Half Term Activities

As half-term starts in various parts of the country you might be looking for something to occupy your little darlings, especially if the weather remains foul!  Why not check out our ‘Home Activities‘ section, which has 100 days of activities developed during our lockdown earlier in 2020?  Some of our favourites would be making a Marble Run Part 1 and Marble Run Part 2.  or why not have a go at some old fashioned fairground games such as Tin Can Alley  or Coconut Shy.

If you would like to complete something more nature-based, try Preserve Nature or take a few days to build up your own Wildlife Mobile:

Wildlife mobile – nest

Wildlife Mobile – Music

Wildlife Mobile – Wasps nest

Wildlife Mobile – Kingfisher

Wildlife mobile – assemble

With 100 days of activities, there will be something to occupy anyone who has has enough of snowman making!


Have fun!

WWF competition asks creatives to reimagine Earth’s future

competition launched by WWF asks artists and creative practitioners to imagine a future where people and nature can thrive in harmony.

The initiative, titled Just Imagine, takes inspiration from David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, a 2020 film from the broadcaster in which he reflects on environmental changes during his lifetime and presents his hopeful vision for the future. WWF, one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, co-produced the film.

The competition is open to the whole creative arts sector, spanning disciplines from photography to fashion, and there will be a special category for international submissions in collaboration with the British Council.

Twelve winning entrants will work with the WWF and a leading curator to plan and deliver a virtual exhibition of their pieces. The exhibition will aim to encourage positive change among leaders and communities by demonstrating the power of creativity.

The judging panel includes artist and environmentalist Judy Ling Wong, Greg Bunbury, graphic designer at the helm of social initiative the Black Outdoor Arts Project, and anthropological future designer Stacie Woolsey.

Kate Norgrove, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF, said: “This year has shown the incredible strength and influence that public pressure can have on shaping our collective direction and driving positive change. 2021 is critical for environmental action and now more than ever, it’s important to raise conversations and public demand for the protection of nature.”

“By launching this competition, we hope to provide a platform for artists throughout the UK to create a new narrative on nature in a way that brings people together and educates and inspires their communities to protect our planet.”

Entries will close at 1700 on Sunday 7 February. More information can be found at Just Imagine | WWF.

A Walk around John’s Dunbar

Have you found our new blog series on our Facebook Page yet? You might not be able to visit our building at the moment, so we thought we would highlight some of the places around Dunbar  that have a connection to John Muir.  He may only have lived in the town for the first 10.5 years of his life, but there are several places around the town that left such a vivid imprint in his memory, he found them easily on his return visit in 1893.  Indeed his book ‘The story of my Boyhood and Youth’ published in 1913 still evokes the smells and sounds of the North Sea familiar to those of us who live and work here today.  The first 2 instalments are published, with more on the way in the next few weeks. Make sure ou are following us on Facebook  to make sure you don’t miss a post. Enjoy!

A snowy ride

Waking up to a winter wonderland this morning made us think of one of John’s wildest adventures riding an avalanche!  This is his description taken from ‘The Yosemite’ (1912)


“One fine Yosemite morning after a heavy snowfall, being
eager to see as many avalanches as possible and wide views of the forest and
summit peaks in their new white robes before the sunshine had time to change
them, I set out early to climb by a side cañon to the top of a commanding ridge a
little over three thousand feet above the Valley. On account of the looseness of
the snow that blocked the cañon I knew the climb would require a long time,
some three or four hours as I estimated; but it proved far more difficult than I
had anticipated. Most of the way I sank waist deep, almost out of sight in some
places. After spending the whole day to within half an hour or so of sundown, I
was still several hundred feet below the summit. Then my hopes were reduced to
getting up in time to see the sunset. But I was not to get summit views of any
sort that day, for deep trampling near the cañon head, where the snow was
strained, started an avalanche, and I was swished down to the foot of the cañon
as if by enchantment. The wallowing ascent had taken nearly all day, the
descent only about a minute. When the avalanche started I threw myself on my
back and spread my arms to try to keep from sinking. Fortunately, though the
grade of the cañon is very steep, it is not interrupted by precipices large enough
to cause outbounding or free plunging. On no part of the rush was I buried. I was
only moderately imbedded on the surface or at times a little below it, and covered
with a veil of back-streaming dust particles; and as the whole mass beneath and
about me joined in the flight there was no friction, though I was tossed here and
there and lurched from side to side. When the avalanche came to rest I found
myself on top of the crumpled pile without bruise or scar. This was a fine
experience. Hawthorne says somewhere that steam has spiritualized travel;
though unspiritual smells, smoke, etc., still attend steam travel. This flight in what
might be called a milky way of snow-stars was the most spiritual and exhilarating
of all the modes of motion I have ever experienced. Elijah’s flight in a chariot of
fire could hardly have been more gloriously exciting. “

Enjoy your sledging!

A Glimpse Inside

Once again we have had to close our doors, hopefully it won’t be long before we are able to welcome you back into John Muir’s Birthplace. In the meantime, we still have lots of ways to help you explore the life and legacy of John Muir.

