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Greyfriars Bobby Day
"Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14 January 1872 – Aged 16 years –
Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all."
~ Bobby's Headstone in the Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th century Edinburgh for supposedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films, and a prominent commemorative statue near Greyfriars Kirkyard. Originally built as a commemorative drinking fountain, it had an upper fountain for humans and a lower fountain for dogs. Bobby's story lives on in modern times in the most unlikeliest of places. In addition to the original historical accounts, fictionalized novels, subsequent films, a 2019 production of An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, produced by the Royal Lyceum Theatre, relocated the events of the tale to Edinburgh and includes Bobby (played by a puppet)! As the play begins, Tiny Tim considers Bobby a friend, with Bob Cratchit often leaving food out for him as Scrooge's office is just opposite Greyfriars. The play concludes with Scrooge using a gift left behind by the Spirit of Christmas Nooadays (the Scots equivalent of the Ghost of Christmas Present) to provide Bobby's license, thus protecting him from the dog-catcher. Edinburgh folklore tells us that when Charles Dickens was visiting the city on a reading tour, a stroll through a kirkyard brought him to the tombstone of one Ebenezer Scroggie, sparking the idea for the main character of his famous story. According to local reports, the real Bobby would famously leave the churchyard for lunch every day at the firing of the One o’clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle. ⛪ 🐕
Photo courtesy of Margaret Harkness
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located at the southern edge of the Old Town, adjacent to George Heriot's School.
The Greyfriars Tartan was designed by Paul Moffat, a participant at the Grassmarket Community Project. The Grassmarket Community Project (GCP), an organization dedicated to supporting people through transitions in their lives and helping to re-connect disengaged people. The Greyfriars Tartan represents the history of the area and the work of the community.
Working with Greyfriars kirk, a textiles class designed the Greyfriars Tartan to represent the shared history of the area. Greyfriars, now home to the congregation of Greyfriars Tollbooth and Highland, stands in grounds that had belonged to the Franciscan convent in the Grassmarket - hence the name Greyfriars. It was the first church built in Edinburgh after the Scottish Reformation. In 1638 the National Covenant was presented and signed in front of the pulpit. During Cromwell's invasion of Scotland Greyfriars was used as a barracks from 1650 to 1653.
However, the most famous story from the nineteenth century, however, is that of Greyfriars Bobby.
Bobby was a Skye Terrier, looked after by John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman. When John Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard 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.
Bobby's devotion captured the heart of the Lord Provost, William Chambers. In 1867, 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. After Bobby died himself on 14 January 1872, a commemorative statue was erected in his honor. He was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray's grave.
The story, though with those who dispute its accuracy, continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films. For more on Greyfriars Bobby, click the statue with tartan scarf to see an 1865 print, said to be of Bobby himself.