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 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.
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