Newsletter No.

15, December 2010
Dear Friends, Well, winter has arrived and even in sunny Dunny we have had snow. Is this a forecast of the months ahead? We will have to wait and see. But the celebration of Christmas is almost upon us and this is something I always look forward to. It will start early with The Friends’ evening of sharing our photographs and memories on 8th December and made even more pleasant with some mulled wine and mince pies.. Finally, if you are looking for that little special something to put in a Christmas stocking, do not forget the gifts available from the Birthplace shop, particularly the Friends ‘Wee Books’. A 10% discount is available to members of Friends on all purchases. May I wish all of you and yours a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year. Yours Aye,
Jim Thompson

Friends’ Christmas Social
Wednesday 8th December, 7:15 for 7:30pm Given the success of the 2009 Christmas Social, we are repeating the format of that event where, in addition to the mince pies and mulled wine, we hope to have a selection of members’ favourite photographs with a short story attached. For further details see inside this Newsletter.

Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace AGM Convener’s Report
Each year I begin my AGM report by stating the aims of the Friends of John Muir Birthplace’s as given in our constitution. These aims are: ‘To advance the education of the public concerning John Muir, as the Dunbarborn 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: • Conducting pre-arranged guided walks for both adults and young people, including groups from abroad, around ‘John Muir’s Dunbar’; • Delivering a programme of talks and other events on John Muir and environmental topics, both within and outwith John Muir’s Birthplace. Examples include involvement in practical conservation with the Dunbar Community Woodland Group at Lochend Woods and another geology walk; • Publishing ‘Walking the John Muir Way’, a guide to the trail along the East Lothian coastline, written by one of our members Robert Russel; • Meeting with people of influence in Scotland in general and East Lothian in particular. Treasurer Will Collin and myself are members of East Lothian Council’s John Muir Strategy Group (JMSG) as are Friends Liz McLean who represents the Birthplace Trust, Jo Moulin as Birthplace Manager and Robert Russel who represents the John Muir Trust. JMSG aims to raise awareness of John Muir, develop educational and other links with the US and promote Muir-linked tourism in East Lothian; • Looking to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the town’s twinning with Martinez in April 2011 and have invited local schools and organisation to participate in this by contacting their opposite numbers. We have arranged discussion meetings to promote this; • Being involved in local environmental initiatives such as Dunbar Woodland Group, ‘Transition Town – ‘Sustaining Dunbar’, beach tidies and other environmental projects; 2

• Providing volunteers on a regular and ad hoc basis to support JMB staff and to promote JMB both locally and further afield; • Issuing on a regular basis our newsletter containing items regarding John Muir, environmental issues and the work of JMB, circulated to members and available at the Birthplace; The number of visitors to the Birthplace continues to increase, coming from all corners of the world, particularly North America and England. Most of these visitors come to Dunbar to visit the Birthplace and no doubt by doing so help the economy of the town. As convener, my name appears at the head of Friends’ matters. However, as always, the work is done by others and I thank the council for their tireless work in promoting Friends and the Birthplace. Susan, who works extremely hard as secretary, Will as treasurer, Birthplace Trustee and the newsletter, Duncan as membership secretary and the newsletter, Liz as Chair of the Birthplace Trustees and Jo who represents the Birthplace and its staff on Friends’ Council. Finally, and most importantly, I pay tribute to the staff of the Birthplace. It is their endeavours that have made the Birthplace the success that it has become, including maintaining their Gold ‘Green Tourism’ award and becoming a Scottish Tourist Board five star visitor attraction. James Thompson, Convener, FJMB 6 October 2010

John Muir Birthplace Trust AGM Report from the Chair

2010 seems to have passed quickly and after a very busy 2009, activity at the Birthplace during the past year has focused on developing our core activities in line with our main objectives. It is worth restating JMBT’s aims which are to • promote knowledge of John Muir’s life and legacy • encourage participation in conservation and • inspire people to follow in Muir’s footsteps 3

