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Greyfriars Bobby

This statue of Bobby sits at the corner of Edinburgh's Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge, and is a Category A listed building

BreedSkye Terrier
Born4 May 1855
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died14 January 1872 (aged 16)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Resting placeGreyfriars Kirkyard
Known forGuarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872
OwnerJohn Gray
AwardsKey to the City of Edinburgh

Greyfriars Bobby (4 May 1855 – 14 January 1872) was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films. A prominent commemorative statue and nearby graves are a tourist attraction.

Traditional view

Greyfriars Bobby's collar

Greyfriars Bobby's collar

The best-known version of the story is that Bobby belonged to John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a nightwatchman. When John Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the kirkyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby then became known locally, spending the rest of his life sitting on his master's grave.[1][2]

In 1867 the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, who was also a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, paid for Bobby's licence and gave the dog a collar, now in the Museum of Edinburgh.[2][3]

Bobby is said to have sat by the grave for 14 years.[1][2][3][4] He died in 1872[3][4] and a necropsy by Prof Thomas Walley of the Edinburgh Veterinary College concluded he had died from cancer of the jaw.[5]

He was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray's grave.[2]

A year later, the English philanthropist Lady Burdett-Coutts was charmed by the story and had a drinking fountain topped with Bobby's statue (commissioned from the sculptor William Brodie) erected at the junction of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row (opposite the entrance to the churchyard) to commemorate him.[4][6]

Alternative views

The accuracy of stories of Greyfriars Bobby has been challenged many times: for instance, in Forbes Macgregor's Greyfriars Bobby: The Real Story at Last,[7] Jan Bondeson's Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World,[8] and Richard Brassey's "Greyfriars Bobby The Most Famous Dog in Scotland".[9]

Questions about the story's accuracy are not new. In a newspaper article in The Scotsman, "Greyfriars Bobby A Dog's Devotion" (11 August 1934), Councillor Wilson McLaren responds to contemporary questions about the accuracy of the stories by describing his own conversation, in 1871, with "Mr Traill" of "Traill's Coffee House" in relation to the dog he himself was then feeding, reassuring readers about the story Mr Traill had given him, and describing responses in 1889 to questions about the story's accuracy.[10] A sense of the difficulty of determining accuracy is gained from two opposing letters to The Scotsman newspaper on 8 February 1889 (part of the debate referred to by McLaren), both from people claiming close links to Greyfriars Kirk, both claiming to have known of the dog personally but with opposing views over the accuracy of stories.[11]

A common discussion is over which of two people named John Gray was the real owner of Bobby (one being a night watchman and the other a farmer).[3] In Councillor McLaren's account, Mr Traill in 1871 had spoken about John Gray the farmer.[10]

Jan Bondeson's book advances the view that fundamental facts about the dog and its loyalty are wrong. Bondeson states as background that in 19th-century Europe, there are over 60 documented accounts of graveyard or cemetery dogs. They were stray dogs, fed by visitors and curators to the point that the dogs made the graveyards their home. People began to believe that they were waiting by a grave and so the dog was looked after. Bondeson claims that after an article about Bobby appeared in The Scotsman, visitor numbers to the graveyard increased, which supposedly created a commercial benefit for the local community.[8] Bondeson also speculates that in 1867, the original Bobby died and was replaced with a younger dog, which explains Bobby's supposed longevity.[8]


Bobby's headstone in Greyfriars Kirkyard

  • Greyfriars Bobby Fountain, the fountain includes a life-size statue of Greyfriars Bobby created by William Brodie in 1872. The monument is Edinburgh's smallest listed building.
  • Greyfriars Bobby's Bar, a pub located on the ground floor of the Candlemaker Row's houses.[12]
  • Greyfriars Bobby's headstone, the headstone was errected by The Dog Aid Society of Scotland and unveiled by the Duke of Gloucester on 13 May 1981.[13] The monument reads, "Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14 January 1872 – Aged 16 years – Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all".

Books and films directly about Bobby

See also


  1. ^ a b greyfriarsbobby.co.uk "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 March 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (11 February 2013).
  2. ^ a b c d Education Scotland website "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (11 February 2013).
  3. ^ a b c d Edinburgh Museums and Galleries website [1] (11 February 2013).
  4. ^ a b c Edinburgh Museums (monuments) website [2] Archived 7 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine (11 February 2013)
  5. ^ Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World, J Bondeson
  6. ^ "Story of Greyfriars Bobby: A Heartwarming Tale". scotlandwelcomesyou.com. 16 February 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  7. ^ Macgregor, Forbes "Greyfriars Bobby: The Real Story at Last" Steve Savage Publishers Limited, 2nd Revised edition, (2002), ISBN 978-1904246008
  8. ^ a b c Jan Bondeson, Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World, Amberley Publishing, 2011, ISBN 978-1445607627
  9. ^ Brassey, Richard "Greyfriars Bobby" Orion Childrens, (2010), ISBN 978-1444000573
  10. ^ a b The Scotsman, 11 August 1934
  11. ^ The Scotsman, 8 February 1889
  12. ^ https://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/scotlandandnorthernireland/greyfriarsbobbysbarcandlemakerrowedinburgh
  13. ^ "Remember when: we've got no grave concerns", The Scotsman, 26 March 2016
  14. ^ Eleanor Atkinson. Greyfriars Bobby at Project Gutenberg.
  15. ^ Douglas Brode (2004). From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture. University of Texas Press. pp. 194–196. ISBN 0-292-70273-6.
  16. ^ The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby: IMDB.com website.
  17. ^ Stirling Castle location, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby: BBC.co.uk website.
  18. ^ Hanson, Patricia King, ed. (1999). AFI Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States. University of California Press. p. 400. ISBN 0-520-21521-4.
  19. ^ Gregory W. Mank (2009). Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration. McFarland. pp. 481, 504. ISBN 978-0-78645-472-3.
  20. ^ Pratchett, Terry; Simpson, Jacqueline (2008). The Folklore of Discworld. Doubleday. pp. 250–251. ISBN 9780385611008.
  21. ^ "An Edinburgh Christmas Carol". Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
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