Newsletter No.

26, January 2014

AGM 2013: Convener’s Report ............................................... 2 By Ferry To Alaska .................................................................. 6 John Muir’s Birthplace Museum – News ............................... 7 Dunbar Primary: What we love about living in Dunbar........ 7 John Muir in Makars’ Court .................................................... 8 Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaque ........................... 9 John Muir at Scottish Book Festivals.................................. 10 John Muir International Artist in Residence ....................... 10 School to School Link Likely................................................ 11 A John Muir Graphic Book Project ...................................... 11 The John Muir Way................................................................ 12 Friends of John Muir Country Park ..................................... 12 Report of John Muir Country Park Advisory Group........... 13 Membership News ................................................................. 13 Friends Social Event
Wednesday 15th January, 7:15 for 7:30pm Given the success of previous social events, we are repeating the format of that event where, in addition to the refreshments, we hope to have a selection of members’ favourite photographs with a short story attached. For further details see inside this Newsletter.

Annual General Meeting 23 October 2013
Convener’s Report It is customary to begin the Convener’s report by stating the aims of Friends of John Muir Birthplace (FoJMB) as given in our constitution. These aims are: to advance the education of the public concerning John Muir, as the Dunbar-born pioneer of world nature conservation, and his belief in the unique and irreplaceable value of wild places and wild creatures; to implement John Muir's philosophy practically by conserving, restoring and enhancing landscape and wildlife in East Lothian and Scotland and supporting the work of the staff of John Muir’s Birthplace. Over the past year we have continued to further these objectives by: • Delivering a programme of talks and other events on John Muir and environmental topics, both within and outwith John Muir’s Birthplace (JMB). • Issuing on a regular basis our newsletter containing items regarding John Muir, environmental issues and the work of JMB, circulated to members, available at the Birthplace and online on the Friends website1. • Liaising with people and organisations of influence both locally and nationally. Including: John Muir Birthplace Trust; John Muir Trust; VisitScotland. • Being involved in local environmental initiatives such as the Dunbar Woodland Group, Sustaining Dunbar and Friends of John Muir Country Park. • Providing volunteers on a regular and ad hoc basis to support JMB staff and to promote JMB both locally and further afield.



At the AGM I gave a presentation about the events and initiatives that Friends have either instigated or have been involved in over the past year. Full details of these have been given in the newsletters published during 2013 and the archive of all past issues is available via the FoJMB website2. The highlights of the year include: • Will Collin giving a talk about Muir at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow • The Friends’ Photo Sharing social event on 20th February • Story of My Boyhood and Youth Anniversary in March o There were readings from SOMBAY in Dunbar Primary School with pupils dressed in period costume. Stenton Primary School also marked the event at their Friday assembly on 22nd March. o Dunbar Parish Church and other Dunbar churches sent greetings to churches in Marquette County, Wisconsin, where the Muirs settled, in time for 15th March. • Helping the Friends of John Muir Country Park to plant hundreds of trees on 20th April • Muir’s 175th Birthday Celebration and Book Reading on 21st April • Dunbar Civic Week – A Dunbar Conversations meeting on 19th June about the John Muir Trail Way • Dunbar Primary School – Artist in Residence: Ross Combe over a 5week period in April/May • Annual Sand Sculpture Competition on 10th August • Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the John Muir Birthplace Museum on 23rd August • Reinforcing links with Marquette County, Wisconsin by involvement in: o From the Old World to the New Exhibitions o Scottish Diaspora Tapestry • Reestablishing links with Meaford, Ontario – an initiative by Stephen Bunyan, Chairman of Dunbar Community Council, and supported by Friends