This year we have been linking with others to look more broadly at John Muir’s relevance to East Lothian and Scotland. Trustees have been working with East Lothian Council and others to develop a John Muir Strategy that would provide inspiration for a range of developments in East Lothian and further afield. These could relate to economic development including tourism, environmental, cultural and educational issues. Members of the Strategy group are also exploring ideas for celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Twinning of Dunbar with Martinez in 2011 and for marking the 100th anniversary of Muir’s death in 2014 and the John Muir Trust plan to hold their annual members gathering in Dunbar in 2014. Our links with the John Muir Trust have continued to develop during the year. In March, Jo, Adam and I had a constructive meeting with Stuart Brooks, JMT Chief Executive and since then, arrangements have been put in place to promote JMT through the Birthplace, with an offer of joint membership. We were pleased to host a visit of JMT staff to the Birthplace in September and we gave positive feedback about our links as part of the JMT Strategic Review. Partnerships are essential to the Birthplace and apart from the Trust’s constituent members, we have active links with among others, the EL Tourism and Heritage Forums, the John Muir Award, the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez and the US National Park Service, the Sierra Club, Yosemite Valley School, Sustaining Dunbar and Dunbar traders. We were delighted to be reassessed to Gold Standard in the Green Tourism Business Scheme in Spring and then to be awarded Visit Scotland 5 star status as a visitor attraction. Congratulations and thanks to Jo and staff for the work and commitment needed to achieve these awards. The JMB Environmental Policy has been updated and the website details how we strive to improve in a variety of areas. It has been another full year of activity at the Birthplace with regular children’s workshops, exhibitions, guided walks and events. Staff accommodation has moved from the Town House to temporary accommodation in the Tourist Office on the High Street. The refurbished Town House, due for completion mid 2011, will provide much needed Education facilities which will expand the Birthplace’s range of activities. The Citizenship Project for 2010/11, now a regular programme, was launched for teachers in September and Jo continues to contribute to John Muir Award Leader Training courses and JMA events. Visitor numbers have been steady. 4

Other highlights of the year included the launch by the Friends of JMB of another in the series of ‘wee books’, Walking the John Muir Way, written by JMBT Trustee, Robert Russel. We are grateful to the Friends for their continuing support and promotion of the Birthplace, their regular volunteers, events, talks and their ideas for development. This ensures that the centre is embedded in the life of community and the High Street. The development of new interactive game continues this year and although it was anticipated that by now, this would be in place, progress is now well underway with the design for a food themed game. We are grateful to Viridor for their grant of £9,000 towards the interactive and were pleased to be able to host a visit from Dr Ian White, Chairman of Viridor Credits and colleagues in August. There are still the day-to-day issues involved in running the Birthplace and seasonal maintenance jobs have been instructed. We are very grateful to East Lothian Council for their continuing financial grant support that ensures that the core costs of running and maintaining the building are largely secured. Maintaining the building and its exhibits to a high standard remains a challenge and work is underway to resolve a recurrence of the water ingress during heavy rain. And always, the Birthplace’s greatest asset is its staff, who continue to inspire the many individuals and groups whom they encounter both at the Birthplace and farther afield. The comments in the visitor book speak for themselves. I would like to thank them for another successful year; where it would be easy for us all to be complacent, it is clear that there is a culture of continually looking for new and innovative ways to develop the potential of the Birthplace. Finally, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to attend a recent Charities seminar hosted by Turcan Connell and Henderson Loggie, titled ‘The Route to Success – how to steer your charity through the accountancy and public benefit testing minefield’. I am confident that the charitable purposes of JMBT are well aligned with the requirements of OSCR and was particularly interested in the explicit provision of Section 7 of the 2005 Act which includes ‘the advancement of citizenship or community development (including rural or urban regeneration and the promotion of civic responsibility, volunteering, the voluntary sector or the effectiveness or efficiency of charities’. Liz McLean, Chairman, JMBT 5

Dunbar-Martinez Twinning Anniversary, April 2011
After the Muir family emigrated to the USA in 1849, John’s mother and older sisters kept in touch by letter with relatives and friends back in Dunbar. Following his visit to Scotland in 1893, he also corresponded with a number of Dunbar folk but his death in 1914 brought an end the last of these links. Through time Muir was virtually forgotten in Scotland, even here in Dunbar. In the 1960s, a visit from Muir bibliographers Bill and Maymie Kimes led to a plaque being placed on the wall of his birthplace. Then in the 1970s East Lothian’s head of environment Frank Tindall visited California and discovered Muir for himself. On his return, he persuaded East Lothian District Council to take out a lease of the top floor of 126/8 High Street and, with the help of owner Mrs Daisy Hawryluk, a John Muir museum was created. It was while a dialogue was being conducted between the John Muir National Historic Site and East Lothian regarding the setting up of the museum that a twinning link between Dunbar and Martinez was mooted. John Muir had married Louie Strentzel, daughter of a Martinez fruit farmer, in 1880 and from then until his death the town was his home base. His house and part of the fruit farm became the John Muir National Historic Site (JMNHS) in 1964. Dunbar’s John Muir Museum was opened in 1981 and on 18 April of the same year Martinez mayor Eric Schaefer publicly proclaimed Martinez and Dunbar ‘sister cities’. Martinez, with a population of just over 35,000, is the county seat of Contra Costa County in northern California. It lies on the north of the San Francisco Bay Area, 30 miles from San Francisco. As befits a seat of county administration, one of the main sources of employment is local government. However, its major employer is a Royal Dutch Shell oil refinery. It is also transport hub and retail centre. Among the leisure pursuits are sailing, golf, music and walking. The Martinez Bocce Association, with over 1,500 registered players, is the largest in the USA. [Bocce is like boules and a relation of bowls.] In the years since 1981, connections between the towns have been fairly tenuous, largely a trickle of personal visits but recently there has been a considerable increase. In 2004 Dunbar Grammar School began its biennial visits to California through which over 100 senior students and 20 adults have spent time in Martinez. In 2007 Birthplace staff member Pauline Smeed spent 6

