John Muir impersonator from US honours hero on Scottish tour

Actor Lee Stetson, in character as conservationist John Muir
Actor Lee Stetson, in character as conservationist John Muir
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A PROFESSIONAL John Muir impersonator is coming to Scotland to host events along the route of a new cross-country pathway named after the Scot who introduced the conservation movement to the United States.

Lee Stetson, 75, has been portraying Muir for more than 35 years, performing in Yosemite National Park and conducting tours worldwide. Stetson has also edited The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures and has appeared in films as the Scot. While working, he remains “in character”, dressing and talking like Muir.

Stetson will begin his visit in Helensburgh next month, setting out on the 134-mile John Muir Way and finishing at Muir’s hometown, Dunbar. The route was opened in 2014 and is expected to generate £40 million for communities along it.

The public can join Stetson along the way, talking to “Muir” and hearing about his solo trips into the American wilderness, and the time he spent with US president Theodore Roosevelt, who asked if he could accompany him on an expedition in 1903.

Events include Stetson performing stories about Muir’s boyhood in Scotland at the John Muir Wildlife Film Festival in Helensburgh, staging a show, The Spirit of John Muir, at Strathblane Parish Church, a book signing at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh and a range of events in Dunbar, including John Muir Lego characters and Minecraft sessions.

Stetson was introduced to Muir through his writing. “A friend sent me a biography of Muir and I was smitten by his astonishing writing and extraordinary achievements. He set out a clarion call for the preservation of the wilderness and wildlife,” he said.

Recalling his first visit to Muir’s old home, Stetson said: “I had the opportunity to meander around the homestead and go round the town, too. Having read about Muir’s boyhood and early schooling, and the roughneck behaviour the boys indulged in, I imagined him enjoying his first mountaineering experience at Dunbar Castle.”

Muir, who died in 1914, moved to the US with his family as a young boy. His achievements include helping preserve the Yosemite Valley and the Sequoia National Park and founding the Sierra Club, a US conservation body.

Jo Moulins, museums officer for East Lothian Council, based at Muir’s birthplace, said: “Having Lee here is fantastic. There could be no more credible person to play the role.”

Jacquetta Megarry, who is co-author of The John Muir Way - A Scottish Coast-to-Coast Route, said: “Lee Stetson is not just a professional actor, he’s a John Muir scholar and knows so much of Muir’s writing by heart.

“Him being on the route and having the knowledge will raise the profile of Muir and the walk.”