Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh, Scotland, after reportedly spending fourteen years guarding his owner's grave, until his own death on 14 January 1872.
A year after the dog died, the philanthropist Baroness Burdett Coutts, had a statue and fountain erected to commemorate him. Several books and films have been based on Bobby's life, including Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson and the films Greyfriars Bobby (1961, Walt Disney Productions) and The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby (2006).
Bobby belonged to John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police
as a night watchman
, and the two were inseparable for approximately two years. On 15 February 1858
, Gray died of tuberculosis
. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard
, the graveyard
surrounding Greyfriars Kirk
in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby, who survived Gray by fourteen years, is said to have spent the rest of his life sitting on his master's grave
. A more realistic account has it that he spent a great deal of time at Gray's grave, but that he left regularly for meals at a restaurant beside the graveyard, and may have spent colder winters in nearby houses.
In 1867, when it was pointed out that an ownerless dog should be destroyed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers (who was also a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), paid for a renewal of Bobby's licence, making him the responsibility of the city council.
Bobby died in 1872 and could not be buried within the cemetery itself, since it was consecrated ground; instead, he was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray's grave.
Today, a small statue of Greyfriars Bobby stands in front of the Greyfriars Bobby pub, which is located near Greyfriars Kirkyard. The statue originally faced toward the graveyard and pub but has since been turned around, allegedly by a previous landlord of the pub so that the pub would appear in the background of the many photographs that are taken each year.
A red granite stone was erected on Bobby's grave by The Dog Aid Society of Scotland, and unveiled by the Duke of Gloucester on May 13, 1981. It reads: "Greyfriars Bobby — died 14th January 1872 — aged 16 years — Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.
Guided tours of the Kirkyard are given by a number of groups, including the Greyfriars Bobby Walking Theatre and the Greyfriars Kirkyard Trust.
Books and films
His intense loyalty made Bobby popular with dog lovers, who spread and embellished the story. Books and films based directly or indirectly on the story include:
- The book Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson, which greatly embellished the story, and made John Gray a farm labourer, known as "Auld Jock". The 1961 film Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog was based on this book.
- The Illustrated True Story of Greyfriars Bobby by John Mackay.
- Another film, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby, was released in the UK in February 2006 starring Oliver Golding and Christopher Lee (released elsewhere in 2005 under the alternative title Greyfriars Bobby). The Edinburgh Castle scenes in this film were actually shot in nearby Stirling Castle, whilst many had reservations on casting a West Highland White Terrier as Bobby, and for adding new characters while leaving out one of the later major characters in Bobby's life, John Traill.
- Challenge to Lassie (1949), an earlier film based on Atkinson's book, but replacing Bobby with Lassie.
- In the 1945 film The Body Snatcher, Boris Karloff's character (incidentally named Gray) digs up bodies from graves. One of these bodies is that of John Gray. Bobby tries to stop him from taking the corpse, but is struck over the head by Boris Karloff's character, and killed.
- In the PBS kids' series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, Patty Larceny put a collar on the statue of Bobby and walked him away in the Season 3 episode Little Dog Gone.