With a name conjuring up images of a breakfast toast maker I was somewhat surprised to find that Toastmasters is a convivial gathering of people, young and not so young, all eager to improve their communications and interpersonal skills. The occasion for my enlightenment was an open night two weeks ago at the local Toastmasters meeting in the Carlton Abbey Hotel. My invitation came courtesy of my youngest son’s paramour Amanda, whom I jokingly refer to as ‘the Essex girl’. I was just one of several invitees that night and no doubt like me they all enjoyed the experience of sharing in the delightful atmosphere which prevailed that night in what was once the refractory of the Sisters of Mercy convent.
The welcome greeting which met each of the visitors that night was just the start of a genuinely friendly encounter with a group of enthusiasts which more than anything else made for a memorable night. The formality of the meeting belied the friendly and cheerful atmosphere. The handing over of the gavel signifying the passing of control of the meeting was just one of the formalities of the night, while reference to the Sergeant at Arms conjured up images of military rather than verbal engagements.
I could see how the well organised Toastmasters meeting can and does help the members to build confidence and skill in public speaking and the overall impression I came away with is of a group engaged in a worthwhile project aimed at helping the individual within the community.
Another open invitation extended to the general public last week was to view the new Community College building just beyond St. Joseph’s Terrace. Constructed over a relatively short period of time the new college building is a wonderful facility containing in addition to the usual classrooms a quite enormous sports hall and a raked auditorium suitable for use for many community related purposes. We have been most fortunate in Athy to have so many new schools provided over the last few years, the Community College being the third such facility to be located at the Tomard side of town in the space of just two years. The Gael Scoil is going strong in its new building, while St. Patrick’s Boys School is soon expected to have, in addition to its recently opened school, a further building extension which will permit all its pupils to be brought together on the one site.
With the opening of the Community College I am reminded that the town got its first sports hall following the demolition of St. John’s Hall when the former Dreamland Ballroom was purchased by the Lions Club and the Parish of St. Michaels in the late 1970s. Since then the local Gaelic Football Club opened its own sports hall in the mid 1980s, while Ardscoil na Tríonóide had a sports hall provided a few years ago. The young people of the area are now literally spoiled for choice when it comes to indoor sports facilities. Hopefully those in charge of these halls can agree on a user plan which will help maximise the benefits to the local people while ensuring that each sports hall is used to the best advantage of students, members and the local community at large.
Paud O’Connor, whose photographic shop in what used to be Granny Evans house in Offaly Street, continues to display an ever changing array of interesting old photographs. One such photograph is that of a Kildoon Gaelic Football team of the 1940s. Five of the players have been identified and as numbered are:- (1) Jack Nolan, (2) Mike Carroll, (3) Patsy Farrell, (4) Matty McCormack and (5) Jim Deering. Patsy Farrell who died over 20 years ago was a grand uncle of Dessie Farrell, the former Dublin footballer who now leads the Gaelic Players Association. Can anyone name the other members of the Kildoon team of 65 years or so ago?