President's Report 2023

Heat. Rain. Mud. Cloudy.

These four weather events seem to be dominating our news throughout these United States. Their impact can be felt everywhere. However, reports from our various conveners, the many Highland Games SDFA has convened, crowds have been large interested in their Scottish ancestry. New members are signing up and and we could not be happier.

Our many conveners are doing a fantastic job. They are going above and beyond in their quest to assist new members and people who are only slightly interested. As any convener will tell you, the majority of people we meet at our tents, at the games, are happy just to find out their surname can be associated with a clan or a district. However, many people want to know even more. If a person’s surname is associated with a clan, they are provided with that information. If that clan is at that game, we at the SDFA tent will direct these people to “their” clan tent. Many clans and associations will also look up names and many will send SDFA those people who seem interested in learning more about “their” new district information. We thank these clans. Because of all this, SDFA is experiencing phenomenal growth. Welcome to everyone who has recently joined.

I want to tell you a little bit of what is going on within SDFA and our Executive Committee. Many discussions are being had regarding the improvement in member service. Discussions center on adding to and improving our members experience related to genealogy, education, media relations and other areas. SDFA is currently in discussions with COSCA (Council of Scottish Clans and Associations) on how we may possibly partner to enhance both those with clan affiliations and those who have distinct affiliations. Both SDFA and COSCA are 501 c3 Charitable Organizations and our missions are quite similar. We, SDFA and COSCA will continue having discussions to try to determine if the cooperation between our two organizations can benefit both of us and the Scottish diaspora here in the USA.

Your Executive Committee is also working on strengthening our infrastructure. Adding to and building upon our current conveners, regional representatives and committee members. In this way, you as a member of SDFA receive as many benefits as SDFA can provide. YOU can join any of these committees. One of the ways we want to improve is to strengthen our conveners by establishing a Conveners Committee. This committee, will have three co-chairs- our regional representatives and Lew Bowlby, a long time convener. I am hoping that this committee working with your Executive Committee will be able to prepare a Convener Handbook which would be a valuable resource for current and potential conveners. Also, this committee would be tasked to be personal informational centers for you! Another committee under consideration is a District Committee. This committee would be tasked to prepare info for the various districts. Perhaps, informational packets.

Also, we can use your expertise. We would like you to become a convener, or help on the Genealogy committee, or media Committee. We would like YOU, if you have this expertise, to assist with our webpage, facebook, or newsletter. Please call me. I would love to talk to you.

See you at the games!

Midyear Report 2023

Hello to you all. I hope you are well.

Some sad news regarding a long time member, Rosemary Bowlby who passed away. Lew Bowlby, a long time convener, lost his beloved wife Rosemary after an extended illness. Lew was the convener that signed me up to join SDFA many years ago. Lew, on behalf of the Executive Committee and myself, please accept our heartfelt condolences. Lew’s address is : PO Box 304, East Wilton, Maine 04234

Many Scottish Games will be going on as the summer progresses and I hope you can all attend as many games as possible. I would ask that you consider becoming a convener. WE NEED YOU! There are many games SDFA is not represented at and that is a shame. Please consider becoming a convener.

I have moved! I have left Florida for Pittsburgh, PA. My daughter and 5 year old grandson moved there so Abi could take a position at the University of Pittsburgh. Hopefully, I will be able to convene games here in Pennsylvania and Ohio. If you can help me, please let me know.

SDFA membership is the largest in our history. However, a few non-renewals are out there. If you have not renewed your membership for 2023, please consider renewing. We have spoken to a few members who stated they simply forgot to renew. I hope that is the case for those who have not renewed yet.

I am keeping this brief but will be in touch again soon. Thank you for your membership. You are vital to the success of SDFA.

Dennis Blythe
104 Laurel Valley Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15229

SDFA Spring 2023

Quite a few things have happened,

First, as most of you know Bill Boyd is our new Membership Secretary and we could not be happier. Bill will be able to answer all of your membership questions and he has become an invaluable member of your SDFA team. Thank you Bill.
Second, the winter/spring games here in Florida have been a mix of good and bad. Some of the bad was weather related and some organizational weakness. Jacksonville reopened their games after a 13 year hiatus. The effort of the new organizers showed. Unfortunately, really bad weather also showed. Saturday, the rains became a deluge and rivers of water flowed into the clan tents. Mud and water became our nemesis. Cars became stuck in the mud and all of the people went home. The clan village was partially destroyed and several of the vendor tents were also destroyed. (THE BEER TENT). Our SDFA tent was “secured “ Saturday night. Nope! When we arrived Sunday morning the SDFA tent was on top of an adjoining clan tent. Much of our materials were destroyed. Fortunately, all of the important materials, books etc., were in sealed containers so were fine. Admitting defeat, we packed up and went home early Sunday morning.

