Have you ever had a pet that was very loyal to you? How do you honor a dog that went above and beyond in loyalty to his human? In Edinburgh, Scotland they found a few ways to honor one such dog. Greyfriars Bobby is not a tale, but a true story.
John Gray went to Edinburgh with his wife and son looking for work. He accepted a job as a police constable. He was provided with a place to stay in the neighborhood he worked in.
Police during that time worked with dogs. It is said John Gray adopted a Skye terrier around 1856. He named the dog Bobby. Bobby followed John around on his rounds. John and Bobby would make a routine of stopping at a coffee house near the Greyfriar’s Church.
John Gray became ill and in early 1858 he died of consumption or tuberculosis. Bobby followed the funeral procession through the Burial Gate to Greyfriar’s Kirk (churchyard) where John was buried.
John Gray’s family was said to have taken the dog home, but he kept returning to his master’s grave to hold vigil. James Brown, a gardener at the church, gave Bobby food and water and allowed him to stay. Usually dogs were chased away from the churchyard. Fellow police constables on patrol through the churchyard recognized John Gray’s dog and feed him a little as well. Also it is said a man named James Anderson, who lived above what is now the Greyfriars Bobby bar, would go and fetch Bobby on stormy nights and bring him inside his place.
A sergeant at Edinburgh Castle heard about Bobby and took an interest in him. Sgt. Scott trained Bobby that the one o’clock gun meant dinner. It became an attraction for people to stand at the churchyard gate to see Bobby leave at the one o’clock gun and walk to the Eating House. After he was done eating he would walk back to the grave. This continued when the place changed hands and was named Traill’s Temperance Coffee House.
Danger came when it was decided all dogs in Edinburgh needed to be licensed. If they were not they could be put to sleep or destroyed. The optics of putting such a loyal dog to sleep would have been terrible, so the Lord Provost of Edinburgh William Chambers stepped in and paid for Bobby’s license and bought him a collar.
Newspapers started to write stories about Greyfriars Bobby. People came to paint pictures of him. The Traill family who ran the Coffee House Bobby visited at one o’clock everyday had a photo taken with him.
Bobby died January 14, 1872. The Traill family buried Bobby in a triangular flower bed beneath a tree in the Greyfriars Churchyard in secret. They put up a headstone that someone later removed.
In 1873 a bronze statue was made of Bobby with a granite fountain was donated by Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts. There was a trough at the bottom of it for dogs to drink out of.
The Huntly House Museum in Edinburgh has two of Bobby’s items. They have the collar presented to Bobby by Lord Provost William Chambers. They also have the metal dish Bobby ate from at the Coffee Shop from 1862-1872. They also have the photo of Bobby with the Traill family and their coffee house.
In 1981 a new headstone funded by the Dog Aid Society of Scotland was erected for Bobby in the Greyfriars Churchyard. They believe it is in the same area he was buried.
Various books were made in his honor telling his story. A Disney movie was made about Bobby, although they say the facts are incorrect.
There is a pub now near the statue named Greyfriars Bobby.
Greyfriars Bobby was an incredible dog with an incredible story. How loyal is your pet? How far would you go to honor your animal friend?