Junk Music

For Dunbar Civic Week, John Muir’s Birthplace and Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery are delighted to present JunkMusic (sponsored by the Dunmuir Hotel), played by JunkMan – Donald Knaack from Friday 21 – Sunday 23 June.

The Junkman™, percussionist/composer, and environmentalist Donald Knaack is the original recycled materials percussionist. He’s the Daddy of Eco-Beat, following in the footsteps of his mentor and collaborator, John Cage, by creating music and cutting-edge environmental awareness that transcends all styles and genres. His much-acclaimed concerts and interactive Junkjams™ impart timely messages regarding the health of Mother Earth, cultural tolerance, and how our personal behaviour affects other people’s personal space and rights.

In his music, The Junkman™ fuses the avant-garde with head-moving ear candy, and rhythmic muscle to form an irresistible edutainment experience!


Over the course of Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, there will be a combination of Concerts, Workshops and Make and Take sessions led by JunkMan, aimed at both individuals and families. Numbers for each session will be limited and can be booked in advance through John Muir’s Birthplace at prices from £3 for a single ticket and £7.50 for a family ticket.


  • Interactive Concert Performance: An odyssey of highly original music with diverse styles of influence and great grooves. The Junkman™ performs on his rack of over 60 re-used materials and culminates the show with a Junkjam™ where the audience gets to join along in making music.


  • Make-& Take: A chance for children and parents to make a high-quality recycled materials percussion instrument with The Junkman™ and then take it home.


  • Interactive Eco-Workshop: Explores the basic science, math, and technology principles utilized in Junk Music™ and relates them to the environment. This workshop is interspersed with an interactive Junkjams.


Further details can be obtained by calling John Muir’s Birthplace on 01368 865899 or email

Happy Birthday John! (and John Muir Way)

It is a very special weekend here at John Muir’s Birthplace, in addition to it being Easter, when we get to consume our bodyweight in chocolate, it is also John Muir’s 181st Birthday AND the 5th Anniversary of the opening of the John Muir Way. Triple excuses for cake!

On Sunday 21 April, John Muir’s Birthplace Charitable Trust will sign a concordat with the John Muir Way Partnership agreeing to promote the John Muir Way as:

“An outstanding coast to coast route across the diverse landscapes and rich heritage of central Scotland; easily accessible and attractive to local people, businesses and visitors, and providing opportunities for all to increase understanding of John Muir’s legacy and philosophy through getting close to nature”

Immediately following this, Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace will celebrate the opening of their new exhibition John Muir, Writer. (More cake – can you see the theme?)
Following this we would recommend walking part of the John Muir Way (well you have had all that cake), and if you make it all 134 miles remember to claim your certificate from us or Helensburgh Leisure Centre!

To find out more about walking the John Muir Way, check out the website or to find out about wider events across the John Muir Birthday celebrations check out Alternatively you could try out some of the John Muir Trust’s suggested 10 Ways of Celebrating John Muir Day!

Whatever you plan to do this weekend – make sure to treat yourself to some cake! Happy John Muir Day!

New Exhibition – John Muir, Writer

In 2014 Dunbar-born John Muir, botanist, geologist, explorer, mountaineer and conservationist, became the 38th Scot to be commemorated in Writers’ Court in Edinburgh. His flagstone carries the words: “I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness.” Muir was convinced that only then would folk protect the environment.
Muir sought to persuade people through his writings – letters, journals, articles for newspapers and magazines, and twelve books. The quill pen became his sword in the battle for conservation. This new exhibition curated by Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace, ‘John Muir, Writer’, tells how it came about. From 1 April – 30 September 2019.

John Muir in the French Pyrenees!

We are delighted to be showing a powerpoint exhibition about John Muir and the origin of the first American National Parks curated by senior pupils at Jean Dupuy High School in the French Pyrenees! On show until 31 March.