a month at the JMNHS in Martinez and this has led to close links between a number of organisations in the two towns. However, the Dunbar-Martinez twinning is a civic link, not simply a John Muir one. There are benefits for many areas of our two towns and surrounding districts, for example in education, cultural exchanges and tourism. Friends are drawing up a list of groups, clubs and the like which have ‘twins’ 5,000 miles apart. At the Dunbar end, each is being invited to make contact with its counterpart in Martinez and a positive response will lead to an exchange of greetings around 21 April 2011. Among those already corresponding are the two Rotary clubs, Dunbar Community Council and Martinez City Council and the schools in the two towns and surrounding areas. If you would like further information or would like to share an idea, contact Friends through Will Collin at Will Collin, FJMB

John Muir and James Geikie – A meeting or a near miss?
For a while I have been compiling a list of Scottish geologists that had some connection, however vague, with John Muir. A note to myself regarding James Geikie (1839-1915) made me look again at him. (Note the dates – many of you will know that Muir’s are 1838-1914!) Geikie was the younger brother of Sir Archibald Geikie, another noted geologist; James succeeded his brother as Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University. Among Muir’s correspondence on the Online Archive of California website,, is a letter from Geikie to Muir dated 1 March 1879. It is likely that there were a number of exchanges but I have only found this one. When Muir discovered Glacier Bay in Alaska in 1880 he named one of the rivers of ice ‘Geikie Glacier’. For which brother, or both? An entry in his journal on 21 April gives the answer, “About noon we discovered the first of the great glaciers, the one I afterward named for James Geikie, the noted Scotch geologist.” Significantly, the younger Geikie was a glaciologist; Geikie senior’s passion was volcanoes!


The possible encounter(s) were many years previously when John Muir was a boy in Dunbar. Geikie’s mother had been born in Dunbar where her parents were a ship’s captain and the daughter of a Dunbar shipbuilder. Although James Geikie had been born in Edinburgh where his father was firstly a shopkeeper and then a musician, he recalled visiting his grandfather in Dunbar on numerous occasions. Dunbar in the 1840s was not such a big place. It is likely that Geikie’s mother Isabella Thom and Muir’s mother Ann Gilrye, both from middle class families, would have known each other, close as they likely were in age. Did the two boys meet on one, or more than one, of Geikie’s visits to Dunbar? I suppose we will never know. Will Collin, FJMB

Walks and Talks
Friends have invested in seat cushions to make sitting listening to talks or taking part in discussions more enjoyable! We usually meet on Wednesday evenings, but following our member’s survey we are trying to introduce some afternoon talks for those who prefer to come out during the day. Christmas Social with Photo Sharing Wednesday 8th December, 7.30pm at John Muir’s Birthplace Following last year’s very successful event, we plan to do the same again! Members are encouraged to show and talk about three of their favourite images. 5 minutes per person! There will also be mulled wine and mince pies. If you wish to be involved, please send your images to Susan Panton at and I will put them all on a memory stick for ease of showing. Meet at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start at JMB. Writing the John Muir Way Sunday 6th February, 2.30pm at John Muir’s Birthplace Back by popular demand! An afternoon illustrated talk with Robert Russel, author of the ‘Walking the John Muir Way’. Robert will talk about the writing of the book and show beautiful images of what you may encounter on the route. Tea and coffee. ‘Walking the John Muir Way’ booklet is available from JMB for £3.50. 8

