Our story begins with a gardener named John Gray. Wanting a better job so that he might better provide for his children, John arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1850 together with his family. Unsuccessful in securing work as a gardener, though, John decided to join the Edinburgh police force as a night watchman instead.
Shortly after beginning his shifts on the cobbled streets of the city, John found a partner to keep him company during the long Edinburgh nights: A wee Skye Terrier named Bobby. Now, Bobby was hardly a watchdog, but he was a loving and cheerful companion. John and Bobby soon became inseparable and were a common sight around the city.
After several years on the job patrolling Edinburgh during the bitterly cold nights, John became very sick and was treated for tuberculosis. Tragically, in spite of treatment, John Gray succumbed to his illness and, according to eyewitness accounts, died on February 15, 1858. John Gray was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Despite having lost his best friend, Bobby could never let go. Bobby remained faithful to John and lovingly guarded his master’s grave every day. Soon, Bobby became famous across Edinburgh.
Fast forward to 1867. The City of Edinburgh passed a new law requiring that all dogs be licensed. If a dog was not registered in the city, that dog would be immediately caught and killed.
Enter Sir William Chambers.
Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, decided to pay Bobby’s license to protect him. Bobby was gifted a lovely collar with a brass inscription that reads, “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost, 1867 Licensed.” That collar is on display at the Museum of Edinburgh.
According to several sources, Bobby kept faithful watch over his master’s grave for 14 years until his death in 1872. During the course of those 14 years, the good people of Edinburgh adored Bobby and took exceptional care of him. Lady Burdett-Coutts, president of the Ladies Committee of the RSPCA, commissioned the Greyfriars Bobby Fountain shortly before Bobby died and the bronze statue was made from life by William Brodie. Located near Candlemaker Row, this beautiful monument to Bobby was unveiled on November 15, 1873. After falling into disrepair, Bobby was carefully restored in 1985 after becoming a Category A Listed Building in 1977. Reportedly, it is Edinburgh’s smallest listed building.
Bobby is interred at Greyfriars Kirkyard. Although the graves of John and Bobby are not located directly next to each other, they are rather close in proximity and you can visit both. Still today, people travel from all over the world to pay their respects to these remarkable best friends at their final resting places at Greyfriars Kirkyard and to stop by the fountain to rub Bobby’s nose for good luck.
Sandy Nelson, The Sandy Papers, (703) 975-1747, TheSandyPapers@aol.com, TheSandyPapers.net, Specializing in Europe and the Exotics