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An exhibition of Adams' landscapes and other images of nature are at the City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh, from 9th February to 19th April. This is the most comprehensive collection of his work ever exhibited in the UK, with 150 photographs spanning the 1920s to the 1960s. The exhibition is also accompanied by photographs of Scottish landscapes by Lindsay Robertson. San Francisco-born Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was one of America’s foremost black and white photographers. He and his wife ran a photographic studio, now the Ansel Adams Gallery, in Yosemite Valley from 1935 to 1971. His first book, ‘Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail’ which linked his photographs with passages from John Muir’s writings, played a vital role in establishing Kings Canyon National Park. Adams had more than 20 books published, a number such as ‘Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada’ (1948) containing his images paired with Muir’s writing. We are currently considering the possibility of a Friends visit to the exhibition. The cost will be £4 (£2.50 concession, £10 season) plus transport. If you are interested please contact JMB on 01368 865899 or email Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred day (Mon- Sat).
Dunbar’s John Muir Association
Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace
Newsletter No. 4
Convener’s Letter Dear friends, Our first AGM as Friends of the John Muir Birthplace is now history and my report is included in this newsletter. No new members of council were forthcoming and the office bearers will continue as before. There was a good attendance of members and those who came along were entertained to a first class illustrated presentation by ‘Friend’ and Birthplace staff member Pauline Smeed of her experiences on the staff exchange to the John Muir Historic Site in Martinez. Pauline’s sister lives quite close to Martinez and she included a family trip to Yosemite in her presentation. Details of our winter programme are on the back page. Please come along if you can. Sincerely, Jim Thompson
Winter/Spring Events programme
20th Dec: Christmas Social at 7.30 pm in John Muir’s Birthplace. Feb: Liz McLean talks about time spent at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales. March: Prof Fred Last talks about his long-term study of flowering times. Sun 20th April: Celebrate John Muir’s birthday with a walk along the John Muir Way May: Boat trip to the Isle of May.
AGM Report 25th October 2007
Convenor Jim Thompson welcomed 19 Friends to the Birthplace for our AGM. He reported on events and activities that had taken place during the year including the publication and launch of the new book of quotations ‘Still Walking the World’ and the showing of the Al Gore film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Friends had also been involved directly in JMB as volunteers, conducting guided walks and lecturing on John Muir. Jim looked forward to a new series of talks and outings during the coming year. He thanked Friends members for their support and hard work during the year. Treasurer Will Collin presented the annual accounts. Members agreed that membership fees remain as they are except that the ‘concession’ rate for overseas members is removed because of the increase in foreign postage. Sales of our two books ‘John Muir’s Dunbar’ and ‘The Clifftop Trail’ remained consistent during the year and the new ‘Still Walking the World’ has been selling well. ‘John Muir’s Dunbar’ has almost sold out and a new edition together with a small book on the life of John Muir is currently being put together. Sponsorship is being sought for these. There were no changes to the Council who remain: President - Dan Cairney Secretary – Susan Panton Convenor - Jim Thompson Treasurer – Will Collin
Exhibition of embroidered samplers visits the Birthplace A fascinating exhibition of embroidered samplers will be on display at John Muir’s Birthplace from Wednesday 12th December to Sunday 27th January. Simply Samplers brings together some beautiful 19th and 20th century samplers from museums across the East of Scotland, many on show for the first time in this touring exhibition. Often produced by young children, the samplers give a valuable glimpse into another age. Religious quotes and biblical characters jostle for space with farmyard animals in the colourful designs. Most were produced in homes and schools as a way of learning valuable sewing skills – and keeping their young makers occupied and quiet! Helpfully, the young girls who produced the samplers often signed their work, and added the initials of their immediate family – using black thread if those shown had died. One sampler, dating from 1831, records a family so completely that it was used as evidence by lawyers in New Zealand. They were sorting out the estate of a descendant of the embroiderer, who had made a fortune after emigrating there. There are twenty-four samplers included in the show, many of which were in storage until Autumn 2006, when volunteers including Kirkcaldy Museum’s ‘Sewing Circle’ carefully stitched the samplers onto backings and framed the works so that they can be unveiled to the public. In some cases this is the first time they have been displayed in over a hundred and fifty years! The display also includes a touch screen computer, where you can have a go at creating your own digital samplers - without the hours of careful stitching! To find out more about the samplers, and the exhibition tour, why not take a look at <www.simplysamplers.org>
Membership Sec. – Duncan Smeed Member – Liz McLean The AGM passed the following resolution, proposed by Liz McLean: “Friends of John Muir's Birthplace oppose the proposed waste incinerator at Oxwellmains as: 1. it does not address the fundamental problem of waste generation; 2. it treats the symptoms, not the causes; it does not promote a culture of waste minimisation. 3. waste to energy schemes are more efficient if smaller and local where the residual heat can be used around the plant.
