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Greyfriars Bobby

Updated on February 3, 2013

Greyfriars Bobby: The Story of the Loyal Skye Terrier Who Remained by His Master's Grave Until His Own Death

Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier in 19th-century Edinburgh, Scotland, who spent every day for 14 years standing beside his owner's grave, until his own death in 1872.

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland (right)

PD Image from Wikipedia

The Story of Greyfriars Bobby

The famous Skye Terrier from Edinburgh, Scotland

The following information is quoted from Wikipedia:

Bobby belonged to John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman, and the two were inseparable for approximately two years. On 15 February 1858 Gray died of tuberculosis. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby, who survived Gray by fourteen years, is said to have spent the rest of his life sitting on his master's grave.

In 1867 when it was pointed out that any dog without an owner should be destroyed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers (who was also a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), paid for a renewal of Bobby's license, making him the responsibility of the city council.

Bobby died in 1872 and could not be buried within the cemetery itself, since it was consecrated ground; instead, he was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray's grave.

From Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia

Greyfriars Bobby Film Trailer by Piccadilly Pictures 2006 - A Family Based Scottish Film

Edinburgh, Scotland

A markerHome of Greyfriars Bobby -
Edinburgh, Scotland
get directions

Revisionist Story

The following "Revisionist Story" is an update and is quoted from Wikipedia:

In 2011, after five years of research, Jan Bondeson at Cardiff University published a book called "Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World," the most detailed biography of Bobby to date. In it he dispelled the story as traditionally told and offered a different version.

As background, in 19th century Europe there are documented over 60 'graveyard dogs', or 'cemetery dogs'. These were stray dogs which were fed by visitors and curators to the point the dogs made the graveyards their home. People thought, "Oh look at that poor dog, waiting by his master's grave," so they kept looking after them: the stray dog had free food while graveyard curators had company and a good story to tell visitors. In Bobby's case, he was originally a stray that hung around nearby Heriot's hospital, but became such a nuisance the hospital gardener threw him into the graveyard. James Brown, the curator of the graveyard, was fond of Bobby's company and began to feed him to keep him around. Visitors saw Bobby and liked to believe he was loyally staying by his masters grave, and provided Brown with tips to hear Bobby's "story". After an article about Bobby appeared in the Scotsman visitation rates to the graveyard increased by 100 fold with people arriving from all over England and Scotland."They would give James Brown a handsome tip and have lunch in the Traills' restaurant." It was a lucrative situation for Bobby, Brown and the local community.

Bondeson believes in May or June 1867 the original Bobby died and was replaced with a younger dog because pictures of him show a clear change. The first was an old tired-looking mongrel, the second was a lively youthful Skye terrier that ran around and reportedly fought with other dogs. This also explains the longevity of Bobby, 18 years, since Skye terriers usually only live around 10-12 years.

When the story of Bobby first broke it was believed his owner had been a shepherd buried in the graveyard. Later, a scholar named Forbes Macgregor, who wrote a biography of Greyfriars Bobby, believed the owner was John Gray, a local policeman buried there in 1858. Neither makes full sense since a shepherd wouldn't normally use a terrier for herding sheep, nor would a small terrier normally be used as a police dog.

Over the years local Edinburgh residents who knew the facts had talked in public, there were even newspaper articles that cast doubt on the story, and even while Bobby was alive some councilors cast doubt on his story when it was discussed at Edinburgh City Council. However, the romantic legend of Bobby was so ingrained and beloved that any revisionism over the years went largely unnoticed. Jan Bondeson stated "It won't ever be possible to debunk the story of Greyfriars Bobby - he's a living legend, the most faithful dog in the world, and bigger than all of us."

Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World By Jan Bondeson - Revisionist Story (See above)

Books About Greyfriar's Bobby from Amazon

Greyfriars Bobby - Disney 1961 Film Trailer

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby

A lifesize statue of Greyfriars Bobby was created by William Brodie after the Bobby's death in 1872. The statue stands in front of the "Greyfriars Bobby's Bar", which is located near the main entranceway to Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Note: According to Wikipedia, the statue of Bobby originally faced toward the graveyard and pub. It has since been turned around because the pub's owner wanted to make sure the pup would be seen in background of the many photographs that are taken each year.

Please Stop By & Share Your Thoughts - Suggestions & Feedback Welcome

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    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      What a wonderful story - it's new to me, and I love it! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • melissiaoliver profile image

      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      I've loved the story of Greyfriars Bobby ever since I was little; although I know in reality the revisionist story is probably closer to the truth, I still love the idea of the dog's loyalty.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I read the original children's book and always loved the idea of the dog's long-term devotion. It was quite interesting to see the debunking of this tale. Fascinating!

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 6 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by Merre. I appreciated your comment!

    • profile image

      Merre 6 years ago

      I've heard about the legend this Scottish dog for years but I never really knew much about the actually history. Thanks for making this lens.