Thursday, January 21, 2010

Greyfriars Bobby

This is the true story of a real dog that lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, many years ago.  He was a Skye terrier, and his name was Bobby.  He belonged to a man named John Gray, who worked as a night watchman for the Edinburgh City Police.  John Gray was really a gardener, but when he moved to Edinburgh, it was wintertime, and there was no work for gardeners at that time.  So that's why he started working as a night watchman.  And as part of his job, he had to have a dog.  So he got Bobby.  In Great Britain, policemen are called "bobbies," so that may be how Bobby got his name.

A Skye terrier doesn't really seem like what you would think of as a big, fierce watchdog, but maybe he was good at barking or at biting criminals on the ankle.  Anyway, he and John Gray worked together every night, doing their job of watching, and they loved each other.

Then after about two years, John Gray got very sick with tuberculosis, and he died.  The date when he died was February 15, 1858.  This was a very sad thing to happen to Bobby because Bobby did not want to be without his dad.  So after John Gray got buried, Bobby would go and lie on his grave all the time.  The grave was in a cemetery by a church called Greyfriars Kirk.  Kirk is a Scottish word that means church.  Scottish people talk funny sometimes and use different words for stuff, and kirk is a good example of this.

Anyway, Bobby stayed by his dad's grave for 14 years, which is a really long time.  There was a pub close to there where John Gray and Bobby used to go together, and after John Gray died, the people who owned the pub fed Bobby a lot of his meals.  Also some of the people who lived close to Greyfriars Kirk knew Bobby and would feed him or let him stay with them during bad weather.  But a lot of the time Bobby stayed by his dad's grave because he was a very faithful little dog.

Finally, in 1872, Bobby died.  His friends wanted to bury him in the cemetery, by John Gray, but it was not allowed for dogs to be buried there.  So they buried him just outside the cemetery gate.  And then a nice woman named Lady Burdett-Coutts had a statue made of Bobby, with a little fountain for dogs to drink out of.

A long, long time after that, in 1981, the people of Edinburgh put up a nice marker by Bobby's grave.  And this is what it says:
          Greyfriars Bobby
          died 14th January 1872
          aged 16 years
          Let his loyalty and devotion 
          be a lesson to us all.

Mom has been to Edinburgh twice and has actually seen the statue and Bobby's grave and John Gray's grave in person.  Also she bought a book about Greyfriars Bobby, and she read it, but she doesn't think she has it anymore, or if she does have it, it's in a box somewhere in the basement.  But now Bobby has his very own website because he is a modern little dog, so you can go there if you want to read more about him.


  1. One of my all time favorite movies was the Disney movie about Greyfriars Bobby. Thanks for tell his story for me again.

  2. Dear Piper-

    My mom said she saw the Greyfriars Bobby statue many, many years ago, before she even got her first basenji. Mom did not know GB was such a modern dog with his own website and we both enjoyed looking at all the Dogs from History which are listed on his site. Mom has also read the book and says she has two copies of it, so if your mom needs a copy, let me know.

    Otherwise we strongly suggest The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat; it's a true story and a wonderful funny dog book. And mom says Jock of the Bushveld is also worth reading. Neither of these dogs were listed on GB's Dogs of History. Jock really should be because he even has his own statue and everything! You can see a pic of it here:

    Even though he lived in Africa, he's not a basenji, but it's still an interesting story (even if mom says it's not very PC).

    Zest, superstar in training

  3. Dear Aunt Lynn,
    I have not seen a movie about Greyfriars Bobby, but I would like to. Mom hasn't seen one either. There was a movie about him made in 1961 and there was another one in 2006. Was it the 1961 movie that you saw? Maybe I can talk Mom into renting or buying one of these movies so we can watch it.

  4. Dear Zest,
    I also looked at the list of Dogs From History on Bobby's site. I like learning about famous dogs and writing about them in my blog. Thanks for your suggestions of other famous dogs that I can learn about. I didn't know there were any famous African dogs, like Jock of the Bushveld. I will have to learn more about him. It's too bad he's not a basenji and also that he has such a short, not-curly tail!

  5. The movie that I saw was the 1961 movie... I'm old. I initially saw it in the theater, and later on TV. I think that was on the old Wald Disney show... I'm that old.

    Aunt Lynn