Greyfriars Bobby

By Julie Hill

Hear about Greyfriars Bobby in Episode 10.

Have you heard the story of Greyfriars Bobby?

The statue commemorating Bobby at Edinburgh
The statue commemorating Bobby at Edinburgh
Click on photo for larger image.
The wording on the statue.
The wording on the statue.
Click on photo for larger image.

The true story happened in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. Around 1850
John Gray moved to Edinburgh, and took a job as a night watchman. His job
involved patrolling the streets, and he acquired a watch dog, Bobby. The two
were inseparable, even eating together at a local coffee house when John
finished his shift.

John became ill with tuberculosis, and in 1858 he died. He was buried in
Greyfriars Churchyard, and a heartbroken Bobby refused to leave his master's
grave. The churchyard was a no dogs area, and the keeper of the churchyard
tried in vain to enforce this rule – but Bobby was not to be put off. The loyal
terrier kept his watch over his dead owner's final resting place.

Bobby became famous and people would come to see him, particularly around lunch
time. When the 1.00p.m. gun sounded and the local workmen headed off for a
meal, Bobby followed them to the coffee house where he had once accompanied
John, and where he was still given food each day.

It was not just the general public who were touched by Bobby's devotion. In 1867
a new byelaw meant that all dogs had to be licensed or they would be destroyed.
Sir William Chambers the Lord Provost of Edinburgh himself bought Bobby a
collar complete with license. The collar can be seen today at the Museum of
Edinburgh, and guided tours of the churchyard are also available.

There is dispute over what breed Bobby actually was, and you can find references
to him as a Cairn and Scottish terrier. His statue is most like a Skye Terrier,
and this is generally what he is agreed to be. However, a 2006 film caused
controversy by casting a West Highland White in the role. There are links on
the DogCast website to find out more both about Bobby and the film of his
story.

Bobby's grave at Greyfriars Churchyard
Bobby's grave at Greyfriars Churchyard
Click on photo for larger image.

Whatever breed Bobby was, he faithfully kept his vigil for an amazing fourteen
years, until his own death in 1872. On the 17th January Bobby was honoured with
an obituary published in the Scotsman newspaper – he was the only canine
Freeman of the City. Bobby was buried just inside Greyfriars Churchyard, not
far from his beloved owner.

The wording on Bobby's grave.
The wording on Bobby's grave.
Click on photo for larger image.

The following year, Baroness Angelia Georgina Burdett-Coutts, President of the
Ladies Committee of the RSPCA, who had visited Bobby during his life, organised
a fountain and statue commemorating his inspiring life. In 1981 the Duke of
Gloucester unveiled Bobby's headstone, which reads, "Greyfriars Bobby died 14th
January 1872 – aged 16 years – let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us
all."

Hear about Greyfriars Bobby in Episode 10.