  • You can see some of our temporary exhibitions by visiting our  Exhibitions page. Look out for some new additions soon.
  • Check out our Home Activities page for lots of ideas to support home learning.
  • Have a look on on Facebook or Twitter @JM_Birthplace for all the latest info on what we are up to!
  • Watch the short tour below of Duncan Smeed, Chair of John Muir’s Birthplace Charitable Trust on a short tour of the building. Brought to you with thanks to Michael Conti.

January Lockdown

In line with the latest Scottish Government Announcement, John Muir’s Birthplace will remain closed for the month of January, and will only reopen when it is safe to do so.  In the meantime, why not check out our online Exhibitions or try our Home 100 Activities to help with home schooling – or as boredom busters! We look forward to welcoming you back soon – take care and stay safe!

Christmas Closure

Following the latest Scottish Government announcement, John Muir’s Birthplace will close at 4pm on Thursday 24 December and reopen Wednesday 20th January should guidelines allow.

Please keep following our social media channels for further information.

Thank you for your support during 2020 and we look forward to welcoming you back when safe to do so in 2021.

Christmas Dinner with John Muir

John Muir doesn’t write much about Christmas, indeed one can imagine that he would be unimpressed with the tinsel and trappings of the holidays. However he enjoyed the company of others, and in this extract from ‘Yosemite in Winter’, first published in 1872, he was particularly taken with Christmas dinner!

…we slid smoothly over the astronomical edge of ’71; Santa Claus came with very little ado, gave trinkets to our half-dozen younglings, and dropped crusted cakes into bachelors’ cabins; but upon the whole our holidays were sorry, unhilarious, whiskified affairs. A grand intercampal Christmas dinner was devised on a scale and style becoming our peerless valley; heaps of solemn substantials were to be lightened and broidered with cookies, and backed by countless cakes, blocky and big as boulders, and a craggy trough-shaped pie was planned for the heart and soul of the feast. It was to have formed a rough model of Yosemite, with domes and brows of “duff” and falls of buttering gravy.

May we take this opportunity to wish all our followers a

Merry Christmas and a Safe and Healthy New Year!

We will be closed from 25 Dec – 19 January inclusive, please keep watching in the New Year as we unveil our plans for 2021.

November 1833 – Muirs first appear in Dunbar.

November 1833. Daniel Muir, an army recruiting sergeant who had settled in Dunbar as a meal dealer some 4 years earlier, married his second wife, 20 year old Ann Gilrye, daughter of local flescher and local councillor, David Gilrye.  The couple lived in a room behind Daniel’s shop on the west side of Dunbar High Street.

Daniel Muir

Daniel Muir

Daniel’s parents had both died when he was very young, and he moved to Crawfordjohn, Lanarkshire to be raised by his sister.  He joined the army at a young age, and received several postings, ending up as a recruiting sergeant in Berwick. It was here he was introduced to a young Helen Kennedy, who had inherited her late mother’s meal dealership in Dunbar. The pair married in 1829 and Daniel took over the business. Sadly Helen died in 1832. Some sources report a child in the marriage, however there are no official records of this, there being every chance both Helen and the baby died.

Daniel mourned his wife and grew both the business and his own standing in Dunbar society.  Only a few yards away across Dunbar High Street, a young Ann Gilrye lived with her family above her father’s butcher’s shop.  Ann caught Daniel’s eye, and the pair were married in November 1833.  Their first daughter, Margaret was born in 1834, followed by Sarah in 1836, and their first son, John Muir in 1838.  They would go on to have 8 children in total, all of whom survived to adulthood.

The Gilrye family had also experienced tragedy, Ann and her sister, Margaret were the only surviving

Ann Gilrye Muir

Ann Gilrye Muir

siblings from a family of 8. There can be no doubt that the loss of so many of his own children led to David Gilrye’s desire to be close to his grandchildren. John remembers walks with his grandfather in ‘The Story of My Boyhood and Youth’, crediting him with first awakening his love of nature, and with teaching him to read from the shop signs on the High Street.

My earliest recollections of the country were gained on short walks with my grandfather when I was perhaps not over three years old. On one of these walks grandfather took me to Lord Lauderdale’s gardens, where I saw figs growing against a sunny wall and tasted some of them, and got as many apples to eat as I wished. On another memorable walk in a hayfield, when we sat down to rest on one of the haycocks I heard a sharp, prickly, stinging cry, and, jumping up eagerly, called grandfather’s attention to it. He said he heard only the wind, but I insisted on digging into the hay and turning it over until we discovered the source of the strange exciting sound–a mother field mouse with half a dozen naked young hanging to her teats. This to me was a wonderful discovery. No hunter could have been more excited on discovering a bear and her cubs in a wilderness den.

One can only imagine David Gilrye’s emotions in 1849, when Daniel announced he was following his religious inclinations and taking his wife and children to America to start a new life.