Have you heard the story of Greyfriars Bobby?
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.
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 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."