Newsletter No. 12, December 2009
Dear Friends, Welcome to the latest issue of our newsletter. The AGM was held in October and details are included. I gave a resume of the year’s activities, Will presented the accounts and your council was re-elected, there being no other nominations. The meeting concluded with Will Collin’s most interesting story of John Muir’s return to Dunbar – and to Scotland – in 1893. I hope you all saw Will have his five minutes of fame on STV’s programme on the Greatest Scots. We were delighted that STV had included John Muir for this programme. Will was interviewed walking in the John Muir Country Park telling some anecdotes of Muir’s early life in Dunbar and Cameron McNeish of the John Muir Trust then spoke of Muir’s legacy and importance to the modern world. I trust you all voted. 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 five books. A 10% discount is available to members of Friends on all purchases. A Happy Christmas to you and yours and a peaceful and Prosperous 2010 Sincerely, Jim Thompson
AGM Report The 2009 AGM was held on Wednesday, 14th October 2009. Jim Thompson presented the Convenor’s report (see separate account). Will Collin, Treasurer, presented the annual accounts (see separate account). It was unanimously decided that subscription levels should remain the same apart from Overseas memberships. All Overseas subscriptions will be at the Family rate of £8 to cover postage. Members will continue to be encouraged to receive newsletters by email. William Dempster was thanked for auditing the accounts and unanimously appointed auditor for next year. Will commented on the growing success of the Friends of JMB books. The following members of the Council were re-elected: Dan Cairney, Jim Thompson, Will Collin, Duncan Smeed, Susan Panton and Liz McLean. During A.O.B. Liz Mclean as chairperson of JMBT thanked Friends for their active role through talks, guided walks and books to raise the profile of John Muir and JMB. Jo Moulin, JMB manager also thanked Friends for their supportive role during the past year. Jim Thompson thanked all for attending and closed the meeting. To finish the evening, Will Collin gave a very interesting talk on his methods of research for the book and exhibition A Scotchman Comes Home. Susan Panton, Secretary 14 October 2009
AGM - Convener’s Report 2009 Each year I begin my report by stating the aims of the Friends of John Muir Birthplace’s as stated in our constitution. This year is no different. Our 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; and to implement John Muir's philosophy practically by conserving, restoring and enhancing landscape and wildlife in East Lothian and Scotland’. 2
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 (JMB). Examples include involvement in practical conservation with the Dunbar Community Woodland Group at Lochend Woods, a geology walk along the Clifftop Trail, and a talk on eradicating the tree mallow on Craigleith and Fidra Island to help the puffin colonies there. • Publishing a new edition of John Muir’s Dunbar, written by David Anderson, and Will Collin’s book on the return visit of John Muir to Dunbar and Scotland. • Taking part in ‘Homecoming Scotland’ by leading twice-weekly guided walks around John Muir’s Dunbar during the summer. • Meeting with people of influence in Scotland in general and East Lothian in particular. Treasurer Will Collin and myself are involved in East Lothian Council’s John Muir Strategy Group which aims to raise awareness of John Muir, develop educational and other links with the US and promote Muirlinked tourism in East Lothian. • Being involved in local environmental initiatives such as Dunbar Woodland Group, ‘Transition Town – ‘Sustaining Dunbar’, beach tidies and other environmental projects. • 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. We participated in the launch of the John Muir Odyssey, a Birthplace ‘Homecoming’ initiative, with 'The Big Picnic' on 21 April. Children from Dunbar Primary School took part in a 'get back to nature' treasure trail. The children were also treated to some drama from our president Dan Cairney and myself, who posed as John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt respectively, explaining to the children how the first national parks were established in the USA.
