Call to extend Dunbar’s Muir links to California

John Muir

John Muir

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A former headteacher of Dunbar Grammar School has reiterated his desire to see the links between Dunbar and the Californian city where John Muir died strengthened.

Muir, the founding father of the United States of America’s National Park system, was born in Dunbar before emigrating with his family to the USA as a youngster.

Representatives of the John Muir Association recently visited the county from Martinez, California, where Muir lived much of his adult life.

Will Collin, Dunbar community councillor, said: “There is an ongoing discussion about what should be happening but it has come to a halt with the schools being out of session.

“It is still something we are going through and hopefully there could be perhaps much closer physical links with Martinez.”

Pupils from the East Lothian school have visited the USA, but it is yet to become a regular fixture with Californians visiting the Garden County.

Similarly, Mr Collin felt that technology could be utilised to see links between corresponding primary schools and also a connection made between the Dunbar Trades’ Association (DTA) and their Californian counterparts.

Speaking after a recent meeting of the town’s community council, Mr Collin was keen to see museum staff from either side of the Atlantic Ocean swap places for between two and four weeks.

He stressed that it was merely “wishful thinking” at the moment, but added: “They would be spending time in each other’s place of work and finding out what is involved in the job.

“They would be out meeting with the public and promoting Martinez over here and promoting Dunbar and East Lothian over there.”

The idea of strengthening links between the two towns was raised in June in the Scottish Government.

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray asked Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing MSP what the Scottish Government was doing to support East Lothian Council’s efforts to promote the area as a tourist destination.

At that time, Mr Gray said: “Tourism is a vital and growing part of East Lothian’s economy, with many superb opportunities for further developing the industry locally.

“The global impact of John Muir’s legacy is already a powerful pull for many potential visitors, especially from his adopted homeland in the US.

“However, there is certainly scope for building on the progress that has been made here on celebrating Muir’s life and achievements, including the opening of the John Muir Way, by enhancing our joint working with the John Muir Association of Martinez and American tourist and National Park bodies to encourage more visitors to come to Dunbar.”

Links between Dunbar and the US were strengthened last year when the official opening of the new John Muir Way, stretching from Muir’s hometown to Helensburgh, attracted international attention.

Mr Ewing said that the national pathway provided “an excellent platform to reinforce and celebrate Muir’s Scottish roots”.

He added: “He founded the Sierra Club in 1892, now one of America’s largest environmental movements.

“VisitScotland is working with the club to promote the links between Muir and Scotland, encouraging the organisation’s many members to pursue their interest in the famous environmentalist through visiting the land of his birth.”