In the early 1800’s a man called John Gray, a gardener, arrived in Edinburgh with his wife and son looking for work. The weather was cold, however, and the ground was hard, so there were no gardening jobs available. He took what work he could find, and became a member of the Edinburgh Police Force – a Constable.
As a condition of his job, John Gray was required to have a dog. He bought a Skye Terrier and named him Bobby (Bobby was the nickname for Constables in the Police Force). Bobby became a loving and loyal companion.
A Sad Event
Unfortunately, after a few years as a policeman, John Gray became ill with tuberculosis, and died in February 1858. He was buried in old Greyfriars Kirkyard (Churchyard) in an unremarkable grave with no gravestone.
For the next fourteen years, Bobby sat and kept guard over his master’s grave. He left the grave only for food, waiting patiently until the one o’clock gun was sounded, when he visited a nearby cafe which he used to visit with his master. There the owners (who changed over the years) would feed him his dinner. The last owner to feed Bobby, John Traill, had a special dish made for him (engraved “Bobby’s Dinner Dish”), which can be seen in the Museum of Edinburgh.
The gardener and keeper of the graveyard, James Brown, tried often to remove Bobby from the Kirkyard, but finally gave up and provided a shelter instead, at the side of John Gray’s grave.
Fame For Bobby
Bobby’s fame spread throughout Edinburgh. On a daily basis the crowds would gather at the entrance of the graveyard waiting for the one o’clock gun and a glimpse of Bobby leaving for his meal.
In 1867 a law was passed that required dogs to be licensed or destroyed. Sir William Chambers (The Lord Provost of Edinburgh) paid Bobby’s licence himself, and presented him with a collar with the brass inscription “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed”.
The people of Edinburgh looked after the faithful Bobby while he watched over his master. Bobby died in 1872.
Statue in Tribute to Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby, Scotland’s most famous dog, is not forgotton. Hearing the story, the President of the Ladies Committee of the RSPCA asked the City Council for permission to erect a granite fountain with a statue of Bobby placed on top. A statue was commissioned unveiled in November 1873 opposite the Kirkyard graveyard, on the corner of Candlemakers Row and King George IV Bridge.
Bobby’s grave can be found in Greyfriars Kirkyard, about 75 yards from John Gray’s grave. The headstone is engraved with these words:
Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 – aged 16 years
Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all
Post script: There are stories to the contrary about Bobby. But personally, I like to believe this one. Why not? Because there is no harm done in believing this version.