My Journey in Toastmasters – The Icebreaker

EMC Ireland Toastmasters Forum had just kicked off and I was there from the start.  Week 2 was Launch Day for me; 15 June 2012, the day I gave my Icebreaker speech. My nerves were rattling and I could have made a milkshake with my shakes. I was beginning to wonder had I made a big mistake? But I took a deep breath and stood up to speak. Traditionally the Icebreaker is when you give some details about yourself.  For me it was a story about a childhood dog and my great-aunt. This is a copy of the speech I gave.

Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests

I would like to share two stories from my life with you.  I was born in Bandon in 1971, a year when Intel launched their first microprocessor, decimalisation came to Ireland and the UK and ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali in Madison Square Garden.  In the midst of such events I grew up with two brothers and one sister on a small poultry farm on the outskirts of Bandon.  Being on a farm meant we always had dogs and cats around. 

One particular dog, Muttley, has remained in my memory to this day.  My parents found him wet and shivering, a spaniel sized mongrel abandoned at the side of the road and they brought him home.  A bowl of water made him run in fear and sight of a broom produced a cringing ball of fur. It was obvious this dog had a bad start in life.  However, we fed this bedraggled stray and prepared a large comfortable blanket lined box for him as a bed. Next morning on opening our back door we found him curled up asleep instead in a small cardboard box the cats used as their bed, with a few kittens curled around him for heat.  As he came to trust us we discovered Muttley was a dog filled with character.  He despised the countryside and was never more excited  than when he got to take a walk into town, strutting along with his stump of a tail wagging furiously, ready to take on the world, and dogs twice his size, once they were safely chained up behind fences of course.

Muttley loved the camera.  This we discovered whilst trying to take photos of a wedding in our garden one day!  We had him safely locked up in a wooden shed but somehow he knew this was no ordinary day and after throwing himself at the door repeatedly he managed to break a hole through and was free!  He headed straight for the wedding party charging in delight up and down the garden and avoiding all attempts to capture him.  He had decided this was his day and he was going to shine.  Muttley was a member of our family much beloved by all and still fondly remembered.

As well as my love of animals, one of my other passions is genealogy.  My father and I have spent over twenty years researching our family tree.  The internet has proved invaluable in the last few years and we now have over 2,000 members on our tree.  One family member I would like to tell you about is my Great Aunt Jean, who survived through many ordeals.  Jean was born in 1890 in Scotland, one of eight children.  Her father Robert was appointed farm manager on Castle Mary Estate in Cloyne, Co. Cork at the turn of the century and consequently the whole family uprooted and moved to Cloyne.

Jean fell pregnant in her teenage years and was sent back to Scotland for the duration of her confinement. She gave birth to a son who was then given up for adoption and Jean returned alone to Cloyne. We discovered many years later that Robert, her son, was tragically killed in a bicycle accident at the young age of 20.  At the age of 21 Jean became engaged to an American soldier who was staying locally.

Arrangements were made and Jean sailed to the States on 7 December 1912, on the Celtic, a sister ship of the ill-fated Titanic. She arrived at her fiancés home to be greeted at the door by his wife and children! Naturally that wedding did not take place and Jean moved on to live in Chicago. There some time later she met and married Charles Fay.

They had twins who died soon after birth and sadly were not blessed with further children. Charles died in 1945 and Jean spent the reminder of her time in Florida. Suffering from ill health in her final years she moved home to live with my parents and grandmother in Bandon.  I remember being walked up our yard at the age of three by her and my grandmother shortly before she died.  Jean’s courage in life despite everything that was thrown at her is a testament to what a person can endure and still survive. 

To conclude Fellow Toastmasters I would like to leave you this thought and quotation; “Every event in life will shape and mould a person’s character.  It is these that make us who we are today.” In “Tuesdays With Morrie” there is a great quote ““Accept who you are; and revel in it.”

This was my first speech of ten and although I was extremely nervous I have to say it was worth it. The exhilaration on heading applause when concluding the speech far outweighed any nerves.

I hope you enjoyed this first speech and I look forward to sharing more with you.

Elaine Beare.

Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare



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