Last year, I advised members at the AGM that the Birthplace had been nominated for a prestigious award from the John Muir Association in California. I am delighted to say that the 2008 John Muir Conservation Award for a Non-profit Organisation went to the Birthplace. Manager Jo Moulin travelled to the States to accept the award. The number of visitors to the Birthplace continues to increase, coming from all corners of the world. We had many distinguished visitors this year, not least HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay. Perhaps not as illustrious but just as important to us were Garrett Burke, designer of the California Quarter, who came with his family, and Larry Downing, a past president of the Sierra Club, who was accompanied by his wife. As convener, my name appears at the head of Friend matters. However, as always, much of 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. Jim Thompson, Convener 14 October 2009
AGM – Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Will Collin reported on another successful financial year for Friends. Our chief source of income comes from the sale of our growing list of ‘wee’ books. There are now five for sale, available at East Lothian libraries, the Seabird Centre at North Berwick and Dunbar’s tourist information office, as well as at the Birthplace. Sales have grown steadily over the years and in 2008/9 totalled £1,804. We are indebted to honorary member Winifred Sillitto for the extremely generous donation she made to enable the publication of our new edition of John Muir’s Dunbar. 4
Thanks are also due to Jo Moulin for arranging the finances for A Scotchman Comes Home, the story of John Muir’s only return to Dunbar and Scotland, in 1893. Timed to coincide with Scotland’s Year of Homecoming, it shows that even in this Muir was ahead of the game. Elsewhere in his report, Will revealed that membership was up slightly with many members including a donation with their subscriptions. Donations of £100 were also received from patron Prof Fred Last and former members Mike and Paula Bridges, now resident in London. Sales of the ‘California quarter’ were £100 for the year; just when stocks were almost exhausted, quarter designer Garrett Burke gifted 80 more on his visit to the Birthplace during the summer. Bank interest was an almost negligible £10.99. Expenditure during the course of the year was of two main kinds. Firstly there were the administrative costs, largely for posting the newsletters. Members are encouraged to let us know if an e-mail copy will suffice*. Overseas postage in particular is hefty with four mailings costing more than a year’s ordinary membership. Again e-mailing solves this problem but for anyone abroad wishing a paper copy the AGM agreed that overseas membership would have to be increased to £8, the same as family membership. Secondly support for the Birthplace during the year has included the provision of a new noticeboard, available for local groups to use, and two lockable storage cupboards, mainly for materials for kid’s works. Will Collin, Treasurer 14 October 2009
Trek the Pyrenees - from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean In November Alistair Mackie treated us to a very interesting talk on his arduous trek across the Pyrenees from Hendave near Biarritz to Banyuls Sur Mer on the Mediterranean coast. Highlights included camping at 9,000 feet surrounded by majestic mountains and reaching his destination accompanied on the last leg by his wife Diana. Alistair covered most of the ground alone, but was joined by fellow hill-walker John Meldrum for part of the journey. Due to isolation of parts of the trail Alistair frequently carried a large amount of water and supplies. We were given a demonstration of a water filtration system, which enabled Alistair to clean water from a cattle trough! Alistair raised £1,074 for Cancer Research and a further £90.35 was donated at the Friends evening.
Photo: Alistair Mackie trekking the Pyrenees [one of the excellent photographs enjoyed by Friends in Alistair’s illustrated talk]
Birthplace News Come and See! You are most welcome to come along and have a look at what the children attending workshops at John Muir’s Birthplace have been up to this year. Displays will range from our papier mache Cairngorm National Park complete with walkers and skiers to a Kittiwake model and a Biodiversity Banner! There will also be craft activities for children and their families to enjoy. The display of work starts on 16th December and will continue until the 8th January. Friends are especially welcome to come along to the ‘opening’ on Saturday 19th Dec when coffee and mince pies will be served. Photo: Cairngorm National Park in papier mache!
2010 Exhibitions Our exhibition programme begins in January with a series of three exhibitions produced by local artists. Out There, presented by inArt will be on show from 13th January to 14th February. InArt is a core group of professional artists from various areas of Scotland, who aim to promote contemporary art to as wide an audience as possible. Seven artists will participate in this project. Reflecting the pioneering spirit of John Muir, the artwork ranges from Donald McKenzie’s ‘Altar’, which makes reference to the voyages of Saint Columba to ‘Space Capsule’ by Cathy Bell. Other pieces take into account what is actually out there in the universe – elements of the natural world - which fascinated John Muir from an early age.
