Dennis Blythe – SDFA President

Hello from very warm central Florida. My names is Dennis Blythe and currently I am your Treasurer for our Scottish District families Association. SDFA is a wonderful organization that provides a number of services to our members and non-members alike. I would like to ask for your support to become your next president.

My wife and I enjoyed the many Highland Games in Florida when we convened a tent for SDFA. The Central Florida Highland Games were the largest and generally drew better than 30,000 in attendance. Smaller, but just as charming were games at St. Augustine and Jacksonville. We even visited with Lew Bowlby one day as he convened the Maine Highland Games.

Sadly, my wife Christine passed away. She loved the pageantry, the games and music but most of all she enjoyed manning the SDFA tent assisting those who came in search of their ancestral surname and its location in Scotland. Seeing the delight in the visitors to our SDFA tent when we found their surname and the district where it was first recorded, also made us smile. I want to continue working for SDFA. I hope you will honor me as your next president.

Covid-19 has thrown organizations like ours for a loop. This pandemic has produced horrendous suffering for many individuals. Organizations like ours are not immune. Games have been canceled along with meetings and gatherings. It would not surprise me that a number of organizations will not survive. SDFA will survive! SDFA will grow!

Judi and I have had long talks about SDFA and its future. It is a bright future and with your help we can establish a more modern infrastructure from banking, meetings, memberships and grow out list of conveners.

Our economy has changes rapidly from a cash society to a cashless society. Few, if any young families carry cash. Plastic is no longer the future, it is now. We have begun using a point of sale debit/credit card reader that can be used with smart phones. This allows us to quickly and easily obtain membership fees. Further, face-to-face meeting during this pandemic is unrealistic. I propose we institute Zoom meetings where all of us can join in. This way we can all meet each other no matter where we live. (COSCA will be holding its annual meeting via Zoom this year). Like me, your involvement is SDFA is a personal choice. You chose SDFA and you should reap the benefits of your decision. With your help, I would like to increase the value of SDFA to you and all of our members. You represent your heritage, your family and district. Let’s work together to improve and grow SDFA. I want to talk to you. I want to hear what you have to say, your thoughts and your ideas.

Lastly, I would like to thank Judi Lloyd for all that she has done to start and grow SDFA. Her tireless efforts are to be applauded. With her help, I hope we can continue to grow our member benefits and to grow our service to all we meet.

A Quarter Century of SDFA

In July of 1996 when I attended my first highland games which happened to be Grandfather Mountain Highland Games a COSCA representative looked up my name and and found it in the district of Dundee. I got the whole story that other members have received about the difference between a clan and a district and was told that COSCA was holding a meeting of people with no clan connection the next day to set up an association for these district people. There were approximately 15 people at that meeting the next day. There had been planning beforehand since there was a name proposed and a logo created. Once it was determined that most of the 15 people there wanted to start such an organization there was an election of officers with Jeff McDaris as president, Homer Pfifer as VP, Judi Lloyd as secretary, and unknown name as treasurer. That initial meeting was the last that we heard of him, so the following year when we had decided on dues and had a constitution Homer Pfifer stepped down as VP and was appointed treasurer. Our first hurdle was getting recognized by games and clans. Some games did not recognize us and would not let us set up a tent since they did not know whether we were a legitimate organization or not. Loch Norman Games was the first one to welcome us and to allow us to march in their parade of Tartans. Other than those games the SDFA at games was run out of a canvas bag in the Clan Hay tent. Still working on getting games to accept us we set up at a few of the smaller games, mostly in NC.

Clan recognition came fairly easily. At every games we went around to each clan tent with a flyer which had been created with the help of COSCA. It is the same flyer that we use at games today to educate people about us. Most clans were glad to see that there was a place to send people whose names had no clan connection. Early on in our history we learned of a couple in the northeast who were convening under the SDFA name sanctioned by COSCA. They came in under the association and so increased the number of games and the reach of the SDFA. A couple of years into the organization of the SDFA there was another shuffle at the top when Jeff McDaris stepped down from president and I stepped up to fill the rest of his term. That was approximately 22 years ago.

We grew fairly rapidly and set up tents at more games and festivals in WY, SC, MT, VA, GA, NY, AL, TN, FL, NH, VT, MA, CT, and ME. For awhile we also had a Canadian convener. We became well known mostly on the east coast and started having games ask us to attend. At one time we had annual meetings at different games each year and enjoyed meeting people we would ordinarily not have met. The meetings stopped after a few years with few to no members attending. We had a handfasting in the mountains of NC at one of our meetings.

We have been the honored “clan” and have attended a festival in Franklin, NC as the honored association. There was a unique parade where 5 young people held a placard of a district. Just before we reached the grandstand the parade stopped and the announcer read the district name and a short talk about the district and then read off approximately 10 surnames of people living in Franklin whose names were found in that district. Another difference at this festival was people associated with clans were sent to us to learn which district the clans occupied.

Our 3 rd goal, having conquered the one of being unknown and the second of being accepted by clan associations, was to have a main SDFA tent with separate district tents alongside it. This occurred in the northeast when Maine convener Rosemary and Lew Bowlby set up the SDFA tent and northeast representatives Janet and David Battistoni set up a Mar district tent. We still have issues with some of the larger games and recognition. We have no problems setting up at the games, but still have not convinced them that the SDFA is a peer group with the clans. Grandfather Mountain Highland Games had a tradition that only clans could march in their parade of tartans. When we were able to financially set up a tent at these games, we did so with the stipulation that we would march in the parade of tartans. It took some politicking and a lot of explaining and educating, but in 2007 the SDFA was the first non clan group to march in their parade. We also were examined by their board and asked to submit our constitution and other information about the SDFA. That information is now used as the criteria for accepting new associations at their games. In 2009 we were recognized by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs when I was invited to an international meeting of 200 clan and association representatives in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament for a convention designed to bring clan associations together with the chiefs to discuss issues and bring forth ideas to increase communications. The SDFA was mentioned in one of the speeches in the main session. A few years ago Grandfather Mountain Games hosted Chief Durie and his Seneschal. They spoke on the need for people without clans and the need for representation at the games. I could hardly wait for the question and answer section at the end of their talk to introduce myself and the SDFA to them.

We are still mainly based on the east coast, but 4 years ago I received a call from Paulette Fowler. They were convening games in Utah and wanted to convene at games for the SDFA. So we made a giant leap to the southwestern part of the U.S.

And where to next?........

Written by Judi Lloyd