SUSTAINING DUNBAR With an earlier edition of the newsletter, local members received an insert inviting them to a meeting of environmentally concerned individuals. The outcome was the creation of ‘Sustaining Dunbar’, an informal alliance of individuals, groups and businesses from Dunbar, linked by a common aim. Its activities are directed towards reducing the use of non-renewable resources and cutting carbon dioxide emission. ‘Friends’ are well represented with three members of our Council and a number of other members signed up with the group. John Muir has much to say to the modern world regarding global warming, the effects of deforestation and the like. On the first of these, he wrote in ‘Mountains of California’ in 1894, “Every glacier in the world is smaller than it once was. All the world is growing warmer…”. Climate change and dwindling oil supplies are seen as the principle threats to the well-being of people worldwide. Sustaining Dunbar (SD) is part of the Transition Towns Network, a UK wide collection of communities ranging from Bristol on the Severn, Brixton in London and Brighton on England’s south coast to Portobello and Dunbar here in Scotland. SD currently has five subgroups focussing on Energy, Enterprise, Food, Transport and Resource use. Local members are invited to join any or all of them or simply lend your support to Sustaining Dunbar. Contact Mark James at 01368 863162 or Philip Revell at 01368 863211. Wherever you are, you can take part in the ongoing discussion at <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sustdunbar> or by visiting the SD website via the Dunbar Community website which is at <www.dunbar.org.uk> John Muir faced up to the environmental problems that he encountered, taking action that awakened the concern of others. Each of us should aim to follow in his footsteps, wherever we are.
(AGM cont.) 4.
it requires considerable long term financial commitment which will remove incentive for reduction in waste or future innovation.” THE JOHN MUIR WAY
The last link in the John Muir Way has now been completed and it is now possible to walk the East Lothian coastline from Fisherrow in the west to Dunglass in the south. The John Muir Way forms the East Lothian section of the Transnational North Sea Trail which links seven countries around the North Sea (see <www.northseatrail.org>) East Lothian has a distinct and varied coastline with sandy beaches, towering cliffs, harbours and castles and its coast is recognised for wildfowl and waders. The Way is 74 kilometres (km) long, signposted by green fingerposts, and is divided into five sections. Starting from the western end, the first section is from Fisherrow to Cockenzie and is 10 km. Then follows Cockenzie to Aberlady, a distance of 8 km, Aberlady to North Berwick, a total of 15 km and North Berwick to Dunbar, which is the longest at 24 km. The last section runs from Dunbar to Dunglass, giving a walk of 15 km. [Each section is subdivided into shorter walks for those not wishing to walk the full length.] East Lothian Council has produced a leaflet for each section, giving information on points of interest, bird and animal life and flora that can be seen. There is also information on the condition of the pathways etc. and availability of public transport. Copies can be obtained from John Muir’s Birthplace. Incidentally for those who still work in old money, to get an approximate mileage, divide kilometres by 10 and then multiply by 6.
‘See where it all began’
Readers of ‘The Scotsman’ will be aware that the paper runs a regular pull-out feature entitled ‘Recommends’, where reporters and readers give lists of the best . . . in Scotland, ranging from fish and chip shops to castles. On Wednesday 17 October, one of the lists gave the five top birthplace attractions, headed by Burns’ Cottage in Alloway. There at number two was our own John Muir’s Birthplace, wrongly entitled ‘John Muir House’ but with the accompanying information correct. The others in order were Hugh Miller’s Cottage, Cromarty; Carlyle’s Birthplace, Ecclefechan; and the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, Dunfermline. The links among the men – yes! all men – themselves are interesting. Their lives covered the period from 1759 to 1919 with a number of overlaps. The other four all wrote essays on Burns (1759-1796), Carlyle’s perhaps the most famous. Indeed, Hugh Miller (1802-1856) wrote a short novel, ‘Recollections of Burns’ published as part of his ‘Tales and Sketches’, in which he recounted imaginary encounters between a sailor Matthew Lindsay, considered to be based Miller himself, and Burns, at key points in the poet’s life. Miller’s widow received a letter of condolence from Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), later published in ‘The New York Time’, following the geologist/writers tragic death. Carnegie (18351919) gifted a library, the Hugh Miller Institute, to the village of Cromarty. John Muir’s personal library contained 14 volumes by Miiller and Muir named an Alaskan glacier after him. Carlyle also featured in Muir’s collection of books, all 34 (!) volumes of his collected ‘Works’ and a volume of his essays. But Carlyle’s links with Muir also extend through such as Emerson and Thoreau for he was the transcendentalists’ ‘guru’. (cont.)
