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Greyfriars Bobby: the Scottish pup that never gave up

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Greyfriars Bobby YMCA Global Study

Edinburgh is not a new city, it is rooted in history and this can be seen through its architecture, statues, castles, and legends that make every corner of the city an interesting one. One such legend is of the most photographed dog (and pub) in Edinburgh; it is a tale that will pull on your heartstrings and make you yearn to visit the home of Greyfriars Bobby. On a corner of Edinburgh’s famous shopping street Candlemaker Row (also known for inspiring Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley) there is a statue of a little Skye Terrier. This statue was made in the image of a dog named Bobby who followed his owner John Grey around the city on his shifts as a night watchman of the city in the 1800s – no matter the cold or terrible weather (remember this is Scotland, their terrible weather in has got to be pretty bad) the people of Edinburgh knew they could rely on the familiar sight of John and Bobby walking the streets to keep them safe. Their faithful friendship and tireless service to the city as night watchman and watchdog clearly took a toll on John over time though, and in 1858 he was sadly beaten at last by tuberculosis and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

And here is where Bobby showed his true loyalty. Even though his owner was gone, Bobby kept the resilience John had taught him through their many walks around the city and braved the foul Scottish weather to stay by John’s graveside no matter what; even when the Gravekeeper tried to evict him from the yard like an angry landlord the pup stood firm and returned to keep watch over his owner. Eventually the Gravekeeper gave in and provided a makeshift shelter for Bobby by John’s grave, and slowly the people of Edinburgh came to hear of Bobby’s perseverance and he became an icon in the city. Not to be one without a schedule, the timely pup famously would wait for the one o’clock gun that signalled for him to fetch some lunch at the Coffee House where he had always gone with John while he was alive. His fame even allowed him to get around the 1867 law that required the dogs of Edinburgh to be licensed or risk being eradicated. The admiration of the citizens of Edinburgh for little Bobby convinced Sir William Chambers who was The Lord Provost of Edinburgh to pay for Bobby’s license and buy him a collar with the inscription “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed” – the collar can be seen to this day at the Museum of Edinburgh.

Bobby kept up his watchful vigilance over his master for a total of fourteen years, until his own death in 1872. His story was one that truly touched the hearts of the citizens of Edinburgh, and in order to keep Bobby’s memory alive the President of the Ladies Committee of the RSPCA asked the council to erect a fountain with a statue of Bobby on top. To this day visitors to the city make the trip to Bobby’s statue to rub the nose of the loyal dog and grab a pint at the Greyfriars Bobby Pub next to the fountain. Although it is unconfirmed, we have even heard that the Pub owners sneakily spun the statue of Bobby so that it faced away from their front doors, which ensured they would forever be in the background of tourist pictures making the pilgrimage to see Bobby – talk about a free publicity goldmine! But the tale itself is heartwarming and it continues to spread joy in the city for locals and travellers alike, as the extremes of loyalty and friendship between John and his fur-friend serve to make those who see his statue paws for thought.


Written by Kate Cook

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