Photo: Artwork by D McKenzie In mid February Dunbar artist Jim Callow will present his own works on John Muir. Jim has enjoyed researching John Muir’s life and legacy and discovering the richness of portraits and images available in collections from California. The exhibition will run from 17th February until 14th March. Wednesday 17th March will see the opening of our third exhibition by local artist James Page. Like Jim, James has exhibited several times in Dunbar and works in a distinctive style. This, the last of our three short exhibitions, will finish on 11th April. Watch out for further news of our Summer exhibition programme!
John Muir – A Great Scot: Update As mentioned in the last newsletter, John Muir had been included in the list of nominations and featured in this major STV series in November. STV viewers were able to vote for the person they thought was the Greatest ever Scot. And Robert Burns was duly revealed as the winner on St Andrew's Day and will be commemorated forever in a major new work of art. The STV website http://scotland.stv.tv/greatest-scot - has details. Although it’s disappointing that John Muir didn’t win, there is little doubt that Muir would have approved of the outcome given his love of Burns’ poetry. [Editor’s note: details of Muir’s nomination can still be found using the http://tinyurl.com/stv-great-jm link.] 8
Friends Next Wee Book Walking seems to be growing in popularity among those with a bit of free time and energy to burn. Recognising this, a whole network of walks, short and long, easy and arduous, have been created. Probably the longest is the North Sea Trail, really a series of coastal walks that will eventually link together seven countries bordering the North Sea. Apart from sea crossings(!) it will be possible to walk from the north of Scotland to Norway. East Lothian’s contribution, the John Muir Way, is from Musselburgh in the west to Dunglass in the southeast, a distance of 45 miles (73 km). Supplies of leaflets describing the six sections are virtually exhausted and there are no plans for a reprint. Recognising an opportunity, Friends member Robert Russel volunteered to put together a wee book which would take their place. [Robert is a retired teacher, keen walker and trustee of the John Muir Birthplace Trust.] A funding package has been put together, with inputs from Scottish Natural Heritage, East Lothian Council and a number of Community Councils along the Way. Robert has written the text and is collecting illustrations; Emma Westwater of Source Design has started on the design work. There are still editing, proof-reading and a myriad of other jobs to be done before this book rolls off the printer’s press. All being well, the John Muir Way guidebook will be available early in the new year. At 60 or so pages and costing £3.50, it will be a welcome addition to Friends growing library.
Newsletter Delivery by E-mail Many thanks to those members that have already given permission for Friends to e-mail them copies of the newsletter in future. This permission was given in response to a flyer distributed in the last newsletter, the text of which was: “In an effort to save trees, time and money on postage it would help greatly, and save the charity a substantial proportion of its membership costs and overheads, if as many members as possible would kindly e-mail Duncan Smeed at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Friends of JMB” in the subject line. Thus giving your permission for us to e-mail you information (and newsletters) of future Friends of John Muir Birthplace events. We would then be able to minimise the information we send by post. Duncan Smeed, Membership Secretary 9
Walks and Talks Programme Early 2010 The next two events are as follows: Wed 3rd Feb
Dunbar Community Woodland Group An illustrated talk with Convenor Isabel Knox JOHN MUIR’S BIRTHPLACE, 7.15pm
Wed 3rd Mar
John Muir and Faith An illustrated talk with David Anderson OUR LADY OF THE WAVES HALL, DUNBAR 7.15pm
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: www.muirbirthplacefriends.org.uk Birthplace Email: email@example.com Website: www.jmbt.org.uk Convener: Jim Thompson, Secretary: Susan Panton, Membership Sec: Duncan Smeed, Treasurer: Will Collin. All can be contacted through the Birthplace. 10