Greyfriars Bobby-A Tale of Loyalty

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby near the south entrance to Greyfriars Kirk

Warning: This post may give extreme feelings of love toward dogs

Last Fall, Brett and I hopped on a plane to Edinburgh for Samhain. While there, I fell hard and fast for Scotland. This was no surprise, I have a love for the paranormal and all things history. That said, aside from the ancient Pagan fire festival, we did plenty of other things like explore Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard. This was when I learned what could easily be one of the saddest and most touching stories ever told. (Side note: Kirk just means "church" and more specifically, the Church of Scotland that is distinct from The Church of England.)

Greyfriars Kirkyard is arguably the most famous cemetery in Scotland and is one of the most researched paranormal sights in The UK! Today, though, I won't be talking about all the spooky goodness that goes on in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Instead, I want to talk about a very sweet and very sad story about a pup named Bobby. So, let's get to it.

About 160 years ago, in the year 1850, a gardener named John Gray relocated to Edinburgh with his family. He had a hard time finding work as a gardener, so he traded in his flower days for late nights in Edinburgh alleys and became a watchman for Edinburgh Police. Pretty quickly, he became lonely and thought he might need a companion for his long nights patrolling. This led him to adopt a little Skye terrier named Bobby who he would call his "wee watchdog." The two quickly became attached, and wherever John went, Bobby always followed close behind. I imagine the two of them making the best of long nights trudging down the dark and wet streets humming hymns and playing fetch. John was known to bring Bobby with him to a pub in Greyfriars Place where I'd like to think he had many a haggis or at least got all the scraps and even licked the plate.

A couple of years later, patrolling the streets started to catch up to John and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It took him fast and he was pronounced dead on February 15, 1858. At this time, John and Bobby had been carrying on for two years. It's said that Bobby led his masters funeral procession to the grave at Greyfriars Kirk and simply stayed there. The groundskeeper for the cemetery removed Bobby from the grave several times but despite his efforts, Bobby always returned, refusing to stay gone. Eventually, the groundskeeper gave in and made a shelter for him out of two table slabs next to Johns headstone. Bobby slipped into his own routine and started responding to the one o'clock gun and going to the pub where he and John would eat almost daily. There, the owners or customers would give him scraps and water plus some belly rubs, of course. After his feast, back to the grave he would go. Not long after, Bobby became the most famous pup in Scotland! Scots would gather daily to see him leave at the gun for his lunch and return to the grave. Sometimes leaving food and sticks for him.

Fast forward a few years to 1867 when Edinburgh developed a bit of a stray problem. Scotland passed a law that said any dog without an owner would be put down. A man by the name of Sir William Chambers came along and decided to pay for Bobby's "license" that would show the city he had an owner. He even had a collar engraved for him that read “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed,” and it can be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh.

Throughout the years, Bobby remained in all conditions of hail, snow and whatever else came his way. The kind people of Edinburgh continued to