Merry Christmas from the front line!
12,500 visitors, two major awards, over thirty John Muir and wildlife related workshops, family drop- in craft sessions and several local artists’ exhibitions. Staff at John Muir’s Birthplace have had yet another busy year! Once again we are well underway with our now annual Citizenship project, working in partnership with both the Arts and Drama Service and the Countryside Ranger Service. Since August, thirteen classes have already explored the Birthplace and discovered lots of new facts and stories about John Muir, his life and legacy. We have also seen an increase in school groups from outwith East Lothian and welcomed, once again, groups working for their John Muir Awards through other organisations. Outreach visits are also popular. The Birthplace has participated in Scotland’s Open Doors Day with a ‘lights out’ evening of shadow puppets and stories and supported Prestongrange Museum’s Family Fun Day, with a craftmaking stall. More recently, we have taken part in the BBC’s Turn Back Time project, with a display of ‘Then and Now’ images, both in the Birthplace, and on the BBC flickr site. Over the winter, we will be reviewing our Green credentials, updating our loan boxes for schools and continuing with research. Visitors are enjoying contributing to our new ‘Nature Diary’ so please drop in and record any interesting sightings and we will share these on our website! We can be taken by surprise sometimes as we were in the early autumn when a Canadian gentleman who had Scottish roots revisited the Birthplace and made a generous donation that included a lovely collection of books. In September a group of ‘Redcoats’ called while re-enacting the landing of Sir John Cope on his way to the 1745 Battle of Prestonpans! You never know who or what is going to come through that door! 9

Staff and regular visitors are all looking forward to our pre-Christmas showing of the ‘Knitting the Harbour’ project, when the now famous large 3D model, including local characters, fishing boats, castle and buildings will be on show from 11th December. From mid January you will have another opportunity to see our ‘Wherever a Scotsman Goes’ exhibition, to celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday. We would like to thank all of our ‘Friends’ who support us and our volunteers, and we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! JMB staff

FRIENDS CONTACTS Official address: Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace, John Muir’s Birthplace, 126 High Street, Dunbar EH42 1JJ: tel: 01368 865899 Friends Website: Birthplace Email: Website: Convener: Jim Thompson, Secretary: Susan Panton, Membership Sec: Duncan Smeed, Treasurer: Will Collin. All can be contacted through the Birthplace. 10

GIFTS at JOHN MUIR’S BIRTHPLACE - 10% Friends discount
Friends Publications (buy 5 of the following books and get the Clifftop Trail free) John Muir’s Dunbar – A Town Trail John Muir Clifftop Trail Still Walking the World (Muir quotes) John Muir: Close to Nature’s Beating Heart A Scotchman Comes Home Walking the John Muir Way Handcrafted Gifts Locally crafted John Muir Mug Isle of Skye Soap Fairtraded Goods BeadforLife necklaces and bracelets Recycled Goods Green Glass tumblers and glasses (set of 2) Green Glass bracelets and necklaces Pencils JMB Logo Pencil case Crayons Mouse mats Notebooks Coasters Keyrings Pen JMB logo Cards and Calendars JMT Christmas Cards (packs of 10) John Muir Trust 2010 Calendar JMT Diary 2010 Lochend Woods Calendar Dunbar Community Woodland

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Gordon Jenkinson Prints from £8.00 Assorted blank cards from £1.30 Other Natural Soy Candles Paper Potter Dunbar Calico Bag Celtic connection CD Vol 7 Herber Mooths CDs £3.50 £9.95 £3.45 £6.99 £6.50

Water Clock £4.99


BOOKS at JOHN MUIR’S BIRTHPLACE - 10% Friends discount
A Passion for Nature Cockburnspath Collins Nature Guides( SPECIAL OFFER) Dunbar in Living Memory East Lothian 1945-2000 Stat Acc Vol 1 East Lothian 1945-2000 Dunbar Acc Vo East Lothian 1945-2000 Stat Acc Vol 7 East Lothian Images Green Clean (environ friendly cleaning!) Historic Dunbar JM 8 Wilderness Discovery Books JM His Life and Letters John Muir’s Last Journey Meditations of Emerson Meditations of John Muir Natural Stain Remover My First Summer in the Sierra On the Trail of John Muir The Carrifran Wildwood Story Scottish Farmers’ Cookbook Son of the Wilderness The Green Mantle of Romanticism The Story of My Boyhood and Youth Yearning For the Land Wild Muir 22 Greatest Adventures Children’s Books Breaker My Life With Nature Stickeen Call Him Father Nature The Treasure at North Berwick The Sea Dancer at St Abbs The Pirate Kings of Eyemouth Robert Burns Rabbie’s Rhymes Robert Burns Complete Poetical Works Robert Burns A Life Touched by Robert Burns £6.99 £9.95 £9.99 £20.00 £18.99 £24.95 £2.99 £2.95 £19.95 £16.95 £11.95 £19.95 £10.99 £9.50 £25.00 £20.00 £11.99 £7.99 £7.99 £4.99 £6.99 £7.99 £15.00 £6.99 £13.99 £6.50 £6.99 £7.50 £6.99 £5.99 £6.99 £6.99 £9.99 £5.99 £5.99 £5.99


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