Greyfriars bobby dogs

The most famous pooch in all of Scotland, Greyfriars Bobby was so devoted to his master, he remained faithful even in death.


The city of Edinburgh, Scotland, has many things to recommend it, but the most endearing quality is its love for Greyfriars Bobby, the wee Skye terrier. The tiny canine is still loved today, many years after his death, for his qualities of complete loyality and dedication to his best friend and master.

Bobby was no ordinary little pooch.  He was so devoted to his owner that he remained faithful to him even in death.  For 14 years, each day without fail, Bobby kept watch over his master's grave.  Some say the terrier even fell into his final sleep on his master's grave, on a frosty January day in 1872.

bodyOffer(19818)Practically every visitor stops to pay homage to the little dog so revered by the city of Edinburgh.  Cameras snap shots of his tombstone and statue.  Little Bobby may not be as ancient as Edinburgh Castle, or as imposing as the Palace of Holyroodhouse, but he has become just as prominent.  His history and that of the city of Edinburgh are forever joined.

Policeman, John Gray, acquired his world-famous Skye terrier sometime about 1856 or so, as a watch-dog.  Man and dog became inseparable, until two years later, when Gray died of tuberculosis.   It was then, Bobby began his lengthy, grave-side vigil.

Edinburgh Castle, commanding an extraordinary view of the city was one of little Bobby's favorite places.  Modern day visitors find the castle well worth a closer look.  It is immediately apparent why the castle was of strategic importance during Scotland's wars of independence.  There has been a fortress on this site since at least AD 600.  The Scots are extremely proud of their heritage, turbulent though it was.  For every Scotsmen, the castle represents a very public reminder of their deep roots.

Though the castle is a historic monument, it is also a working military establishment, as the headquarters of the Scottish Division.  Armed soldiers man the main gate, but their most frequent duty seems to be posing  for the camera.  A memorable site within the castle grounds is the dogs' cemetery, a small grassy area set aside for the burial of soldiers' pets.

The diminutive tombstones are obviously tended with great devotion.

A tradition closely bound to Greyfriars Bobby and Edinburgh castle is the firing of the one o'clock gun.  The legend tells of a sea captain who visited Edinburgh back in the 1860's.  When he returned home, he reported that he had just seen a wonderful city, full of splendid buildings and monuments, where wise men and lovely ladies lived and where science was studied.  There was only one problem;  no one knew the correct time of day.  There were plenty of clocks, but no two agreed.

In 1861, the situation was put right, when city officials decided to fire a cannon every day from the castle grounds, at exactly one o'clock.  Thus, all the citizens could set their clocks accordingly.  The gun stills sounds today, as the castle tour guides are proud to point out.

About the time this tradition began, Greyfriars Bobby had been befriended by a soldier in the castle garrison, by the name of Scott.  Sergeant Scott introduced Bobby to his companions and everyone welcomed their new furry comrade.  One of the Sergeant Scott's responsibilities was to assist in setting off the cannon and Bobby always followed him to the ramparts to witness the action.   

A sketch of this daily event was drawn at the time by an artist and printed in a popular magazine called Good Words which was read all over the English-speaking world.  In the sketch, Bobby can be seen, apparently unafraid and eagerly
bodyOffer3()waiting for the big boom.  In fact, Bobby was use to loud noises and considered quite brave for his small size.  When the pipes and drums played on the parade grounds, Bobby pranced along.

Immediately after the one o'clock gun, Bobby would come trotting out and head for a restaurant called the Eating House, where the proprietor regularly gave Bobby his lunch.  It soon became a daily attraction to watch Bobby go for his dinner and a crowd frequently collected at the gates of the kirkyard to wait for him.  But Bobby did not linger long over his food.  As soon as he was finished, he raced off to the cemetery to sit patiently by John Grey's grave.

Because Greyfriar's Bobby is a cherished part of the Edinburgh story, his collar and dinner dish are preserved in the Huntly House, the museum dedicated to city history.  The Huntly House is a restored 16th century townhouse, and one of the oldest and most interesting buildings in the area known as the Royal Mile.  After extensive renovation, the museum was opened in 1932.

The Huntly House contains a piece of the original market cross, as well as examples of local craftsmanship in silver, pottery and glass. The lower level has a unique selection of outdoor signs which were commonly used in years past as visual advertisements for services and products.

The dog collar belonging to Bobby in the Huntly House is more than just your typical collar.  After the death of John Grey, Bobby had no official owner.  He was loved and regularly fed by the families and shop owners situated around the graveyard, but no one had paid for his city dog license.  At the time, Bobby had a close brush with death, because he had no license.

Luckily for him, the Lord Provost of the city, Sir William Chambers was a dog-lover.  As head of the town council, he was a powerful man and when the question of Bobby's licensing came up, he asked to meet the little dog.  Sir William was quite taken with Bobby and arranged to pay his license indefinitely.  Bobby was given a new collar, the one now on display, with a brass plate with the following inscriptiion:  Greyfriars Bobby from the lord Provost, 1867, licensed.

The area of the old town where Bobby roamed and now lies buried contains one of the cities most historic churches.  The Kirk of the Greyfirairs, built in 1620, was the first new church constructed after the Reformation.  It was named after the Fransicscan friars whose friary was on the site of the churchyard from 1447 to 1560.  Mary, Queen of Scots, gave the land to the Burgh in 1562 to ease the strain on the town graveyard at St. Giles.  The National Covenant was signed at Greyfriars in 1638 and the Martyrs' Monument and Covenanter's prison bear witness to those tumultuous times.  Besides the graves of John Grey and Bobby, there are many fine examples of 17th and 18th century monuments in the kirkyard.

Just a few steps from the cemetery, lies the famous statue of Greyfriars Bobby.  Appropriately, behind the statue is a
quaint pub, also named in honor of the dog.  After a tiring day of sightseeing, you can enjoy a taste of the national drink, Scotch, of course and rest your weary legs.

Edinburgh, called the jewel in Scotland's crown, has many facets: classical architecture piled on hills, sweeping Georgian crescents, medieval closes, green parks and a little dog who continues to touch the hearts of millions.