Edinburgh's Greyfriars Bobby

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July 21st 2016
Published: June 10th 2017
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Geo: 55.9503, -3.18761

It has been a week since we flew to Scotland, and I am trying to remember what all we loved about Edinburgh. The Castle, Tron Kirk, George Heriot's School, and Greyfriars Kirk all stand out in memory since they are some of the impressive castles and cathedrals that delight the eye upon entering Edinburgh. Simply walking around looking at these marvelous structures is exciting and uplifting. And there are stories galore about body snatchers, grave robbers, ghosts, people who survived hangings, an underground city of the dead, haunted graveyards, all of which tend to lend a mysterious air to the city. And for Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh is a must! It is easy to understand why the medical school needed cadavers for their students to study anatomy, and therefore many freshly dead bodies were stolen from graves when supplies were low, so that explains the body snatchers and grave robbers. I know nothing about the underground city of the dead or haunted graveyards. And I did hear stories about people who survived being hanged, but the story I like best is about Greyfriars Bobby.

Bobby was a little Skye Terrier who was adopted by John Gray in 1856. Mr. Gray, originally a gardener, had moved to Edinburgh in 1850, but could not find work to support his family or avoid the workhouse, so eventually he took on a job as a policeman, as a night watchman; his beat was in a very rough area around Greyfriars Kirkyard. After awhile he realized having a watchdog to accompany him on his nightly rounds would be a very good idea, so Bobby and John became companions, walking their beat nightly for years. The area at that time was certainly not healthy, and John developed tuberculosis, dying in February, 1858. Little Bobby sat by his graveside every day, through sun or snow, rain or shine, apparently waiting for his master and good friend. Bobby did this for years, until in 1867 a new law was passed that all dogs in the city had to be licensed, or put to death. Bobby hadn't had any owner for over nine years at that time, but the good people of Edinburgh could not bear to think of his being killed simply because he did not have a license. So the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, paid for Bobby's license, and also gave him a collar engraved with a brass inscription that read: "Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed." Bobby's collar can be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh. And so Bobby continued to sit and wait for his friend, a total of 14 years spent watching and waiting, faithful to John until the end.

Near one of the edges of Greyfriars Kirkyard is a granite stone for Bobby; people come and read and photograph it. It is probably the most famous stone in that cemetery! And just across the street is a fountain with a lifesize statue of Bobby on top. While we were there we saw a great many people stop to pat Bobby's head; we did too. On that headstone is inscribed: "Greyfriars Bobby - died 14th January 1872 - aged 16 years - Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all."


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