One of the most distinguished visitors in 2013 was Allison Chin, the current President of the Sierra Club, arrived in Dunbar on Wednesday 1st May specifically to visit the Birthplace Museum. The ‘welcome party’ included John Hutchison, President of the John Muir Trust, John Thomas, JMT trustee and chairman of the John Muir Birthplace Trust, Stephen Bunyan, Chairman of Dunbar Community Council, Councillor Norman Hampshire, ‘Friends’ Will Collin and Jim Thompson and Jo Moulin the Museums Officer for John Muir’s Birthplace. Allison was fulsome in her praise for the birthplace and said she would spread the word on her return to the USA. Visitors like Allison Chin come from all over the world and no doubt by doing so help the economy of Dunbar. Comments in the visitor’s book of the past year make for wonderful reading. For instance: • The first entry in May: This has been a “destination” for many years. Lovely & inspiring. Thank you from Sierra Club President. • Second time here, awesome and inspiring. [California] • Awesome! Really made my heart melt ! [Colorado] • Informative & absorbing museum extremely well set out. [Perth, Western Australia] • John Muir was total unknown to me but after this visit and talking to the nice people, John Muir aspiration for the nature is even more important these days. Merci. [Paris] • Beautifully done. Greetings from Yosemite, California. • Lovely museum. As a Californian I am delighted to see this tribute to John Muir. • Best museum. [Wisconsin] • Fabulous exhibit. [San Bruno, California] • The best summary of John Muir's life I have seen - a great man whose work has made a big difference to my enjoyment of nature! • Very moving, beautiful, an informative excellent presentation. Wonderful reminder for a former NPS employee @ Sequoia Natl Park The success of the Birthplace is due, of dedication of the museum staff and, also, voluntary basis. Their heroic efforts have ‘Green Tourism’ award and the Scottish attraction status. course, to the hard work and the Friends that help out on a maintained the museum’s Gold Tourist Board five star visitor


I would just like to this opportunity to highlight some of the future events that will be happening in 2014 – the Year of Homecoming3 - that have John Muir (and/or Friends) as the major theme: • 17-26 April 2014: John Muir Festival4 • 21 April 2014: Opening of the John Muir Way56 • 27 July 2014: 20th Anniversary of the foundation of DJMA • 29 September 2014: 20th Anniversary of the public launch of DJMA • 24 December 2014: 100th Anniversary of Muir’s death At the last AGM Kevin Addies stepped down from Council and on behalf of us all I’d like to express thanks to Kevin his valuable contribution to the aims and objectives of Friends during his time on Council. I am pleased to report that Council member Alison McGachy has recently returned to Friends ‘duty’ having returned from her ‘world tour’ as a volunteer for a number of children and animal welfare charities. FoJMB will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014 and it has been a highly eventful two decades and much has been achieved. Next year is shaping up to be another very busy time and in order for Friends to continue to flourish in order to pursue its aims, I would like to encourage our members to consider standing for Council and/or to volunteer on a ‘project-by-project’ basis and to help to ‘recruit’ more members. Finally, on behalf of the membership I’d like to thank all my fellow Council members - past and present - for their tireless efforts in promoting Friends and the Birthplace. Best wishes for 2014. Duncan Smeed

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By Ferry To Alaska,
A brief account of the presentation I gave at the Friends AGM Following in Muir’s footsteps from California Sandra and I travelled by train, boat and bus to the north end of Vancouver Island and took the British Columbia ferry up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. From there a ferry of the Alaskan Marine Highway, their equivalent of McBraynes, took us to Skagway calling in at Ketchikan, Wrangel, Petersburg and Juneau - Alaska’s capital. We were very lucky to enjoy blue skies and bright sunshine everyday enabling us to enjoy the landscape and scenery to the full. Beyond Ketchikan it was as if we were sailing through the Alps with snow-capped mountains, ice fields and glaciers on either side. No wonder Muir was excited by what he discovered. I said a little about the Landscapes, the Local People, Native Peoples, Wildlife and the Forests, illustrating each with a few pictures we had taken along the way. Our photographs recorded the Landscapes without doing justice to them while the piece on Local People reflected their love affair with small boats and fishing along with their determined attachment to the land around them. The Native Peoples, the historical local residents, were represented by both beautiful artefacts from the past in a handsome museum in Prince Rupert and by some of the modern investment in local workshops and retail that they have developed. Distant sightings of whales along the seaways and three encounters with bears all from inside our vehicle were the main Wildlife experiences until we were lucky enough to observe at close range a family group of humpback whales repeatedly bubble netting in the sound off Juneau. Both dramatic and moving, we were privileged to witness this. And lastly the forests, that is the old forests of which sadly there are few left. But when you were in them they had a very special, timeless atmosphere, like walking into an ancient world. Wonderful. John Thomas, Chairman, John Muir Birthplace Trust 6

John Muir’s Birthplace Museum – News
The John Muir Birthplace Museum shop is stocked with its usual wide range of books and gifts. Don’t forget that Friends are entitled to a 10% discount! The pre-Christmas sales saw 2014 calendars and diaries sell out! Given the number of John Muir inspired events – such as the John Muir Festival - that are due to take place in 2014, sourcing a diary or calendar elsewhere may be a wise investment to help make sure you don’t miss any of these events!

