Dogs are loyal, loving, and display a never-ending happiness that many humans envy. And, yet, dogs don’t hesitate to share these qualities with those they meet. These are qualities our Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer, displays daily. He is a beloved member of our family and we are happy that he also spreads joy and love to residents and visitors of Edinburgh (more on him a little later).
However, this week, I'm going to share the story of Edinburgh’s original "best friend"- Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby died 148 years ago today- 14 January 1872. He embodied all the traits listed above (and more) and his story is one that has inspired people around the world for decades. Without further ado, this is the tale of Greyfriars Bobby…
If you are fortunate to visit our beautiful city here in Scotland, you will surely hear about the story of Greyfriars Bobby. We talk about him on our walking tours, and his ‘presence’ is found throughout the city. His legacy lives on to this day because of the endearing characteristics Bobby showed and his love of Edinburgh and its residents. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, where in true Edinburgh historical fashion, we have a bit of a mystery.
Bobby was a Skye Terrier, but no one knows for certain what his origin story is. One story says that he belonged to Edinburgh police constable, John Gray. Constable Gray passed away in 1858, and the story goes that Bobby undertook a 14-year vigil by his graveside in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Another version of the story is based on Eleanor Atkinson’s 1912 book, which was then made into a Walt Disney movie in 1962. That story outlines that Bobby belonged to a shepherd from the Pentland Hills who died on a visit to Edinburgh (read here for more on the Pentlands).
So, while we aren’t sure exactly how Bobby’s life began, what we do know is that he was a regular ‘resident’ around Greyfriars. He was taken care of by some of the locals in the area including the Kirkyard gardener. He was also trained to go to the restaurant at 6 Greyfriars Place each day when the One O’clock Gun went off up at Edinburgh Castle.
As I stated earlier, Bobby passed away in 1872 and he was buried just outside Greyfriars Kirkyard (our walking tours identify this spot). There is a memorial marker for Bobby inside the Kirkyard and people bring sticks to honour him throughout the year. On 14 January each year, we commemorate Bobby’s life with a special ceremony at Greyfriars. This years commemorative event was put on by the Dogs Trust (they are the largest dog welfare charity in the UK. Find more information about them here). The ceremony included speakers presenting inside Greyfriars Kirk and ended as we awaited the One O’clock Gun by Bobby's memorial in the kirkyard. It was attended by Edinburgh's Lord Provost, school children from P5 Prestonfield Primary School, other dignitaries, and dog owners.
So where else can you ‘find’ Bobby in Edinburgh? Well, I previously discussed the small exhibit on display at the Museum of Edinburgh . There, you can find Bobby’s collar, food dish, and other memorabilia. We highly recommend that you pay a visit to this wonderful museum.
A statue of Bobby was erected in 1873 thanks to the generosity of Baroness Burdett-Coutts. As you can see from the pictures of the statue, the paint is coming off his nose. Unfortunately, this is because some people spread the rumour that it is good luck to rub Bobby’s nose. This is not the case and ruins the statue. Therefore, we always ask all visitors who come on our tours (and any potential visitors reading this) not to rub his nose. We hope that others will eventually realise how damaging it is and stop touching our beloved statue. After all, we want to make sure to keep it in good condition for future generations so they can learn about Bobby.
I hope you have enjoyed the "tail" of Greyfriars Bobby. While he may be Edinburgh’s best friend from the past, we hope that you will join Edinburgh’s best friend from the present- our Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer. Sawyer often accompanies our human tour guide, Sami, on daily walking tours of Edinburgh. We offer regularly scheduled and private walking tours where you can learn more about Bobby as well as other fascinating Edinburgh stories. Be sure to check out our homepage for more information. So, book now and join Sawyer- the happiest and most loyal tour guide you will ever meet!
Until next time- Explore & Discover!