Report by: Kevin Walsh.

After a weather-enforced one month break, it was such a joy and pleasure for all of us to gather again at the ever welcoming riverside Youth Centre latest meeting of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club on the evening of Tuesday, March 13th.  The gavel sounded and Club President Kevin O’Neill called proceedings to order and once again we were gladly underway. Having expressed his happiness at seeing a room full of smiling happy faces, control of the meeting for the next two hours was handed over to the Toastmaster of the evening, Johanna Hegarty, who carried things forward with precision, alacrity and grace.  There is a beautiful skill in chairing a meeting and ensuring that everything goes along smoothly and effectively, one of the most essential and rewarding aspects of the craft of Toastmasters and Johanna is in this as in every other respect, an outstanding and shining exemplar.

A good top table always ensures a good meeting, as was most certainly the case on March 13th 2018 with Toastmaster and chairperson of the evening, Johanna Hegarty and John Quirke (right) acting as Topicsmaster, with our esteemed President Kevin O’Neill in the chair. The success of Toastmasters and of all of our activities is not just about any outstanding individual performances – though we are showcase for such excellence all the time – but rather on the fusion and the blending of all the talents and the creative energies of everyone that leads to great achievement and the heights of success.

      Soon we were launched into the topics session where members are invited to speak on any subject about which they have received no prior notification for an initial two minutes with one minute subsequent add-ons. This is always ever so stimulating and expansive, getting everyone to reach into themselves on the spur of the moment and find something new, refreshing and engaging to share and express. All the more so when the topicsmaster is John Quirke who with all of his wisdom, insight and experience brought to us a range of themes whimsical, humorous, profound, light-hearted and original that got everyone actively involved and fostered a lively and scintillating atmosphere.

      For instance Robert Hegarty gave a wonderful account of his recent use of a flight simulator which with his great passion for aviation he found so exciting and fantastic and keenly encouraged us all to check it out for ourselves:  listening to him we truly felt the thrill of shaking off the chains of gravity and seeking to climb above and beyond the clouds in that same spirit of adventure that led the early pioneers to take to the skies.   On the theme that having no charity in the heart is the worst sort of heart disease, Mary Whelan drew lessons from how the country coped with the recent blizzard conditions, the worst of weather bringing out the best of people, with everyone pitching in helping out neighbours and friends in every way they could, concluding by asking why can’t we do more of that all the time and what a better and happier world it would be.   Then too Frank O’Driscoll addressed the issue of there being no sadder sight than a young pessimist, observing so wisely and astutely on how materialism has so pervaded today’s society setting unreachable expectations that make many young people  deeply frustrated and disillusioned, whereas real fulfilment and happiness can be found in the joys of family life and togetherness, from the simplicity of having enough to get by, engaged in satisfying work and from the comfort of knowing that come what may hope forever springs form the human heart.

Club President Kevin O’Neill relaxes with club members after our very enjoyable and successful meeting of Tuesday, March 13th 2018. The chain of office around Kevin’s shoulders symbolises the club’s continuity and tradition spanning almost half a century. But it is not merely a celebration of past achievement but also proclaims our belief in a bright future of great promise.

     Before we rose for our ever pleasant and relaxing tea break, we had three fascinating stage speeches, all of which were framed to a set purpose. Seoirse Neilan took on the persuasive presentation and chose as his theme Ireland’s relationship with the EU in the light of Brexit. He recalled over the years his own strong pro-European stance in every successive referendum and pointed up the bloc’s achievements in free trade, free movement of people and the attainment of the single currency.  But with that doubts have also crept in as the Union becomes ever more complex and compelling, the gap between the European institutions and the people grows ever wider, and the treatment meted out to this country at the time of the bailout was indeed harsh and vindictive. Seoirse stopped short of urging us to follow the British path, but his sounding of a doubting note and a call for more debate on where we are headed in Europe was most timely and cogent. Evaluator Frank O’Driscoll in his assessment spoke of how this thoughtful and well-structured speech had touched on a crucial issue that affects all our lives.

     It is always such a pleasure whenever Eilish Ui Bhriain comes to the lectern, on this occasion taking up the delightful challenge of giving a humorous speech in which she evoked the richness, the community spirit, the colourful characters, the storytelling and the love of Irish language and culture in her native West Cork which she brought alive to her listeners with all of her immense charm and warmth of heart.  And what stories she told us. Like that of the woman who went to confession every week telling the same sin – ‘Father, I committed adultery’ – until at last the priest had to say to her that she must no longer trouble herself about this as everything was forgiven, to which the penitent replied, ‘I know that Father, but sure I love talking about it’.  Or of the time when American visitors were expected and her mother baked a delicious currant cake for them: but while no one was looking the dog made off with it to gratify his sweet tooth.  But all was well for with plenty of great chat washed down by copious glasses of port, the evening turned out a most memorable success.  Evaluator David Walsh later expressed his enjoyment and that of all of us at such a lovely and most entertaining portrayal of great people who knew how to celebrate the true joys of life.

Another view of the March 13th meeting. On the extreme right is John Sherlock, our brilliant Meetings’ Organiser or EVP and timekeeper of the evening who carefully observed the lights and the duration of all speeches and of each phase of the meeting, underlining the emphasis that Toastmasters’ places on the making the most efficient and concentrated use of limited time available. The limitations on time do not act as a barrier however to creativity and participation, but rather serve to clarify and enhance the use of thought, speech and gesture that are interwoven to make the enjoyable, uplifting and memorable speech and impromptu contribution at the topics.

      Fanahan Colbert brought to us the beauty and elegance of the guitar, displaying the instrument in all of its classical style and proportions, its exquisite craftsmanship and that rich mellow sound of string and hollowed spruce that was so pleasing to the ear and satisfying to the soul. Then Fanahan connected up an electric guitar with accompanying speaker, exemplifying one of the greatest post-war musical innovations, born of the genius of Leo Fender, creating that defining sound of modernity at once strikingly confident but also searching for deeper meaning that fills the repertoire of Bruce Springsteen and so many other performing legends of our times.  Having charted the rapid evolution from telecaster through to Stratocaster and beyond, all too soon the presentation of words and music had concluded when we would so dearly liked to have heard more. Evaluator Patricia Neilan afterwards spoke of the positive feeling that flooded the room and said ‘sing us a song next time’:  and so say us all!

     We were honoured by the visit of our Area Director Liam O’ Flynn who rejoiced in the club’s success and whose remarks were ever so encouraging and heartily appreciated. Proceedings were wrapped up so pleasantly by John Kelly as General Evaluator who spoke of having so enjoyed such a very lovely evening and glad of the opportunity to be part of it all. The joy of every meeting is that immediacy and freshness, that mutual friendship and generosity of spirit that makes everyone so very happy and sends us home joyously elated time and again.  And so we hope that you may join us at our next meeting on this coming Tuesday, March 27th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre.  For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.