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One of Edinburgh’s most beloved monuments is a statue honouring a loyal dog who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years until his own death, or so the story goes. The dog is so famous there’s a 1961 Disney movie about him, Greyfriars Bobby, as well as a 2005 Scottish film, several books and an exhibit at the Museum of Edinburgh on Royal Mile showcasing his collar and bowl. The public even voted his statue as one of Edinburgh’s 101 Objects in a tourism campaign championing the city’s historical treasures.
The real Greyfriars Bobby was a skye terrier owned by John Gray, a police night watchman in Edinburgh. After Gray died in 1858, and was buried in the cemetery of Greyfriars Kirk, a historic Protestant church built in 1620. Legend has it that Bobby waited by his grave until 1872. Snow, rain, summer heat — nothing deterred the dog from mourning his master. Locals brought him food, a makeshift shelter was constructed to protect him from the elements and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh (the mayor) had the town council pay for his license. This was an important act of charity to distinguish Bobby from stray dogs, whose futures were rather bleak in those days.
As his fame grew, people came from all over Scotland to marvel at the dog’s vigil by his master’s grave. After he died in 1872, a bronze statue of Bobby was erected in front of the entrance of Greyfriars Kirk graveyard at George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row. The tombstone inscription: “Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.” His nose is unusually shiny and the dark colour completely rubbed off, due to constant rubbing by passersby for good luck. Behind the statue is a pub named in his honour, Greyfriar Bobby’s Bar.
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You’ll find the real Greyfriars Bobby buried just inside the gate of the graveyard, near his master. Fans often leave flowers, dog toys and other items on his grave. During your next visit to Edinburgh, no stop could be sweeter than raising a glass to a legendarily good boy.