San Diego Scottish Highland Games

2024 Highland Games June 22-23

2024 Highland Games June 22-23

Greyfriars Bobby

Dogs figure prominently in tales from Scotland.  There are the sheepdogs (who are so entertaining at the San Diego Highland Games).  There are the ghost dogs which warn people of danger.  There are faithful dogs who bring joy to their families.

But surely no dog is better known in Scottish lore than Greyfriars Bobby.

John Gray worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman, and for two years John and his wee Skye Terrier had been constant companions, on the job and off.  But sadly, on the 15th of February 1858, John died of tuberculosis. 

John, who was better known to his friends as “Auld Jock,” was to be buried in the old Greyfriars Churchyard.  When the day for burial came, Bobby the terrier, led the funeral procession to the cemetery, and when the mourners left, Bobby stayed.  The churchyard caretaker shooed him away, but the next day, Bobby returned, and as the days passed, he refused to leave, even when it was raining or snowing.  The caretaker tried to send him away, and even John’s family tried to entice the dog from his master’s grave, but nothing worked for long.  Bobby always returned.

Of course, dogs were not usually allowed in the churchyard, but finally everyone realized that Bobby was going to stay, no matter what.  They built him a little shelter.  And Bobby stayed, for fourteen years.

The days followed the same pattern.  When the one o’clock gun fired from Edinburgh Castle, Bobby would run to the place where he and John had enjoyed many a meal.  And then he would return.

Bobby’s loyalty and steadfastness became well known in the area and beyond.  People would come from all over to see him, often timing their arrival at midday to see him run for his midday meal and then return to guard the grave.

The Lord Provost of Edinburgh presented Bobby with a new collar in 1867 with the inscription “Greyfriars Bobby – from the lord Provost, 1867, licensed.”  Bobby died on January 14th, 1872.  He was sixteen years old.  Like his master, Bobby was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from his master’s grave.  His red granite headstone, which was unveiled by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester CVO in 1981, has these words:  Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 – aged 16 years.  Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.

To find out more about the story of Greyfriars Bobby, including challenges to the story’s accuracy, films and books about Bobby, photos of the famous statue — even a list of dogs famous for being faithful after their master’s death, check Wikipedia.

Story provided by Marilyn McPhie

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