History

Greyfriars Bobby – Edinburgh’s top dog

Edinburgh Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby is one of the world’s most famous dogs – and even 150 years after his death, we’re still fascinated by his incredible tale.

The story of this plucky Skye Terrier, who displayed remarkable loyalty to his master John Gray, is legendary.

Bobby is as popular as ever in his home city of Edinburgh – and his moving story is the stuff of dreams for film makers.

The canny canine was immortalised in the classic 1961 Disney movie and today he has his own YouTube channelwebsite and personal blog!

My favourite memorial to Bobby is the small statue commemorating his life which is located outside Greyfriars cemetery in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

When I visited the city earlier this year, I was surprised by the numbers of tourists who were rubbing the Skye Terrier’s nose for luck.

But it seems his popularity with visitors is causing a few problems. Earlier this month the statue underwent restoration work to fix the shiny patch that had developed on his nose through too much rubbing!

The wear to the statue had also been highlighted on a Facebook campaign called “Stop People Rubbing Greyfriars Bobby’s Nose – It is not a Tradition“.

Taking a shine to Bobby

Restoration specialists were commissioned to clean, re-patinate and wax the bronze statue – and turn Bobby’s shiny nose back to its original black.

As one of the most famous and most popular statues in Edinburgh, it seemed to make sense that Bobby should look his doggy best at all times.

It looked like the work had been a success – until yesterday. Less than 48 hours after the touch-up job, his nose was shiny again.

Bobby’s nose job had been vandalised and his snout has been re-polished. Police believe that an abrasive material had been intentionally used on the nose, stripping the repaired area.

I was quite excited when I saw that Bobby had been spruced up, with added black boot polish rubbed on his new nose to deter tourists from further rubbing the statue.

But I felt deflated when I heard the statue had been vandalised. Surely the vandals or pranksters (if that’s the correct term) should have left sleeping doggy statues lie.

It’s becoming increasing popular for tourists to rub statues for luck. Apparently the statues in Venice’s St Mark’s Square have been damaged badly by the same phenomenon.

There’s a fine line between tourism and vandalism, sadly.

Perhaps we tourists should spare a little thought for the fragility of the statues we find on our travels. I’m proud to say that I didn’t touch Bobby for luck, just snapped his picture.

Now I hope that they don’t have to stick a fence around him to protect the statue for future generations.

After all, the memorial was originally built as a dog drinking fountain as well as a statue to Bobby. Wouldn’t it be great if that tradition could be revived?

No shaggy dog story

This news story detracts, of course, from Bobby’s own tale  which is no shaggy dog story.

But the exact background to Bobby’s true story is disputed. In the most famous version of the tale, Bobby belonged to John Gray (Auld Jock), who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman in the mid 1800s.

When John Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard and Bobby spent the rest of his life sitting on his master’s grave.

In another version Bobby was thought to have lived on a farm south of Edinburgh and he’d accompany his master Auld Jock to the market in Edinburgh every week.

When the old farmer retired to live in Edinburgh, Bobby remained on the farm but was unhappy so escaped to the city to find his master.

He discovered that Auld Jock was very ill and stayed by his side till after his death. His loyalty was so great that Bobby returned to his master’s grave daily to watch over him.

One thing that we do know is that Bobby became a celebrity in Edinburgh and beyond.

The story of Bobby’s dedication to his master was drawn to the attention of Edinburgh’s Lord Provost who bought the dog a special collar and awarded him the freedom of the city.

Bobby died in 1872 – he was thought to be at least 22 years old.

A tear still comes to my eye when I think about the story – probably brought on by watching the Disney film too many times!

Let’s hope Bobby’s statue and remarkable story can live on for another 150 years…

Tammy’s top travel tips

Edinburgh Greyfriars

Edinburgh’s Greyfriars

Bobby’s statue is located close to George IV bridge in Edinburgh’s Old Town near Greyfriars cemetery where his master’s grave lies.

You can still see Auld Jock’s grave in the churchyard not far from the main foot path. It’s also worth walking around the whole graveyard which has many interesting historic graves (pictured above).

There is also Bobby’s smaller grave near the entrance to Greyfriars – you can’t miss it because lots of tourists and locals have left toys on it.

For more information on visiting Edinburgh’s historic Old Town why not take a trip to the Visit Scotland tourism website.

There’s more information about the story of Greyfriars Bobby in the video below.

3 replies »

  1. I subscribe to the story that Bobby was just a stray dog that hung around the graveyard because people fed him there and the devotion myth just developed over time. (source: Stephen Fry – QI)

    Clive 🙂

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