Dear Spa Speakers,
Marina O’Callaghan was an instrumental figure in founding Spa Speakers and kindly shared her account of how our favourite club got off the ground back in 2004. Thank you Marina, we continue to benefit from the great legacy you left us!
The Spa Speakers Committee.
Getting things off the ground
Towards the end of 2003 Martyn Tilson spoke to me about starting a Toastmasters club in Leamington Spa – which would be the second club in the Midlands. He asked for my help and also Tim Windsor-Shaw’s and we were both happy to oblige. At the time I was serving as Area 7 Governor and Martyn was the Division E Governor, and we shared a passion for bringing the benefits of Toastmasters to a new audience.
The team that made it happen
We asked for the support of members of the other Area 7 clubs, which were all in Oxfordshire – Oxford Speakers Club, Bardwell Speakers, Ridgeway Speakers and the recently-chartered Bicester Achievers. Tim Windsor-Shaw (Bardwell) helped to publicise the two demonstration meetings and Paul Holmes (Bicester/Oxford), Sheila Lee (Oxford), Simon Wallis (Oxford/Heart of England), Ben Jackson (Bicester), Rita Sandford (Heart of England)and others gave their support by undertaking various roles at the demonstration meetings and attending regularly afterwards, even though this involved 100-mile round-trips for some of them. For this I was eternally grateful because my main role was to manage the meetings’ programme and start a mentoring system, and the goodwill of these Toastmasters made my job easy and enjoyable. It became a short-term role for me because Carla Alves da Silva, an experienced Toastmaster, joined the club and I handed the baton to her. Since we didn’t have enough experienced Toastmasters in the club to act as mentors at the start, new, inexperienced members mentored other new, experienced members very successfully – proven by their rapid progress in speaking and leadership roles.
A record-breaking start
As far as I am aware, Spa Speakers holds the record as being the quickest to officially charter as a Toastmasters club in District 71 – a record I attribute to the hard work and goodwill of everyone who helped but especially to Martyn, whose determination never wavered. I attended meetings regularly for two years and now visit about once a year.
A fantastic legacy
I am immensely proud of the club’s achievements and very humbled by it. This success is due to the fantastic committee members who lead by example, nurturing the members to achieve excellence in speaking, listening and leadership skills – skills which are the backbone of a successful Toastmaster and club. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International, would be very proud of you all! BRAVO!
Marina O’Callaghan DTM