Greyfriars Bobby

17/7/19

Greyfriars Bobby is a local legend about a loyal dog. The story goes that John Gray - a night watchman who worked for the Edinburgh City Police - had a dog called Bobby that he was very close to. He died and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. After his burial Bobby kept watch over his master's grave and in 1867 the Lord Provost gave Bobby a collar, which is on display in The Museum of Edinburgh on High Street. Bobby died in 1872 and he was said to have lived for 14 years. He was buried close to his master.

The story was immortalised in a book in 1912 and a Disney film in 1961. It’s a heartwarming tale beloved by tourists and locals alike, but its veracity has been called into question. Questions about it have existed since its inception. The confusion seems to lie with there being two John Grays at about the same time. One worked as a farmer and one was the watchman described. There are also contemporary reports of “graveyard dogs”, stray dogs that would hang around graveyards. The longevity of the dog’s life calls into question whether or not there was just one dog.

We’ll never know the true story. It’s likely a mix of truth and mythology. It’s a popular tourist story and there’s a small statue to the dog close to the graveyard. Another factor that requires skepticism is the belief that rubbing the nose of the statue bestows luck. This is a recent invention and has led to the statue to become damaged so local activists have taken action to dissuade people from rubbing the nose. People are enamoured by the sweet story of the loyal pet, and it’s nice to think we’ll be missed by those we leave behind, even our pets.

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