It’s a story from my childhood – the loyal and faithful little dog who was a common site in the city of Edinburgh during the 1850’s. He was loyal to his master even after his master’s death. Greyfriars Bobby guarded his grave faithfully for 14 years after he died. Greyfriars Bobby is both a film and a book, a story of loyalty and faithfulness beyond belief.
I headed to Edinburgh to meet fellow traveller blogger Skye Class to follow in the footsteps of Greyfriars Bobby. I like to think that my friend Skye was aptly named after the breed of dog ‘Skye Terrier’, but it’s more likely to be after the Isle of Skye or reaching for the Sky living life without limits!
The Story of Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriar’s Bobby was a Skye terrier who followed his master John Gray, known as Auld Jock, around the cobbled streets. Auld Jock bought Bobby to keep him company during his work as a night watchman, which he did to avoid the workhouses.
The cold nights on the streets took their toll on Auld Jock and he finally died from Tuberculosis in February 1858. Auld Jock was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby moved the residents of the city when he refused to leave his masters grave (historic-uk.com). Many times, Bobby was ‘evicted’ by the gardener and keeper of the Church grounds, but Bobby always came back! Tradition said that he followed a local joiner to the same coffee shop that he frequented with his master, to get a meal at 1 O’Clock every day.
A new bye-law was passed in 1867 that required all dogs to be licensed in the city of Edinburgh or they would be taken and destroyed. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh decided to pay for Bobby’s dog licence. Bobby was presented with a collar with a brass inscription “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed” and permitted to reside in the graveyard until his own death in 1972(historic-uk.com).
Greyfriars Kirk is located in the Southern Edge of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Kirk is the informal name of the Church of Scotland, which broke away from Catholicism during the Scottish Reformation.
In front of the Church is a beautiful bronze statue of Bobby on a granite fountain. The plaque says the words: ‘A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858 this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872.’ Here’s me finding Greyfriars Bobby!
Many tourists rub his nose for good luck. But you can see that the massive volumes of people who travel to touch Bobby is taking its toll!
On entering the Chruchyard, you see Bobby’s grave, where he was laid to rest, just seventy five yards away from his masters grave. Greyfriars Bobby has his own red granite headstone, which was unveiled by his Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester CCVO, in 1981. People visit Bobby’s grave and leave him sticks, even presents such as dog toys. Every day the grave is cleared and every day, more offerings arrive!
Greyfriars Kirk itself is a fully functioning Church of Scotland with a healthy congregation worshipping on weekdays and weekends. It’s also a major arts and classical music venue. The graveyard too is extremely impressive. Look carefully and you will find the grave of Tom Riddle, that inspired J. K. Rowling in the writing of her world famous Harry Potter novels.
If you are interested in Church of Scotland, I recommend that you also read about the Rosslyn Chapel, just 30 minutes drive outside Edinburgh.