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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Celtic Festival of Southern Maryland

From Left to Right: John Robert Mallernee, Mike Henderson, Tommy Porter

Click on the pictures for a larger view.

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Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

On Saturday 25 April 2009, I attended the annual Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering of Southern Maryland.

This festival is ALWAYS held on the last Saturday in April, regardless of weather, and it is ALWAYS held at Jefferson Patterson State Park and Museum, on the banks of the Patuxent River, in Calvert County, between Prince Frederick and Saint Leonard.

I arrived very early, and thanks to Mike Henderson's generosity, I had a free pass, so I didn't have to pay any admission fee.

Clan Henderson's alloted area was situated between Clan MacDougall and Clan Johnston, which was nice, because Clan Johnston was also our neighbor at last year's Anne Arundel Scottish Festival.

Since Mike Henderson was our convener, and he hadn't arrived, I helped Clan Johnston and Clan MacDougall set up their tents.

At the Anne Arundel Scottish Festival, Clan Johnston's convener and I had enjoyed singing,THUNDER ROAD, together, and this time, as we were working together, I told him about the two Confederate generals named Johnston, which he hadn't known about.

Albert Sidney Johnston was killed in the Battle of Shiloh, but Joseph E. Johnston surrendered in North Carolina more than two weeks after Robert E. Lee surrendered, and my ancestor, Corporal Jonathan Trueblood, who served in the North Carolina Seventh Regiment, Confederate Senior Reserves, was present at that surrender, after having fought at the Battle of Bentonville.

Mike Henderson then showed up, and we went to work setting everything up.

He was a lifesaver, for he brought a great huge ice chest full of cold bottled water and cokes, which all of us were going to need plenty of.

Tommy Porter, who lives in North Carolina, drove in from Alexandria, where he was visiting relatives.

Clan Henderson's tent was, as were all the other clan tents, set up facing the athletic field, so we had an excellent view of the Scottish games.

In the field between the clan tents and the river, there were rugby games.

One of the things I like about attending this festival is the constant sound of bagpipes throughout the day, as various groups or individuals are continually tuning up or rehearsing.

The skirl of war pipes really gets me into the spirit of the moment!

One thing that probably affected everybody physically was the sudden change in the weather, for it was a shock to our systems.

It had been rainy, windy, and colder than normal for the past few weeks.

But, on Saturday, all of a sudden, it was clear, sunny, and blazing HOT!!!

We saw the ambulance cart somebody away.

I wasn't doing too well, either, and wondered if I'd last through the day.

But, those cold drinks supplied by Mike Henderson really helped, and I spent most of the day just sitting in the shade of the tent, strumming my guitar and singing, until I had to quit, because my vocal chords became strained.

When it came time to march in the big parade, all three of us walked over there, while Clan MacDougall volunteered to guard our property, and also guard Clan Johnston's property while he participated.

Tommy Porter and I both had swords, so we carried the Clan Henderson banner, with him holding the banner in his right hand, and his sword in his left hand, while I held the banner in my left hand, and carried my sword with my right, as Mike Henderson walked behind us, centered on the banner.

Having recently studied the United States Marine Corps Sword Drill Manual, which I downloaded from the Internet, I now knew a little more about how to properly march and salute, which knowledge I shared with Tommy Porter.

Russell Henderson told me Clan Henderson uses the British Army Sword Drill Manual, but I haven't been able to find that on the Internet.

It's always impressive to see the massed pipe bands marching stately back and forth, finally halting in front of the reviewing stand.

When using our swords at the festival, we had to be very careful, and make sure nobody was too close to us.

Fortunately, after we were in position, the area around us opened up a little more, so I had sufficient room to perform a proper salute during the National Anthem.

Since I was on the right hand side, and Tommy Porter had his sword in his left hand, I rendered the honors with my sword, while Tommy Porter kept his sword in the "Order Arms" position.

When the National Anthem was over, and the speeches began, Tommy Porter and I assumed the "At Ease" position, due to the unusual heat, and not knowing how long we'd have to stand there.

Fortunately, the chaplain's prayer, and subsequent speeches, didn't take too much time, although I couldn't hear a lot of what was being said.

It seemed like the festival was bigger this year, because more space was needed to accommodate everybody.

However, it also seemed as though all of the clans had fewer participants, for when the clan names were called out, their responses were far more muted than I remember, for there were obviously fewer voices.

The lusty enthusiasm of previous years just wasn't there.

When the massed pipe bands marched away, then each of the clans simply dispersed, without any marching formation, returning to their respective tents.

As the day went on, occasional visitors dropped by, including a couple of Hendersons.

Mike said he signed up Suzie Henderson, and one of the athletes competing in the games was Jeff Henderson, who with his wife, had come from New Jersey.

Jeff won at least one of the competitions (was it stone throwing?), and came close to winning a couple of others.

Since I was wearing my military decorations, I was able to meet several other military veterans, and we compared our experiences and memories of Germany, Korea, and Viet Nam.

A gal who was in charge of the festival (I can't remember the name) visited our tent, and Mike asked her to listen to me sing, THE CELTIC FESTIVAL, which I'd composed.

I think she liked the song.


A group of youngsters gathered behind Clan Johnston's tent, and began practicing their folk songs and playing instruments.

Clan Johnston wondered if that bothered me, and I said no, for I had already strained my voice, and I was so exhausted, and in so much pain, I'd already put my guitar back in my pickup truck, for I just couldn't do any more.

In the past, I would stay to participate in the ceilidh, and go home late at night, but I wasn't going to be able to do that this year.

During the afternoon, Mike and I did enjoy some cooling breezes, which helped a lot.

Being in position to watch the games, we witnessed incredible feats of strength, not only by males, but even FEMALES (Wow! Can you believe it?) would toss the caber, toss the sheaf, throw the hammer, and throw the stone!!!

I particularly enjoyed seeing folks walking around with their dogs, and I even petted a couple of them.

It was also a real treat watching all the young'uns running around playing.

Two little girls, with their mother, stopped to watch the games, and those two little girls were having the time of their lives dancing around and around, so full of joyous energy.

Unfortunately, the day was marred by violence and terror, as we heard the sounds of multiple gunshots emanating from among the crowd.

Yes, it was only historic reenactors, but I kind of had you going when you read that last sentence, huh?

Eventually, Mike noticed other clans starting to pack up, so he and I began taking down the tent and loading up his truck.

We also assisted Clan MacDougall with their tent.

Afterwards, we bid each other goodbye, and I headed out to my pickup truck, although I felt like I could barely walk.

But, once I was seated in the cab, cooled off by the air conditioning, and drinking bottled water (which by that time, was WARM bottled water), I began to feel much better, and headed out to the highway.

Back in the District of Columbia, I topped off my fuel tank, hauled my belongings up to my room, and parked my truck.

Boy, you should have seen the bodacious downpour, accompanied by brilliant bolts of blue lightning!

Once I was in my room, and I could get comfortable again, I ordered a pizza, got a hot shower, took a bunch of pills, and relaxed in front of my television until the medicine could take effect.

What a day it was!

Thank you.

John Robert Mallernee
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am Jeff Henderson We met at the end of the day at the southern Maryland Celtic festival. As it turns out I went home with two gold medals and one silver medal and won the overall competition in points. It was my first competition so I was not expecting it. It was great to meet you even though we only had a short conversation, next time I will come over to you earlier in the day.