Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby was a scruffy little Skye Terrier who spent his last 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until his death in 1872.

His story became so famous across Scotland that the Sherlock Holmes tale The Hound of the Baskervilles was based on Bobby. One of the most famous quotes from the story was, “They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

Bobby belonged to John Gray, an Edinburgh Police Department night watchman.The last two years of John Gray’s life, he and his Skye Terrier were inseparable.Upon dying of tuberculosis, Gray was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, in Old Town, Edinburgh in 1858.

Nine years passed with Bobby following the same routine, day in and day out. Gray’s faithful companion spent most of his time sitting at the graveside, leaving for daily meals at a nearby restaurant and spending cold nights in neighborhood homes.

When the city became aware of the dog being ownerless and should be destroyed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers [also director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] paid for Bobby’s license to be renewed. Bobby became the responsibility of the city council.

For five years, Bobby’s license was renewed until his death in 1872. By law, Bobby could not be buried in the cemetery. It was consecrated ground. So he was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, near John Gray’s grave.

Bobby has become such an institution of Old Town Edinburgh that a statue and fountain were erected in his memory. If you were to go looking for the statue, it’s located at the corner of Candlemaker Row and the George IV Bridge.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

A small statue also stands in front of the Greyfriars Bobby Pub, located near the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Originally, the statue faced toward the graveyard and pub. Allegedly, a previous landlord of the pub turned the statue around so the pub would be in the background of the photographs taken of Bobby each year.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

A red granite stone was erected on Bobby's grave by The Dog Aid Society of Scotland, and unveiled in 1981.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The inscription reads

Greyfriars Bobby ~
died 14th January 1872
aged 16 years

Let his loyalty and devotion
be a lesson to us all

Guided tours of the kirkyard, including Bobby’s gravesite are given by a number of groups in Old Town, including the Greyfriars Bobby Walking Theatre and the Greyfriars Kirkyard Trust.

Books and films based on bobby’s life are ~

  • Greyfriars Bobby, written by Eleanor Atkinson, portrays John Gray as a farm laborer, Auld Jock.

  • Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog, filmed in 1961, was based on the Eleanor Atkinson book

  • The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby, starring Oliver Golding and Christopher Lee was released in the U.K. in 2006.

    The movie was actually filmed in Stirling Castle with a West Highland White Terrier filling the role of Bobby, an addition of many characters, and the omission of others pertinent to Bobby’s story ~ particularly John Traill.

  • Challenge to Lassie, filmed in 1949 based on Atkinson’s book, but replacing Bobby with Lassie

  • The Body Snatcher, starring Boris Karloff, whose character was named Gray. Gray digs up bodies from graves, including John Gray. Bobby tries to stop him from taking the corpse, but Karloff’s Gray strikes Bobby over the head and kills him.

  • Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, a PBS children’s series. In episode 3 Little Dog Gone, Patty Larceny puts a collar on the statue of Bobby and walked him away.

  • Probably Bobby’s most famous fictional character is found in the Sherlock Holme’s Tale The Hound of the Baskervilles. The famous line attesting to the dog’s character is, “They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

So now you know Bobby’s story and why in the world a Scottish bracelet charm would feature a little scruffy dog.

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