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Edinburgh & Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby statue

Greyfriars Bobby statue

Bobby is one of Scotland’s most famous legendary animals and many versions of his life story exist… The generally accepted version, and that which has inspired a fair few written and filmic representations, is that Bobby’s loyalty was so strong that even the death of his owner John Gray (a night watchman) and subsequent burial at Greyfriars Kirkyard, wasn’t enough to diminish his devotion. The Skye Terrier is said to have spent the remaining fourteen years of his own life then guarding his owners’ grave (1858-1872).

Other versions of the story claim his owner was a farmer, or even put forward the view that his loyalty was misinterpreted. At the time of Bobby’s life, there were many dogs who lived in graveyards. strays who relied on the kindness of visitors. This led people to construct romantic stories that they were loyalty paying tribute at graves. Some people also claim that Bobby was replaced part-way through the fourteen years (on his death) with a younger dog.

Bobby's grave

Bobby’s grave

Other versions of the story claim his owner was a farmer, or even put forward the view that his loyalty was misinterpreted. At the time of Bobby’s life, there were many dogs who lived in graveyards. strays who relied on the kindness of visitors. This led people to construct romantic stories that they were loyalty paying tribute at graves. Some people also claim that Bobby was replaced part-way through the fourteen years (on his death) with a younger dog.

Whatever the truth, there’s no denying that Bobby is now buried just inside the graveyard, just a little distance from his master’s grave. In 1981, the Dog Aid Society of Scotland erected a red granite stone on his grave, and visitors leave sticks for him to play with, dog toys and flowers. His collar is even displayed in the Museum of Edinburgh.

There’s also a life sized statue and fountain tribute to Bobby on Candlemaker Row at the Southern entrance to the Kirkyard, paid for by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and an adjacent pub that also bears the dog’s name.

All this for a little Skye Terrier whose fidelity inspires many. Perhaps the truth isn’t quite as important as his legend? Perhaps the truth isn’t quite the point? One of the plaques in his memory reads "Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14th January 1872 – Aged 16 years – Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all", and I think that’s what makes the story of Greyfriars Bobby so enduring…

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