Dunbar Primary: What we love about living in Dunbar
On display at the John Muir Birthplace Museum over the winter season is an exhibition of artistic works by Dunbar Primary pupils. The exhibits highlight the pupils’ thoughts about what John Muir loved about Dunbar in his day, and compared it to what they loved about living here now. Pupils then created some displays about their own favourite things about Dunbar including the Woods, Friends and Family, the beach, the swimming pool and East Links Family Park.


[The next 8 articles have been contributed by Will Collin. Thanks Will! Ed.]

John Muir in Makars’ Court
At the beginning of 2013, John Muir Birthplace Trust chairman John Thomas and Birthplace manager Jo Moulin submitted a request for a commemorative stone to John Muir to be placed in Makars’ Court in Lady Stair’s Close where the Scottish Writers’ Museum is housed. There are already 37 writers commemorated in stone as diverse in time and style as 14th century poet John Barbour and 20th century novelist Muriel Spark. The Museum is dedicated to Burns, Scott and Stevenson but housed an exhibition on Muir from April to September 2003. It seemed straightforward. The reply received suggested otherwise for Muir’s nomination was rejected. The letter received from Edinburgh Museums and Galleries agreed he was a “towering figure ... However, Makars' Court is dedicated to Scottish writers and poets who are principally known as such, rather than people from other professions who may also happen to write extremely well about their principal subject.” It was suggested that an approach be made to the Royal Botanic Garden but Muir’s contribution to botany has already been recognized there by the John Muir Grove. In any case, what was Muir’s principal subject? In 1911, he described his occupation to a reporter in Buenos Aires as “tramp” adding he had been one all his life and was “still good at it”. But the truth is that, apart form the early years of his marriage when he managed the Strentzel fruit farm, from 1872 to 1914 his main, and often his only, source of income was from his writings. He was good at that as well for among the honours bestowed on him in later life were honorary degrees from four US universities – M.A. from Harvard in1896; LL.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1897; Litt.D. from Yale in 1911; and LL.D. from the University of California in 1913. Harvard’s Master of Arts suggests that the reasons for the award were not scientific. Wisconsin’s award was for a combination of literary and scientific achievements. In 1918, Wisconsin dedicated a bust of Muir placed on a knoll in the University’s grounds – again the citation is for both the sciences and arts. So Makar’s Court/Botanical Gardens should not be an ‘either/or’, for Muir’s contribution was multi-facetted. Yale have an honorary Doctor of Science degree that they could have awarded, yet chose to recognise his literary contribution. The American Academy of Arts and Letters (1898) made him one of its first members, although he was also made a member of the Washington Academy 8

of Science and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. John Thomas rose to the challenge and argued the case robustly and persuasively. and eventually sense prevailed. The second application was referred to the Saltire Society sub committee responsible for vetting nominations and they recommended acceptance. There was still one little twist, for the decision was reported in the media at the end of October but nobody informed John and JMBT officially until 25 November. Still, a John Muir flagstone there is to be, carrying the quotation “I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness” which Muir had included in a letter to Jeanne Carr from Yosemite Valley in 1874. The likely cost for the production of the flagstone and its installation is £2,090 which will be underwritten by JMBT. Friends have already pledged £500. If anyone wishes to make a personal contribution please send a cheque made out to ‘John Muir Birthplace Trust’ to The Treasurer, JMBT, 126 High Street, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1JJ.

Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaque
This annual Scheme was launched in August 2012 by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop. It is based on London's blue plaques scheme, founded in 1866. Scotland’s version is designed “to recognise the contribution of recipients to Scottish society through the erection of a plaque on their home where they lived, or the building that was particularly synonymous with their achievements”. The theme for 2013 “is inspired by ‘The Year of Natural Scotland’ celebrating Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty and culture”. As John Muir has been one of the key figures in ‘The Year of Natural Scotland’, it seemed ‘natural’ that he and his birthplace be nominated. A form was duly submitted on behalf of the John Muir Birthplace Trust. A few days later a Historic Scotland reply was received which began, “Congratulations. Your Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaques Scheme nomination has been successful.” Could it be so simple? Further reading of the Historic Scotland website7 suggested that celebrations will need to be delayed. A more detailed application has now to be submitted and a panel of experts will decide on the list of those chosen. So fingers crossed!
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John Muir at Scottish Book Festivals
John Muir made two appearance at this year’s Lennoxlove Book Festival where leading British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington gave the inaugural John Muir Lennoxlove Lecture. His 1 November talk focused on his special relationship with Scotland’s mountains and wild places, and the importance of maintaining the natural beauty of the Highlands. In the children’s section, storyteller Tim Porteus from the John Muir Birthplace Museum (!) “brought to life Muir’s book My Boyhood and Youth”. At the Wigtown Book Festival, focus was on John Muir’s ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’ at an evening event on 1 October. Discussing the book’s qualities were British writer and feminist Sara Maitland, Glasgow University’s Dr David Borthwick and Muir expert (?) Jenni Calder. The advertising blurb for the even, sponsored by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, stated, ”John Muir is known as the father of America’s national parks and saviour of its wilderness. Shortly after arriving in the US in 1869 (sic), the expat Scot spent a season tending sheep in California’s Sierra Nevada. His account of that time fascinatingly shows the origins of his passion and ideas.” [Lennoxlove is an estate a half mile south of Haddington, East Lothian, and family seat of the Duke of Hamilton. Wigtown, in Dumfries and Galloway, in Scotland’s south west, is known as the country’s ‘book town’ and has hosted a book festival for 15 years.]

John Muir International Artist in Residence
At the beginning of 2013, Creative Scotland announced a series of residencies as part of their contribution to the Year of Natural Scotland. The programme was established “to inspire some of the world’s best creative minds in the worlds of arts and science to share their knowledge and to deepen our understanding of Scotland’s extraordinary natural assets”. On 21 April, Japanese sculptor, Ueno Masao, was “named as the inaugural John Muir International Artist in Residence, established to celebrate the life, work and legacy of the great Scottish writer, explorer and naturalist”. In August Masao began his residency in Dumfries and Galloway to develop new work and deliver a number of public events and master classes. His work “combines the latest digital technology with traditional craft techniques”.


School to School Link Likely
With the new school session well underway another attempt has been made to set up a class link between Dunbar Primary School and Forest Lane Community School in Montello, the country seat of Marquette County, Wisconsin. The Muirs’ Fountain Lake farm was in Marquette County and a ‘sister city’ link was established between Marquette and Dunbar and East Linton District earlier this year. If the tie-up goes ahead the pupils involved will be 9-10 year olds, primary 5 in Dunbar and grade 4 in Montello. John Muir features in the curriculum of both stages, As a first step, Dunbar teacher Pauline Melvin and Julie Dahlke in Montello will exchange ideas to decide on the format that the link will take.

A John Muir Graphic Book Project
As reported in the last newsletter Education Scotland has chosen John Muir to be a nominated figure in Scottish Studies and funding for the publication of a graphic book telling of the life of Dunbar’s most famous son has been secured. Author Koren Calder and graphic artist Bill Goldsmith have completed a draft version of the John Muir graphic book. During the course of its production the two went to a number of secondary schools including Currie Community High School on the outskirts of Edinburgh to get comments. The book is aimed at 12 to 15 year olds (S1 to S3 in secondary school). The aims are “to raise awareness of our natural environment, and encourage young people to become more actively involved in protecting and enhancing our wild places – in the spirit of John Muir.” The book is being described by the Scottish Book Trust and the sponsors Scottish Natural Heritage and Creative Scotland as a ‘graphic novel’ that gives artistic licence to change the Muir story a bit. Copies of the draft were sent to Friends Pauline Smeed, David Anderson and Will Collin and to Tracy Robertson of ELC Museums Service for correction and comment. The book should be available for 21 April 2014 and each secondary school in Scotland will be given a free class set.


The John Muir Way
Work is proceeding apace to have the new version of the John Muir Way ready for 21 April 2014. No decision has come Friends ‘way’ regarding the name for the unused part of the original John Muir Way, i.e. the part from Dunbar to Dunglass, although the ‘East Lothian Coastal Path’ or similar has been suggested. The original John Muir Way is an integral part of the North Sea Trail, or Nortrail, which links 26 partner areas in 7 countries around the North Sea: Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The new John Muir Way, which used to be known as the John Muir Trail, links Dunbar and Helensburgh on the Firth of Clyde “sparking awareness of the local landscapes and wild places along the route”. The route is being developed by Scottish Natural Heritage8 with support from a range of partners in the Central Scotland Green Network, including East Lothian Council.

