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Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

One John Gray (also known as "Jock") was an Edinburgh policeman during the 1850s. His companion and police watch-dog was a Skye Terrier named Bobby. The relationship between man and dog, however, was short-lived when Gray died of tuberculosis in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirk graveyard. Bobby followed the funeral procession, but was taken home afterward. However, the little dog soon escaped and took up residence on his master's grave. Various people took pity on the forlorn little fellow. James Brown, the church gardener, provided Bobby with food and water, even though his duties included keeping dogs and children out of the graveyard. James Anderson, who lived nearby, would try to coax Bobby into his house during inclement weather, but the dog would howl so pitifully to be let out that eventually, a shelter was built for him near the grave.

Bobby's expression of devotion quickly made the small dog a local celebrity in Edinburgh. It is possible that some decided to make money from Bobby's loyalty. John Traills, the owner of Traills Coffee House located near the graveyard, would tell of how Bobby and Gray had been regular lunchtime visitors to his establishment. Traills also maintained that he was the first to notice Bobby's obsession with lying on his master's grave, stating that the dog arrived one lunchtime shortly after Gray's death, demanded his meal and then took off purposefully. According to Traills, his curiousity led him to follow Bobby and, to his amazement, he found the dog by the grave in the kirkyard. It is not known how this story might have affected the patronage of Traills' establishment, although one can assume it was not adverse.

The little Skye Terrier remained at Gray's grave for the rest of his life...a total of 14 years. However, because Bobby was a stray, there was some question as to whether he should be allowed to wander the streets of Edinburgh without a license. If nobody had been willing to pay, then the penalty for Bobby would have been death. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, came to the rescue. He was so impressed by Bobby's devotion that he agreed to purchase the license...and did so for every year thereafter.

Upon Bobby's death on January 14, 1872, the people of Edinburgh determined that the small dog should be interred in the kirkyard by his master. It was an unparalleled decision. A year later, a bronze statue was erected to Bobby at the crest of Candlemakers Row, just outside the entrance to the graveyard and opposite the Traills Coffee House (which is now a public house renamed "Greyfriar's Bobby Inn"). The memorial was commissioned by the famous philanthropist, Baroness Burdett Coutts, who was intrigued and touched by Bobby's fidelity. The monument was unveiled on November 15, 1873 without ceremony. Bobby's statue is the most photographed in Scotland and tourists can invariably be seen having their pictures taken next to it at all hours of the day.

Bobby's acclaim is such that his collar, inscribed with the words: "Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost, 1867, licensed," and dinner bowl are on display in the Huntly House Museum on the Royal Mile. Today Bobby's grave always displays fresh flowers...a mark of the high esteem in which this little dog is still held and a tribute to the very human values which he embodied.

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