Tour of Britain: Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh Scotland

Ron Current
Ron Current

When my wife and I first arrived in Edinburgh our big touring coach navigated its way down the narrow and winding streets of that city toward our hotel. As we made a rather sharp turn I thought I saw a marble fountain with what looked like a statue of a small dog on top. I found out later that I did see such a statue, and that it was the memorial to the city’s famous Greyfriars Bobby.
As the story goes, John Gray came to Edinburgh with his family and took a job with the city Police as a night watchman. To keep him company on his long nightly rounds John took a partner, a small Skye Terrier that he named Bobby. Seeing the two of them walking the cobblestone streets was a familiar site in the city. No matter what the weather, there would be John and Bobby on their nightly course.

The memorial to Bobby at the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge Streets
The memorial to Bobby at the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge Streets

On February 15th 1858, John Gray passed away from tuberculosis and was laid to rest in the Greyfriars Church’s Kirkyard (cemetery). After the funeral it was soon noticed that John’s little Terrier, Bobby had come to stand guard at his friends grave. No amount of persuading could get the Terrier to leave the grave. Locals would finally come and feed Bobby, and they built him a shelter near John’s grave. For fourteen years, until his own death in 1872, the ever faithful Bobby kept his constant watch. Bobby was laid to rest in a small flower garden just inside the gate of the Greyfriars Church and Kirkyard, only a few steps from his master.

Where visitors to graves of people leave a stone, or a coin, to say that they were there, at Bobby’s they leave a stick. On Bobby’s headstone it says, “Greyfriars Bobby, Died 14th January 1872, Aged 16 years. Let his loyalty & devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Greyfriers Bobby's grave
Greyfriers Bobby’s grave

On November 15th 1873, the memorial, which I saw on our arrival, was unveiled. Originally it was a drinking fountain, the upper fountain for humans and the lower fountain for dogs. The water to these fountains has long been turned off. The plaque on the fountain reads, “A Tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858, this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872.” They say it’s good luck to rub the statues nose.

There have been two motion pictures made about Bobby, one by Walt Disney in 1961 and one in 2005.

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