From time immemorial, people have vouched about the unconditional love and faith displayed by their pet dogs. People even assert that their dogs are their stress busters! But who would have imagined the undying love of a dog for its owner long after the latter’s death?
While taking a city walk in Edinburgh I came across a statue of a dog inviting lot of attention from people who were evidently tourists. Who was this dog? And why was there a statue instituted for it? I was quite intrigued.
Making a mental note to research on it further I made my way back towards the Royal Mile where I had planned to visit the museum of Edinburgh. And guess what I found there? My answer to the dog mystery!
The story of the dog dates back to the 19th century. One of the story legends is that this dog that went by the name of Bobby, a black Skye Terrier belonged to John Gray who worked for the Edinburgh city Police as a night watchman. Both Bobby and John were inseparable till John died of tuberculosis in 1858. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (churchyard) in the old town of Edinburgh unceremonious without a gravestone. It is said that Bobby from then on stayed in this graveyard guarding over his master’s grave for 14 years till his death in 1872. He left the grave only for his midday meal on the sound of the one o’ clock gun where he visited the café at 6, Greyfriar’s Place which he used to frequent with his master. (By the way the one o’clock gun can still be heard everyday and I was lucky to be at the Edinburgh castle around that time to witness the one o’ clock gun being fired from the castle!!) The restaurant was taken over by John Traill in 1862, as The Refreshment Rooms & Temperance Coffee House. The bowl in which they used to feed Bobby is still there in the Edinburgh Museum.
The keeper of the graveyard after many attempts of removing Bobby gave up and finally provided for a make shift shelter space for Bobby next to John Gray’s grave. Bobby soon became the talk of the town. There were people standing outside the graveyard watching the dog and waiting for it to move at the sound of the one o’clock gun.
Another legend given in Eleanor Atkinson’s book (1912) & the Walt Disney movie says that it belonged to John Gray a shepherd from the Pentland Hills, who died while on a visit to Edinburgh in January 1858. Also the story goes that Sergeant Scott of the Royal Engineers trained Bobby to associate the One O’clock Gun with his meal time!!
A by-law passed in 1862 dictated licensing of dogs & a new duty on dogs. All ownerless dogs were required to be eliminated. Sir William Chambers (The Lord Provost of Edinburgh) paid Bobby’s license himself, and presented him with a collar with the brass inscription “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed”. This can also be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh.
People of Edinburgh looked after loyal Bobby until his death. One year post Bobby’s death, a fountain with Bobby’s statue on top, was erected opposite the Kirkyard facing the graveyard. But later it was turned around, allegedly by the owner of the Greyfriars Bobby’s bar so that the bar would appear in the background of the statue in the countless photographs people took of this faithful dog. There are books and movies that are directly or indirectly based on the intense loyalty of Bobby.
Bobby’s grave can be found in Greyfriars Kirkyard, about 75 yards from John Gray’s grave. The headstone is engraved with these words which are apt:
“Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 – aged 16 years – Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all”.