Third. We attempted to partake of the Mt. Dora Scottish games here in central Florida. This event is managed by the City of Mt. Dora. SDFA never received any correspondence or emails, phone calls,or texts even after numerous calls to the City Parks and Recreation Department. We were cheerfully advised, every time, that we would receive a call as to tickets, parking, set up etc.. None ever came until 23 hours prior to the event. An email advising that the clan and association venue was a street. Parking was not available and we would have only a couple of hours to set up before we would have to remove our vehicles. Since the venue was a city street, sandbags would be required to secure our tents. Unable to obtain sandbags on such short notice, I decided it would be impossible to go, so SDFA took a pass and did not show up. I am not aware of anything like this happening before. However, hope springs eternal.

Fourth. This weekend, SDFA we hosted a tent at the Dunedin Scottish Highland Games. This is a wonderful event which the organizers use the proceeds to fund the Dunedin School System with pipes, drums, kilts, rain gear and lessons to every child in their school that wants to become part of their impressive marching band. the weather cooperated and they had a great turnout. We were able to sign up two new members, Kelly Cruz, and the Barry Balmer family. Welcome to you all.

Lastly, and on a personal note, I am selling my home here in Florida and will be moving to Pittsburgh to be with my daughter and grandson as she has taken a position at the University of Pittsburgh beginning June 1st. I have been busy preparing my home to sell and have been unable to contact each of you as much as I would like.
SDFA needs more conveners. I hope you would consider becoming a convener here in Florida or any place that you live. Being able to help people begin their search into their Scottish heritage is very fulfilling and worthwhile. We will provide you with the training, books and other materials along with training to help you get started. Please contact me to learn more.

Dennis Blythe, President
Scottish District Families Association

President's Message 2022

Hello to you all.

2022 was an exciting year for SDFA growth. New members nearly doubled our membership rolls. As such, for the first time in the history of SDFA, we now have a Membership Secretary- Bill Boyd of Marietta, Georgia. With the increased membership, the duties of Treasurer, maintaining membership roll and monies, became too time consuming and since this appointed position of Membership Secretary has always been in our constitution, the time was right. Your Executive Officers want to thank Bill for stepping up. SDFA is growing. You, our members, deserve the finest operating organization possible. With Bill’s experience and commitment, SDFA is well positioned to continue to grow in 2023. And I personally want to thank Diane Strout our Treasurer and Chair of our Genealogy Committee for all of her hard work and professionalism. Without people like Diane and Bill, SDFA would not b able to assist our members. So thank you both.

I attended the COSCA Annual general meeting via Zoom. For your information, COSCA or better known as the Council of Scottish Clans and Association, helped establish SDFA many years ago. Our Past President and Founder, Judi Lloyd would not have been able to establish SDFA without the assistance and experience of many people, including COSCA. SDFA has maintained a membership in COSCA all of these years in grateful appreciation. The AGM (Annual General Meeting) discussions centered around membership retention and growth. COSCA has determined that due to the increased interest in DNA and Scottish heritage, more people are expecting more from their clans and associations. As such, COSCA wants to help facilitate anyone attempting to resurrect a dormant clan or association.

Our conveners had a remarkable year as I stated above. To all of you, your Executive Officers and membership thank you. Your SDFA conveners, Shanks and Cathy Sellers, Isabel Taylor, Janet Battistoni, Catherine Lieberman, Dennis and Paulette Fowler, Heidi and Bruce Thibodeau, Jeannie and Ray Minchak, and myself attended many games and had a blast. BUT, we need more, newer, younger, members to join in the fun. Being a convener is a hoot. You get to meet so many wonderful people all of whom are interested in the very things you are. Being a convener is not hard. It will take up a weekend or two but you determine what games you want to attend. Your Executive Officers and Regional Representatives Janet Battistoni and Jim Gibson will provide you with the training, books, and other resources you might need.
So, come on, call me and stick your toe in. Attend a game near you, try it and see if it is for you. WE NEED YOU!