The panels of this exhibition were done last school year by nine sixteen-year-old pupils from Jean Dupuy High School in Tarbes with the help of a history and geography teacher and myself. Tarbes is situated in the south west of France, very near to the Pyrenees National Park.
I have been teaching English in this school for three years. Being a wild place lover, I have come regularly to Scotland since I was a French assistant near Stirling twenty-nine years ago. The idea of an exhibition in the French Pyrenees National Park premises came from my belief that my pupils could be interested in John Muir’s biography and contribute to make his life and the story of the first national parks in the world known in the Pyrenees. It was a great opportunity for me to teach important parts of American History such as Native American culture, colonization, the myth of the Frontier… We also talked about the emergence of the first ecological movement in 19th century USA with the influence of artists and scientists on public opinion and on politicians, which all led to the creation of the first national parks. John Muir Muir’s life and actions were thoroughly presented. I dealt with all these themes with some of my classes and nine pupils volunteered to do some panels. Adèle, Adèle-Nadja, Blandine, Camille, Corentin, Elodie, Estelle, Hamidou, Lila worked in their free time with our help. For John Muir’s biography, we made use of some books and documents I got at JMB when I first went there nearly ten years ago.
JMB website and Jo Moulin’s help were also very precious to achieve our work. We are also thankful to American National Parks staffs who sent to us very nice posters.
This exhibition was first displayed last May in Gavarnie Maison du Parc. Gavarnie is situated in the mountains near Tarbes and is also famous for its UNESCO site. Then, last September, we had the wonderful opportunity to have it displayed during the Europarc Conference in Aviemore.
At a time when environmental issues are in the frontlines again, I think it is very important that young people know about John Muir. The pupils perceived him as an example of perseverance, talent and resilience. Learning about his intense and fruitful life can encourage each of them to play their unique part and reminds us all that a single person can have a tremendous influence in the course of things. It is now a great honour for us to be given the opportunity to show you our work in his native home … Many thanks to JMB staff.
Dominique Marabèse

Flying visit from RSPB!

On Saturday 9th March John Muir’s Birthplace is welcoming the RSPB — the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe. They have over a million members and together they help to give nature a home. Although they’re the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, they help lots of other wildlife too — making ideal habitats for birds also benefits other creatures. Come along from 10.30am until 4pm to do some wildlife activities and find out how you can give nature a home too!

Calypso Borealis

Our family activities for the next couple of weekends centre around Muir’s discovery of the Calypso Borealis while wandering through the swamps of Canada in 1864. The story of his joy at finding this rare orchid became his first published writing, having been sent on to a newspaper by his former College professor, J.D. Butler, to whom he had written of the discovery in a letter. The article was published in the Boston Recorder in 1865, and an extract is available here:

I never before saw a plant so full of life; so perfectly spiritual, it seemed pure enough for the throne of its Creator. I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy. Could angels in their better land show us a more beautiful plant? How good is our Heavenly Father in granting us such friends as these plant-creatures, filling us wherever we go with pleasure so deep, so pure, so endless.

Next Exhibition – ‘Silva’ by Chris Thomas

We are delighted to announce the upcoming exhibition ‘Silva: a meditation on trees and woods in eleven photographs’ by photographer Chris Thomas. 20th February – 24th March.

Humankind has had an intimate relationship with trees and woodland since the days of our earliest ancestors – on the one hand, practical and prosaic, on another, a deeply-felt sense of their intrinsic value as living things, expressed spiritually by some. The importance of trees and woodland as part of a sustainable, richly-biodiverse and resilient future environments is well-recognised, but our attachment goes beyond this: trees and woodland are just as important to us psychologically and physically, simply by being.
Arising from his own fascination with trees and woodlands, Chris’s sequence of black and white film photographs seeks to invite visitors to the exhibition simply to reflect upon the ‘being’ of trees and woods: their ‘essence’ expressed in their architectures, textures and forms, the way they create light and shade and space, how these phenomena change daily, or through the seasons – and how we respond ourselves, consciously or subliminally, to our trees and woodlands.

Merry Christmas

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

If you are still looking for those last minute Christmas presents, remember we have some beautiful sustainable goods, many of which made within 30 miles of Dunbar. Why not pop in for Lothian Lavender and Chain Bridge Honey Farm goodies or Seaglass Jewellery by Back from the Beach. We also have stationary and books on themes of John Muir and local history. We also have a few of the Dunbar, Scenes of Street, Sea and Shore Calendars featuring photographs by local young people.

We will be open Wednesday – Sunday this week before closing for our winter break from Mon 24 Dec – Wed 2 January inclusive.

Next Exhibition – ‘Flora’ by Cathy Bell

Look out for our exciting first exhibition of 2019.  From 5 January until 16 February, we are proud to host artist Cathy Bell’s solo show, ‘flora’.

In her exhibition of artwork and photography Cathy Bell is concerned with capturing a personal connection with the natural world of “flora”. For paintings she has chosen to depict plants, flowers and trees which mean something to her personally and also for their shape, line and colour. She is not interested in rendering a realistic likeness, however, she does endeavour to capture an image which is true to the essence and spirit of the subject. Her photographs are similar in that they are not created with technical merit in mind. Rather, they are derived from an instinctive connection with the subject, some of the photographs are enhanced to heighten the mood, thereby, altering the aesthetic. In all of the work on display she tries to follow John Muir’s advice to “keep close to nature’s heart”.