Friends’ ‘Boyhood and Youth’ Centenary Plans for 2013
When the Muirs settled in Wisconsin in 1849, Daniel Muir chose 80 acres of wild land adjoining a lake in Marquette County. The area is still rural and the lake and 120 acres of land is now the John Muir Memorial Park. The nearest town is Montello, the county seat. The Muirs then moved to a new area, Hickory Hill, nearer Portage, which is the county seat of neighbouring Columbia County. Here is a comparison:
County East Lothian Marquette Columbia
Area (sq mi) 262 464 774
Population (est.) 97,500 16,000 55,000
Density (/sq mi) 388 35 67
Town Dunbar Montello Portage
Population (est.) 9,000 1,600 11,000
With the centenary of ‘The Story of My Boyhood and Youth’ coming along in 2013, an exchange of e-mails between Friends and the president of the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir (WFoJM), Tiffany Lodholz, began at the beginning of November. Not surprisingly, the Wisconsin FoJM (www.johnmuir.org/wisconsin/) were also intending to mark the occasion and readily agreed to an exchange of ideas. As well as exhibitions, here are some of the others that were shared:
- linking classes and schools in East Lothian, particularly the Dunbar cluster, and Marquette/Columbia Counties with strong connections with John Muir;
- creating a Victorian classroom in Dunbar Town House and enlisting volunteers to act as teachers (MCHS already has a restored one-room school house that could be used for similar programming.);
- holding a Muir-inspired writing and/or art contest in local schools;
- encouraging readings of ‘A Story of My Boyhood and Youth’ and arranging a readers night;
- creating a shared digital anthology or box about John Muir in Dunbar and Wisconsin;
- encouraging relationships between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Queen Margaret and/or Heriot Watt Universities (or appropriate departments). (Others? – Edinburgh University has a John Muir Building);
- enabling contacts between Dunbar & District History Society (DDHS) and Marquette County Historical Society (MCHS) (there are already links);
- setting up a formal link between Dunbar and Montello at community council level (leading possibly to one between Dunbar and Portage at twinning level).
Other possibilities for Dunbar could be:
- a short series (say, four) of information sessions on John Muir for parents, carers, grandparents, friends, etc, for all the cluster schools, at times which suit (each talk would stand alone e.g. John Muir’s family and growing up in Dunbar (could include his return in 1893); main milestones and influences in Muir’s life; Muir’s literary & other achievements; Muir’s legacy in the US and worldwide – what he has left for Dunbar and Scotland; bubbles to burst – some common misconceptions.);
- how to find out about John Muir for school projects – an information session and or a source sheet of what is where;
- a book of walks in the Dunbar and East Linton area, to commemorate Muir’s life, and perhaps, associated with the book, an annual photographic, art and writing competition;
- a young person’s book of John Muir’s adventures – any writers or illustrators of young folks’ books out there?
- an annual display of young folk’s projects, art work, etc, from John Muir in the primary and secondary curriculum.
- as a family, or adults only, complete a John Muir Award. For more information go to www.jmt.org/jmaward-home.asp
The list is limited only by our imagination (or lack of it!). There have already been positive responses from staff at Heriot-Watt University, Dunbar Grammar School and Dunbar Primary School. Have you any other suggestions? Would you like to help with any of the above? Contact Friends at John Muir’s Birthplace, 126 High St, Dunbar EH42 1JJ, 01368 865899, or e-mail info (at) muirbirthplacefriends.org.uk
 The John Muir Building at Heriot-Watt University houses the School of Life Sciences, which includes the departments of Biology, Marine Science & Environmental Management, and also H-W’s famed International Centre for Brewing & Distilling!