My family and I had had just moved from California, and I was going stir-crazy with nothing for me to do. So, when I found out that a neighboring county was hosting a Scottish Festival… well, to say that I was excited about the prospect of attending would be an understatement. The event was being handled by a local group called the Celtic Heritage Alliance; a relatively new non-profit corporation that, fortunately for me, was closing out opportunities for becoming a founding member — so I sent in my application and fees, and paid for my gate entry as well. But the best was yet to come.
Now, I don’t want to detract from all the great attractions and activities this festival had to offer (and they were many –to be sure) but most of my focus was about to change in a direction other than what I originally planned. You see, I had no idea that I was going to run into a tent that was hosted by the family line from which my paternal Grandmother sprang; the tent of house of Maxwell sponsored by the Clan Maxwell Society. This was the same organization that I so eagerly joined less than two years before. And there it was right in front of me! I had traveled over 3000 miles — up, down, and across the continental United States to enjoy my first encounter with another of my clansmen.
I stepped forward and introduced myself to the gentleman before me, then told him I was member of the Clan Maxwell Society; my membership pin being easily seen on my collar. Waiting for his response, I looked over all of the clan related items on the tables in front of me, happy that I could show at least some small amount of pride as a member (not having a proper kilt or its trappings). Phil Johnson, who I would find out later was the Alabama Commissioner, greeted me with a worm smile and a firm handshake, and treated me to many quick-witted conversations throughout the remainder of the day. Not only had he been a pleasure to speak with, but he had shown himself to be immensely knowledgeable in all things Scottish and clan related.
That said, somewhere during one of our many discussions I mentioned that I had spoken to Jim Maxwell (a previous society President) and offered assistance in several possible areas. One such area was that of website programming. Jim suggested that I consider speaking with the current webmaster. Sadly, I did not pursue that at the time. However, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Phil was, in fact, that person, and that he had voiced an interest in finding someone to help out with the site. Well… our discussions continued up-to and through the Southeast Alabama Highland Games held in Dothan a few weeks after Panama City. The rest, as they say, is history!
As stated in one of my Facebook posts, “I had a Blast on March 4th! Here I am with Philip Johnson, the Clan Maxwell Society’s Alabama Commisionar, enjoying the 25th Annual Panama City Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Florida. It was an amazingly beautiful day. The only drawback… I forgot to wear a bonnet to protect my bald head! Yep! its sunburned!”
— Tony Damigo, Co-Webmaster