Report by: Kevin Walsh.

t is indeed a very great pleasure to evoke the recent meeting of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club on Tuesday, January 30th.  A truly wonderful meeting, lit up by great humour, a warm and bubbly atmosphere, a great spirit of enjoyment and good cheer with a very large attendance, a truly memorable and delightful occasion, a meeting that makes you so happy and proud to belong to such a lovely and very special circle of friends.

Club President Kevin O’Neill presides over the most enjoyable gathering of January 30th 2018. In this task he was so well and happily assisted by Toastmaster of the evening, Eilish Ui Bhriain and Topicsmaster Tim Fitzgerald.

     Club President Kevin O’Neill extended cordial greetings to all and expressed happiness at seeing the room so full of smiling joyful faces. He then passed control of the meeting for the following two hours to Eilish Ui Bhriain who in her role as chair or Toastmaster of the proceedings from the very first set a welcoming and relaxed tone that animated the entire gathering and did so much to ensure it was the successful and exuberant occasion that it most delightfully was. Just by being her ever charming and pleasant self, Eilish carried things forward gracefully and seamlessly, with geniality, humour and an easy winning style, that fostered such a lovely and engaging sense of occasion.

     There then followed the first of two topics sessions, that phase of every meeting that goes to the heart of everything Toastmasters are all about, the moment for spontaneity and immediacy, for quick thinking and the stimulus of the free flow of ideas and instant contributions that gets everyone actively involved and sharing of their originality and unique perspective on life and experience. The range and diversity of initial two minute responses followed by one minute add-ons is so enriching and inspirational. And that night the topics were chosen by a true master of the art, Tim Fitzgerald, who with his ever affable and easy-going presence and fine-tuned comic sense soon got everyone going and channelled the creative energy of us all with eagerness and a sense of great fun.

      Such a variety of themes ranging from the keeping of New Year’s resolutions, the best places to see and visit in Ireland, the granting of permission to pubs to open on a Good Friday which had many expressing positive sentiments about the move but with some reservations too, seeing a certain diminution of the sacred character of that day while one member spoke of how a Good Friday drink was had about it the sweet taste of illegality!  Thoughts of springtime even in cold conditions brought a lovely contribution from Jerry Hennessy on the lengthening of daylight and the signs of bright fresh growth that heralds gentle pleasures of the garden season.  Frank O’Driscoll spoke eloquently of the peaceful and absorbing enjoyment that comes of stepping back from the frenetic pace of life to savour a fascinating and illuminating newspaper article.

Fermoy Toastmasters gather for their memorably successful meeting of January 30th 2018

    The evening reached its highpoint with some truly outstanding speeches. Johanna Hegarty took on the challenge of reading a speech of historic but still contemporary significance, the inaugural address of President Mary McAleese given in Dublin Castle on November 11th 1997, encompassing so many strands: the deeply-held Irish love of freedom, the sense of community and mutual solidarity, the place in the hearts of those left behind of our emigrants overseas, the longing for peace on our island, the building of a pluralist and inclusive society. Listening to Johanna’s measured and powerful delivery, it was extraordinary that this speech made over twenty years ago could just as well be made today with the same topical relevance. It remains evergreen having lost nothing with the passage of time. Lauded afterwards by evaluator Mairead Barry, who thanked Johanna for her brilliant choice of subject and referred to Mary McAleese as a real woman of substance and – in a striking turn of phrase – as our Lullaby President who had made us dream of all that was best and most generous in the Irish character and where it might lead us.

          It is always worth remembering that no speech delivered at a Toastmasters meeting is left free-standing: every speaker receives the benefit and enhancement of a wise, insightful, positive assessment that is never fully complete without some suggestion for even greater improvement and advancement for the next time. This is a vital aspect of the beautiful art of communication which is all about the interaction between speaking and listening that makes every meeting such a most uplifting and life-expanding occasion that will send you home happy and glad for having been there.

     Humour is always the most difficult genre to take on but Padraig Murphy rose to the challenge superbly with a light-hearted on acquiring a new tractor. . The assignment called for exaggeration and flamboyant gesture as he recalled childhood days when he came to know the different sounds made by every make of tractor that passed outside the school, whether Massey Ferguson, New Holland or John Deere or whatever. Fast forward to a day in the 1980s when the gleaming first new tractor arrived and the initial rejoicing gave way to consternation when many hilarious and well told adventures the machine fetched up in a ditch, its wheels in the air and the mood of the moment brought to life as Padraig fell to his knees and spread out his arms in theatrical dismay. But all’s well that ends well, everyone was alright and the tractor was fine and soon made upright again to begin a long and successful working life. It was such a lovely, airy, comedy-rich speech that would make anyone cast aside their troubles and laugh uproariously, for which Padraig received the highest praise of his evaluator Kevin Walsh.

Every Toastmasters meeting depends on the smooth and efficient management of time, a task that on January 30th 2018, was so expertly and precisely carried through by Timekeeper Fanahan Colbert, in control of the lights and the bells that tell speakers they have used their allotted time. This is vital for in Toastmasters, every participant has their voice and each are given their time, but the Timekeeper ensures that others get their share of time also whether as speakers, evaluators or contributors to the Topics session. The trick is to use the time that is allowed most effectively and cogently to convey your meaning and get your message across. It is a wonderful discipline that concentrates the mind and ensures that everyone is given their chance to be heard, to be appreciated and to enjoy the expansive benefits that active membership along brings to everyone willing to give it a go.

      The strands of the entire meeting were brought adroitly together by General Evaluator Frank O’Driscoll who expressed the shared happiness of all at what had been achieved that evening. For there is nothing so valuable as activities that make people happy and filled with gladness as we all were and as we look forward to being once again at our next meeting on this coming Shrove Tuesday, February 14th, at 8.15 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 toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.