectively and so enjoyable sharing the fruits of their unique individual ideas and experience.
Then the winners were announced: John Quirke and David Walsh as Winner and Runner-Up respectively in the Topics contest, with Frank O’Driscoll and Kevin Walsh in the First and Second positions in the Humorous category. Both the first and second-placed speakers go on to the next round of competition, the Area Final in Mitchelstown to be held shortly. We wish them all every success.
Our President, Mary Whelan, thanked everyone for their support and goodwill, praising the great generosity of spirit that alone makes everything possible. And that great spirit of eagerness and readiness to play our part in the name of shared friendship and mutual inspiration can be seen and enjoyed again at our next meeting on this coming Tuesday, October 21st, in the Grand Hotel at 8.15 pm. We look forward to seeing you. For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT