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Greyfriars Bobby, the Most Loyal of Dogs

I’d like to tell you a story.

There once was a dog named Bobby. Bobby was a Skye Terrier, who, in general, are known for their intelligence, fearlessness and loyalty.

Greyfriars Bobby statue, in front of Greyfriars Bobby Bar. His nose is bronze from so many people rubbing it for good luck. **
Greyfriars Bobby statue, in front of Greyfriars Bobby Bar. His nose is bronze from so many people rubbing it for good luck. **

Bobby was certainly all of that, and more.

He lived a very long time ago, from 1855 to 1872, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

His human was a man named John Gray, who worked as a night watchman for the Edinburgh City Police, though some stories say he was a shepherd. We’ll talk more about that later.

What John did while he was alive really isn’t of importance here. It’s what happened after he died that is.

He’s become a fabled character, one of Edinburgh’s most beloved figures. They’ve built statues to him, written several books and there’s even been a couple of movies made.

Oh, just to be sure we understand each other here, I’m talking about Bobby. The statues, the films, the folklore, are all for Bobby, better known as Greyfriars Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby

Most people at the time knew John Gray as Auld Jock, Scottish for Old John.

Greyfriars Bobby tombstone with flowers and a "love" balloon spread out in front.
Greyfriars Bobby's tomstone still draws gifts from visitors. **

Auld Jock took Bobby to work with him every night, Bobby always following closely by his side. The bond between the pair was as strong as strong could be.

Sadly, the pairing lasted for just a short time. Auld Jock died in February, 1858, from tuberculosis, when Bobby was a mere two-year-old. (People dying from tuberculosis, TB, was a fairly common thing 180 years ago before the vaccine was created to prevent it.)

Auld Jock was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh’s Old Town area.

(Kirk is Scottish for Church. Greyfriars Kirk is a parish church of the Church of Scotland, dating back to as early as 1598. The word Greyfriars comes from the Franciscan friars who lived there and wore grey habits.)

But we’re getting away from our story.

After Auld Jock passed, Bobby was a lost soul, profoundly saddened, and so he did the only thing he’d known to do, stay by Auld Jock’s side.

For the next 14 years, Bobby stayed by Auld Jock’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Standing closely by his side just as he had done in life. Until the day he died himself, through the summer’s heat and winter’s cold, his loyalty to his human never waned.

Statue of Bobby on a short granite base, surrounded by a flower garden.
The 2021 memorial to Bobby, installed on the 150th anniversary of his death. **

Word of Bobby’s devotion soon spread throughout Edinburgh and he became a beloved figure in the community.

Even so, there seems to have been some controversy arise regarding his “legality.” This is nearly two centuries ago so details aren’t especially clear but, Bobby had no owner and no license, which both then and today would make him a stray, soon to be hauled off to the animal shelter.

In 1860s Scotland, however, things would have been much more harsh. There’s a fairly high likelihood that, as there were no shelters or humane societies such as we know now, he would have been put to death.

Stepping in to save the day was Sir William Chambers, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the conveyor of the local authority. Sir William not only paid for Bobby’s license, he provided the collar on which to put it. That collar is now proudly on display at the Museum of Edinburgh.

Greyfriar Bobby’s Legacy

Greyfriar Bobby is certainly the most well-known dog in Edinburgh, probably Scotland, and quite possibly the entire United Kingdom.

Promotional poster for Disney movie about Bobby, inside Greyfriars Kirk. **
Promotional poster for Disney movie about Bobby, inside Greyfriars Kirk. **

Bobby died at the age of 16 on January 14, 1872, from cancer. He was buried just inside the gate to Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from Auld Jock’s grave.

A year after his death, English philanthropist Lady Burdett-Coults (1st Baroness Burdet-Coutts) commissioned a life-size statue and water fountain be built in Bobby’s honor. It’s still there today, near the entrance to the kirkyard, just across the narrow cobblestone street from the popular restaurant and drinking establishment, Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar.

The monument is officially Edinburgh’s smallest listed structure, a national distinction deserving of special protection due to its historic interest.

A headstone for Bobby was erected in 1982 - “Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.” An additional monument was placed just a few feet behind it in 2021, marking the 150th anniversary of his death. It includes a statue of Bobby. Both are located in front of Greyfriars Kirk, just past the entrance.

As mentioned, at least two films have been made about Bobby, including the 1961 Disney film, Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog.

I won’t blame you if you’ve never seen it or heard of it, neither had I. I have watched it since returning from Edinburgh. It’s available on Amazon for a $4 rental.

Small wooden box with the remains of Tam, the dog who played Bobby in the Disney movie.
Small wooden box with the remains of Tam, the dog who played Bobby in the Disney movie, inside Greyfriars Kirk. **

The movie is drawn from the 1912 novel, Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson. The book, and film, leans more into the idea of Auld Jock being a shepherd, though that’s not believed to be the case. A local inn keeper also plays heavily into the story but in reality he didn’t open the inn until after Auld Jock had died.

But, neither really claim to be non-fictional accounts and, as I mentioned above, that was a very long time ago so who’s to say which version is true.

Finally, inside Greyfriars Kirk, is a small section about Bobby, including memorabilia from the film. Among the collection is a wooden box containing the ashes of Tam, the Skye Terrier who played Bobby in the film, and whose name was later changed to Bobby.


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


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