Friends of John Muir Country Park
FoJMCP had their last ‘last Saturday of the month’ volunteering session of 2013 on 30 November. It was the dreaded foot-stomping of horses’ hoof marks on the salt marsh on the landward side of the dunes along Belhaven beach. The marsh is a very fragile environment and is out of bounds to horses and riders who should obtain a permit from East Lothian Council to access the park. Sadly, despite the best efforts of ELC Ranger Tara Sykes and others, some riders ignore the rules. Damage over the year is considerable with the future of rare plants such as saltmarsh flat-sedge and strawberry clover under threat. The dunes and the salt marsh together also provide a summer home for meadow pipit, lapwing, sand martin and skylark, the last one of John Muir’s favourite birds. Although common when he was a boy, it now features on the RSPB’s endangered species list. Evidence suggests that the bird population generally in this part of the Park is in decline, perhaps due to the frequent disturbance caused by passing horses, especially during the nesting season. If the damage to the salt marsh is not halted, ELC as the land manager may find themselves in trouble with Scottish Natural Heritage, the national conservation agency, and be forced to prevent any access to this area.
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Report of John Muir Country Park Advisory Group
A meeting of the Advisory Group was held in October; I attended this on behalf of Dunpender Community Council. Ranger Tara Sykes gave an illustrated interim report on the year’s activities. Site maintenance included litter picking, clearing fire sites, dealing with entrance road potholes, new treads on the “bridge to nowhere’, thinning trees in the plantation, and removal of large beach items with a borrowed Gator vehicle. Over the year 20 volunteer and school groups attended, as did outdoor learning, there were five summer events, monthly work by Friends of John Muir Country Park, also work by Surfers against Sewage, individuals, and 63 hours completed by Community Service people. Surveys and monitoring; 5 plant species were monitored, there were 8 active sandmartin nests, 741 kittiwake nests, butterfly transects were carried out, a tern fence erected (to enclose an area of beach where they might breed), and horse riding was monitored. Invasive species were also controlled, namely buckthorn, rosehip, pine seedlings, pirri pirri burr, japanese knotweed and giant hogweed. Safety in the park was also considered; Seafield pond water quality has been good, throwlines and telephones are checked regularly, and old fencing removed. Dog fouling is still an issue but most owners act responsibly. Finally the John Muir Festival next April was discussed, as was the possible escape of prairie dogs from the Family Park (any sightings in JMCP should be reported to the Ranger), and the importance of tern conservation efforts in the Park will be stressed as being part of John Muir’s ideals. Robert Russel

Membership News
Friends Social Event with Photo Sharing Wednesday 15th January, 7.30pm at John Muir’s Birthplace
Following on from similar very successful events in the past, we plan to do the same again! Members are encouraged to show and talk about three of their favourite images. 5 minutes per person! Refreshments will also be served! If you wish to be involved, please e-mail your images to and these will put into a presentation for ease of showing. Meet at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start at JMB. 13

Membership Renewal Reminders
October is one of the two months – the other is April - when membership renewals often fall due. Due to an oversight renewal forms were not included in the October newsletters for Friends who had taken out their membership on an annual basis and whose renewals are not automatically paid by standing order. Apologies for this and for those affected a renewal from will be included with this newsletter. Friends’ Council hopes that the initiatives, events and publications that are produced to help promote Muir’s life and work and that support John Muir’s Birthplace have been of interest to the membership. If our records show that your membership is due for renewal then a subscription form will be included in this newsletter mailing.

Online Delivery of Newsletters
Following last year’s e-mailed ‘mailshot’ to all members that had supplied their e-mail address, a significant number of Friends have opted out of receiving paper copies of the Newsletter and now read the online version9 instead. This is a significant saving since the production and delivery cost of the Newsletter is now a substantial proportion of the membership subscription – especially as the cost of Royal Mail delivery was increased recently. If you still receive paper copies of the newsletter and would like to opt out of receiving paper copies in the future then please do let us know.

FRIENDS CONTACTS Official address: Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace, John Muir’s Birthplace, 126 High Street, Dunbar EH42 1JJ: tel: 01368 865899 Friends Email: Friends Website:


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