Please check out our Facebook page and our website. We would like to ask for more volunteers to join the Communications Committee (Newsletter, Facebook, Website). If you have the desire to become more involved in SDFA and this appeals to you, contact me. We want everyone interested in becoming more involved in SDFA to do so. If you like to write short stories, poems, travel articles or anything Scottish at all, then we invite you to contact me and we will try to get you published on our sites.

Everyone is invited to join any committee they desire.(Genealogy, Communications, Convener etc.) We want you. We want your expertise. We want you to have fun.

Finally, please forward your 2023 dues ($15 Single and $25 Family) to Bill Boyd, FSA Scot at 1791 Hasty rd. NE, Marietta, GA 30062. OR you may renew on line on our website.

It is a privilege to serve as your President and I want to hear from you.

Dennis Blythe, President

2021 Recap & 2022 Wish List

Hello to you all,

2021 is over and 2022 has begun. Hopefully, COVID-19 will abate and we can get on with our “usual” lives. I hope and pray you and your family have been spared this pandemic’s wrath.

Soon, you will be receiving your personal ID and unique password to our newly created website’s “Members “ area. Ben Kuhn and Jennifer Fowler have done a remarkable job and the Executive Officers are very happy with its outcome. The Executive Officers have been playing with the website, and as Ben instructed, “Try and break it.” Once the tweaks are all in, the website will be fully operational. Thank you Ben and Jennifer.

Remember to renew your dues for 2022!

2022 appears to be gearing up in terms of Scottish Highland Games and Festivals.

All of these Games and Festivals, in 2021 were either shortened, reduced in size, reduced in number of days they were held, crowds and vendors were limited, went virtual or did not happen at all. Some of the games may never return. 2022, however appears ready to come roaring back. With that, I have a “WISH”.

Due to a number of issues, COVID being tops, the ability to go on the web to find out what games are still on is difficult at best. There are a few websites trying this, but we feel we could provide a unique product to assist everyone. Therefore: Your Executive Officers have been discussing the establishment of a two or three person EVENTS COMMITTEE.

This committee would maintain and update our website list for upcoming Highland Games and Festivals. So far, we have a list of 91 Highland Games and Festivals throughout the United States. This list is NOT complete, but it is an excellent start. The Committee would maintain the list, update the list periodically, and forward results to Ben Kuhns, our webmaster. Ben would then upload it to our website. This information would then be available to the general public as a service.

We need your involvement and help to make this work. Would you contact me if you are interested to learn more. Once this list is up, I foresee a small amount of effort to maintain it. Please contact me.

Once the website is operational, we want to have you, our members, providing short stories, pictures, experiences etc., on a regular basis. Prepare your writing skills!

Have a blessed and Happy New Year. Stay safe. See you at the games!

Dennis Blythe, President
(352) 262-2118

Mid-Year Update

2021 is turning out to be “different” to say the least. Our conveners are busy at the few games still underway. Smaller crowds, fewer clans and associations seem to be the theme this year. The enthusiasm, however, is as high as ever. Our conveners all express their enjoyment and what a great time they had. Highland Games are somewhat unique to the casual event goers but once they come to a game, they are generally hooked.

Everyone that is a current member fondly recalls their first game. Whenever I speak to our members, the sense of pride in the SDFA comes across loud and clear. Janet Battistoni just convened the Maine games with our good friends Heidi and Bruce Thibodeau. Drizzle did not stop them or the crowds that did show up. However, the arrival of storm “Henri” did force an early departure on Sunday.

In other news, longtime member Lew Bowlby has had a fall and injured his right arm and hand. We all hope for a speedy recovery Lew!

Isabell Taylor convened the Grandfather Mountain games in North Carolina and had BLAST. As she explained, the GMHG were FANTASTIC! BEST EVER!

To our members that have not yet become conveners, please consider becoming one today! If you are interested please call me or any of our currently serving conveners. Conveners are a critical piece of our goals to grow the SDFA.

Stay well. The games are slowing down now until the winter when the southern games commence.

See you there!

Dennis Blythe, President SDFA

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