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Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier so committed to his master that he watched over his owner’s Edinburgh grave for fourteen years. Bobby’s story carved a place in Edinburgh’s history. In 1873, a year after Bobby’s death, Baroness Angela Brudett-Coutts erected a statue of the well-loved dog at the junction between Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge. In 1961 a Walt Disney film was made telling Greyfriars Bobby’s story; another film telling the dog’s story was made in 2005. In 1981 the Dog Aid Society of Scotland place a memorial stone in Greyfriars Churchyard. This story of fidelity and loyalty has warmed the hearts of generations, giving Bobby heroic status.
Bobby’s owner was John Gray – a police constable who lived in the heart of Edinburgh in the Cowgate. Gray became Bobby’s owner when the terrier was a puppy and trained him up to become a police dog. It may be that the police duties were what gave Bobby his name (bobby being a slang term for a policeman). One of Bobby’s key duties was assisting his master in his duties as a night watchman before market days in the Grassmarket. John Gray and Bobby would watch over livestock brought to town for market day and Bobby would bite anybody attempting to steal market animals.
John Gray died of tuberculosis in 1857 – he was only 45 years old and was survived by his wife and son. Bobby was one of the mourners at his funeral and he saw Gray buried in Greyfriars Churchyard. Although the remaining Grays tried to take Bobby home the terrier had other ideas and he headed for his master’s grave. The churchyard gardener found Bobby, and although he at first tried to banish the dog – after all dogs were not allowed – he eventually relented when he realised who Bobby was.
Thus began Bobby’s life after John Gray. Local people gave him shelter when he needed it, bedding near the grave and food. He was a regular patron of a restaurant in Greyfriars Place – several owners of the restaurant took on the responsibility of giving Bobby a meal a day; one of them even trained him to know that dinnertime was nigh when he heard the sound of the one o’clock gun which is still fired daily at Edinburgh Castle. Every day and on all but the coldest of nights Bobby stood, sat and slept by the grave of John Gray. Bobby survived his master by fourteen years and was buried in Greyfriars Churchyard near John Gray.
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