Greyfriar’s Bobby – A Dog Lover’s Story

The statue of Greyfriars Bobby near the graveyard at Greyfriars Kirk

The statue of Greyfriars Bobby across from the graveyard at Greyfriars Kirk
photo credit: http://www.edinphoto.org.uk

We stopped along the ABC Tour* for a look into St. Cuthbert’s Church, which is right next door to St. John’s Church. It was there I met Anne, a lovely, gray-haired woman of indeterminate age who volunteers her time once or twice per week maintaining the gardens around the church. We chatted for at least an hour, I suppose because I was willing to listen and she had lots of delightful stories to share.

I do not recall how the subject of dogs came up, but then we talked about so many things. Anne asked me if I knew about Greyfriar’s Bobby. I did not. It turns out this true story has been written about in both biography form and in children’s books and also made into films.

The statue base had a drinking fountain for both people and dogs.

The statue base had a drinking fountain for both people and dogs.
photo credit: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk

The crux of the story is that Bobby, a cute little Skye Terrier, remained loyal to his master, John Gray, who some say was a night watchman with the Edinburgh City Police and who died in 1858. For fourteen years Bobby guarded the grave of his master until he himself died in 1872.

Some accounts say at first Bobby was considered a nuisance. The story wavers between fact and fiction. At any rate, Bobby eventually won the hearts of the local people. At the daily firing of the one o’clock gun (which still takes place every day except Sunday), Bobby would leave the graveyard at Grassmarket and look for food. Soon the local shopkeepers and chefs took it upon themselves to save table scraps for Bobby, who never went hungry.

In 1867, Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh (and head of Scotland’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) purchased a collar and dog license for Bobby in keeping with the regulations at that time. These items are now displayed in the Museum of Edinburgh.

In 1872, when Bobby passed away, Baroness Burdett-Coutts commissioned a bronze statue of Bobby. It was unveiled in 1873 at the top of a fountain which featured an upper drinking fountain for people and a lower fountain for dogs. The statue remains in place today for all to see and remember Bobby.

A replica of this statue rests at St. Cuthbert's Parish in Edinburgh. Bum had to hobble on three legs after an accident in a rail yard. photo credit: Gaslamp Quarter Historic Foundation

A replica of this statue rests at St. Cuthbert’s Parish in Edinburgh. Bum had to hobble on three legs after an accident in a rail yard.
photo credit: Gaslamp Quarter Historic Foundation

Edinburgh’s sister city of San Diego had a dog adopted as a town mascot. His name was Bum. When San Diego learned the story of Bobby, they presented the City of Edinburgh with a bronze statue of Bum. Our gardener, Anne, pointed out the statue in the graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s just 100 feet from where we were standing.

Thank you, Anne, for giving us this story and many others. I will share them with anyone who wishes to hear them.

*ABC Tour = Another Blessed Church

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14 comments on “Greyfriar’s Bobby – A Dog Lover’s Story

  1. gunnertravel says:

    This is one of the reasons I love Scotland….. awesome stories

    • Mike Lince says:

      Yes, Ms. Anne had a bunch of stories. This was one of great local importance. She also had some great tales from around Scotland. She turned out to be quite a treasure.

  2. Ah Greyfriar’s Bobby. What a great little story. Looks like you’re enjoying your time up north.

  3. blade3colorado says:

    Loved this story about the dog Mike! Nice photos too!

  4. You can’t go wrong with a faithful dog story Mike. Also, I love the ABC tour. ~James

    • Mike Lince says:

      Yes, we have family and friends who are devoted dog lovers, so this story was a no-brainer. The ABC Tour has been ongoing for a couple of years. I don’t see that changing any time soon. I occasionally make light of the church stops. However, I do love the amazing artistry, architecture and loving care people invest in churches everywhere.

  5. Such a wonderful story! Seems there are dog stories for so many cities, each one charming. Thanks for sharing, Mike. I love imagining you and Florence, as you explore these historical places. : )

  6. I love dog stories, and this is such a sweet one. Animals really do know how to love. I have no doubt that my dog loves me, that’s for sure. It sounds like such a sweet lady that you chatted with, and I’m sure it made her day for you to listen to her like that Mike. You’re a good guy. Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      There is no question in my mind that animals have emotions. It is so basic and essential a trait of animals. I may be partial to dogs simply because I know of no other creature that, given the option, would choose man over its own kind. Many people here take their dogs with them wherever they go. I believe dogs truly are man’s best friend.
      Thank you for the kind words, Celeste.

  7. Such a touching tale, which is reminiscent of one from hometown in Illinois. In a similar fashion, the father of the two children commissioned a stone dog statue to forever watch over his little ones.

    I was in Edinburgh a few years ago and somehow missed the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue. Lucky you to have met up with Anne. 🙂

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