A 16ft (5m) tall steel sculpture of a bear has been unveiled today in Dunbar, to honour Scots conservationist John Muir.

Muir was born in Dunbar in East Lothian in 1838 and as a child became fascinated with the coastline and landscape of this corner of Scotland. His father was strict and insisted on young John and his seven siblings doing daily Bible study along with their homework straight away on return from school.  It is said that one day, the children came home from school, and did their homework as usual.  It was only after they were finished that their father announced they weren’t going to school the next day, as they were leaving for America!

The family emigrated to the USA when Muir was ten years old and settled in Wisconsin where they had a farm.  Muir later enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he developed a keen interest in botany.  After his studies, Muir travelled around America, and was completely overwhelmed by his first visit to Yosemite.  He fell in love with the spectacular rock formations and mountains, and spent much time here, studying the plant life and geology. He even built a cabin in the woods with a stream running through it, so he could constantly hear the sound of running water!  He became a leading figure in the early conservationist movement and lobbied for the creation of a National Park in Yosemite.  He published 12 books and over 300 articles in his lifetime, and his writings greatly influenced the way in which people viewed their natural environment.  Thanks to Muir, the vast, unspoilt area of Yosemite became something to treasure and protect, rather than a resource to exploit.  Known as the “father of national parks”, Muir helped establish the first national park system in the world in America.  He died in California in 1914, aged 76.

John never forgot his Scottish roots and it is said that, despite spending most of his life in North America, he never lost his strong Scottish accent!

Interested in finding out more about John Muir?  Here are some places you can visit in Scotland which are connected with him:

  • Dunbar, childhood home of John Muir. See the new bear statue, which is symbolic of Muir’s travels in America’s great wildernesses as well as the statue of Muir himself on the High Street.  Visit the John Muir Birthplace Museum to learn more about his life and times.
  • Walk the John Muir Way, a 134 mile long coast to coast path which runs from Helensburgh in the west to Dunbar in the east
  • Discover Scotland’s wild side by exploring our national parks: Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
  • See a beautiful example of fossilised wood from the Chinle Petrified Forest, Arizona which is 210 million years old at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
John Muir
John Muir