27 August 2007
Faith on Four Paws
There are many stories about dogs and how faithful they are to their owners, but few are as famous as the little Skye Terrier whose statue is visited by thousands every year. John Gray came to Edinburgh in the early 1800's where he joined the police force. One of his conditions of service was that he have a watch dog, and he obtained a little pup he named Bobby. After a few years John Gray passed away in 1858. He was buried in an unmarked grave in old Greyfriars Kirkyard. His grave became scarcely noticed with little human interest, but the spot was not totally forgotten. The dead man's dog, Bobby, lay on the grave, only leaving for food, without once breaking faith with his master until his own death in 1872. The owners of the coffee house fed Bobby and John Traill the owner from 1862 on gave him a dish engraved "Bobby's Dinner Dish" that can be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh.
When a new regulation required that all dogs must be licensed or destroyed, Sir William Chambers, Director for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals paid for Bobby's licence and presented him with a collar with a brass inscription "Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licenced".
In 1870, Baroness Angelia Georgina Burdett-Coutts asked the City Council for permission to erect a granite fountain with a statue of Bobby placed on top near the Kirkyard as a lasting memory of the little Skye Terrier Bobby upon his death. William Brody sculptured the statue from life, and it was unveiled on November 1873. The original sculptured model and his collar are in the Museum of Edinburgh. After his death, Eleanor Atkinson wrote a somewhat embellished story that made Bobby world famous and at least two motion pictures have been based on his many fictional adventures around Edinburgh.
"The American Lovers of Bobby" erected a Red Granite stone to mark John Gray's grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the inscription reads "John Gray - died 1858 - Auld Jock - Master of Grayfriars Bobby - Even in his ashes most beloved". Bobby died in 1872 and could not be buried within the cemetery itself, since it was consecrated ground. Instead he remains faithful even in death where he was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray's grave. His headstone was erected by The Dog Aid Society of Scotland. The inscription reads "Greyfriars Bobby - died 14th January 1872 - aged 16 years - Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all - Unveiled by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester CCVO - on the 13th May 1881"