Year of Natural Scotland celebrated with new John Muir play

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Meanbh-chuileag, Fisean nan Gidheal’s drama outreach project, is on the road with a new Gaelic play which marks 175 years since the birth of the naturalist John Muir and celebrates the Year of Natural Scotland.

Over five weeks Daibhidh Walker and Debbie Mackay will be visiting the majority of Gaelic-medium primaries with the new play Seonaidh a’ Mhonaidh (John of the Moors), which was developed from an idea put forward by Dougie Beck, Fisean nan Gidheal’s drama officer.

A rather ghostly and eccentric old man turns up on a Scottish mountain top and befriends Eilidh, a teenager who just happens to be doing a project on John Muir. Before she knows it she is away accompanying him on his travels across North America. We see first-hand how John developed his ideas regarding nature, and how he began to influence US environmental policy.

The play isn’t simply a history lesson, however; children in P4-7 will get the opportunity to be involved in practical workshops as the play progresses. All the action in the play takes place around a 3D model of Scottish and American terrain, and this is used to illustrate many of John Muir’s theories.

According to Dougie Beck: “The play is very interactive, and is a fun and thought-provoking introduction to the life and work of one of Scotland’s most influential sons. While we were at the planning stages we realised that to simply tell John’s story would result in a fairly dull production; to get around this we have combined his life story with several hands-on activities which are intended to get the audience’s brains working!”

Fisean nan Gidheal is grateful to Scottish Natural Heritage for financial assistance with the tour. Emily Edwards, SNH’s Gaelic Officer said: “As part of Year of Natural Scotland 2013, we are celebrating the life and work of John Muir and are delighted to support this unique play. “John of the Moors” will encourage pupils to learn about and to enjoy Scotland’s stunning nature in a fun and interactive way and is entirely in keeping with the Year of Natural Scotland.”

The tour has also been supported by Brd na Gidhlig, Creative Scotland and HIE.

Head of Gaelic Usage at Brd na Gidhlig, David Boag said: “This project links Gaelic medium education and the arts - two of the development areas within the National Gaelic Language Plan 2012-17. The play will offer youngsters the opportunity to enage with the Gaelic arts at the same time as hearing and using Gaelic complementing and expanding the language skills they pick up daily in school. The Brd welcomes this project and hopes that the school pupils will have fun with the Meanbh-Chuileagan.”