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 take care of him and force him in their homes on unusually cold days. But still, he remained loyal, Bobby sat perched, watching over John for a total of 14 years before he himself died on the grave in 1872.





Bobby was given a burial and a headstone in Greyfriars Kirkyard only 70 or so yards from his master. The message on the headstone reads:

"Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 – aged 16 years

Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Bobby touched the hearts of so many, and 160 years later, he continues to inspire; Bobby is a perfect reminder of the loyalty and dedication found in not some, but all dogs if only given the love and the chance.


Over the years, this story has been told again and again. It's been spun many different ways with many different interpretation, always with a healthy dose of speculation. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite things about Edinburgh and is a story for the ages.


Here are some resources if you are planning on visiting Edinburgh and want to see anything to do with the most loyal dog in the world!


Information on Bobby at Museum of Edinburgh


Greyfriars Kirk

This cemetery is famous for a number of other things, too! Such as the Mackenzie poltergeist and the grave of a man named Thomas Riddle who may have been inspiration for JK Rowling's character Voldemort in Harry Potter.


Museum of Edinburgh

Here you can see statues of him, his collar, dinner plate and further information on his life. This museum is free, too!


Greyfriars Bobby pub

Here you can see a statue of Bobby just outside and enjoy a cask ale!


Of course, I always recommend AirBnb! Don't have an account? Make one with my magical link here.


I'd love to know if you know of any similar stories or have ever been to Edinburgh yourself! If not, you should totally put it on your list. For my reasons why, click here.


Thanks for reading!

xo

Taking a seat while exploring the rest of Greyfriars Kirkyard