STRENGTHENING LINKS WITH MARTINEZ In our spring edition, ‘Friend’ Pauline Smeed, one of the permanent members of staff at John Muir’s Birthplace, told us of a month spent with her counterparts at the John Muir Historic Site in Martinez, California. As a result of Pauline’s efforts, links with Martinez, Dunbar’s first twinning partner, have been strengthened and are continuing to grow. Now ‘Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace’ are in regular contact with the John Muir Association (JMA) in Martinez. Although older, JMA is in many ways similar to ‘Friends’. It was founded in 1956 to preserve John Muir’s former home in Martinez and assure its transfer to the National Park Service (NPS). That was achieved in 1964, 50 years after John Muir’s death, when US President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation making Muir's former home a National Historic Site. Now JMS works with NPS to preserve the building and grounds, and to interpret the life of John Muir. Friends have extended an open invitation to JMA members to come to Dunbar if they are visiting the UK. They have been asked to extend the same invitation to the people of Martinez generally. Already the steady flow of tourists from America to Dunbar includes a slow trickle from Martinez. Most of our American visitors have included Dunbar on their itinerary because it is the birthplace of John Muir and leave with a very favourable impression of our town. We hope that the numbers will further increase. Travel to and from California has never been easier, quicker or cheaper and perhaps an exchange visit can be arranged in the not too distant future. [JMA’s newsletter is ‘The View’. Do you have a view on what ours should be called? Ideas, please, to the Birthplace.]
CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT THE BIRTHPLACE Enclosed with the UK mailing of this newsletter is a ‘flier’ giving the stock of books and other items on sale at John Muir’s Birthplace. It may contain some ideas for Christmas gifts or ‘stocking fillers’ – and there is the added bonus of a 10% reduction for Friends before the end of January. For those of you within easy reach of the Birthplace, pay a visit to check out what is on offer – remember to take the flier to qualify for 10% off. For those of you further afield, you can check out the availability by phone (01368 865899) and arrange to have items put aside for collection. [It may be possible for items to be posted to those of you too far off but the full cost of postage would have to be borne by the purchaser.] FUTURE ISSUES BY EMAIL? Friends can arrange to have future issues of our newsletter delivered by email, thereby making a small contribution to conserving resources – less paper, fewer letters, etc. If you would like to be added to the emailing list, contact Duncan, our membership secretary, at <email@example.com> FRIENDS WEBSITE Currently a new Friends website is in the process of being produced. Although the old DJMA site is still on the web it is out of date. We apologise for this and will inform you as soon as our new website is up and running.
(‘See where it all began’ cont.) Links between Carnegie and Muir were established when the industrialist visited California in 1910. John Muir was a guest at a dinner in Carnegie’s honour in Pasadena. However he was also in a small party that accompanied Carnegie to the Wilson Observatory to which Carnegie had donated $250,000 and the following day went with Carnegie to a lunch hosted by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. The two Scots-in-exile became occasional correspondents, their final exchange in 1914. Carnegie, by this time the world’s foremost philanthropist, sent Muir a copy of his essay on ‘Apprenticeship’ and Muir’s letter of thanks, dated 22 January, concludes “How strong you must be and happy in doing so much good, in being able to illustrate so nobly the national character founded on God's immutable righteousness that makes Scotland loved at home, revered abroad! Everybody blessed with a drop of Scotch blood must be proud of you and bid you Godspeed. Your devoted admirer, John Muir” The phrase in ‘bold’ is from Burns’ ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’! Readers of John Muir’s works will be aware of his enthusiasm for the poems and songs of Scotland’s bard. Indeed he turned to Burns following his wife Louie’s death in 1905 and an essay on the poet on 25 January 1906 was one of the first serious pieces of writing since his bereavement. (Carnegie also sought consolation in Burns during periods of depression.) Less well known perhaps is how the lives of the five men, each a world figure in his own right, are bound together. As John Muir wrote in ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
Left: One of the many samplers that will be on show in John Muir’s Birthplace during December and January
Right: Some of the participants in the ‘Photo Challenge’ workshop organised recently by the Birthplace staff.
Below: Some of the children who took part in the ‘Scoochers’ workshop proudly display their handicraft.
Below: One of the many excellent photographs taken by children during the ‘Photo Challenge’ workshop.