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A Faithful Friend

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This is Bobby, known in his home city of Edinburgh as “Greyfriars Bobby”, whose story of loyalty and devotion is widely known. On a family visit to Edinburgh, Scotland this weekend we were able to see and hear first hand the tale of Bobby and his master John Gray.
In 1852 John Gray became a Police Constable in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh. He was required to have a watch dog, and chose a Skye Terrier pup. Back then this dog breed was very popular whereas today it is listed by the Kennel Club as an endangered breed.
Skye Terriers are noted for being “strong, canny, brave, and very independent. Not to mention the fact that when they love someone they are very loyal to think however this is not something that they just give away it is something that their owners genuinely earn. Furthermore, they can be very obedient dogs but they do have their choice in this as well.”
– See more at: http://www.skyeterrier.org/skye-terrier-temperament.htm#sthash.JKn2LziC.dpuf
What other name could Constable Gray give his Police Dog than “Bobby”?
John Gray met many friends at the general weekly cattle market. He was well respected as a policeman, Bobby kept close to his master’s heels at these markets, because of the often unruly cattle.
Often John Gray and Bobby would take a leisurely walk to Greyfriars Place, to the Coffee House (also known as the Eating House) owned by Mr William Ramsey. They had a favourite seat and watched Mrs Ramsey coming in and out of the back room where she did the cooking. Night duty at the Cattle market was not very pleasant. The duty policeman know to his friends as “Auld Jock” and his dog, in all kinds of weather, had to keep on the move around the pens to prevent theft.
In October 1857, the nights were cold and wet, and Auld Jock and Bobby were often cold and wet. Auld Jock had developed a nasty cough which developed into tuberculosis. Bedridden and unable to work, Bobby lay at the foot of his master’s bed. Auld Jock died in the evening of 8th February 1858. A few data later he was buried in the graveyard at Greyfriars Kirk.

James Brown the keeper and gardener of the burial ground remembered John Gray’s funeral and he said the Skye terrier was one of the most conspicuous of the mourners. The grave was closed and the next morning James Brown the curator found the Skye terrier lying on the newly made mound of earth. Old James could not permit this, for there was an order at the gate stating that dogs were not admitted into the Kirkyard. Accordingly Bobby was driven out.
Next morning the same thing happened again, Bobby was lying on the grave. The third morning was wet and cold; James Brown took pity on the faithful animal and gave him some food.
Bobby made the Kirkyard his home for the next 14 years. Often in very bad weather, attempts were made to encourage him indoors, but he was not having any of that. At almost any time during the day, he would be seen in or around the Kirkyard. He had made many friends and became quite a celebrity in his own lifetime.
A weekly treat of steak given by Sergeant Scott of the Royal Engineers from Edinburgh Castle. Punctually at the sound of the One O’clock time gun, Bobby would appear at the Coffee House for his dinner.
The stone where Bobby sheltered had been there for many years. The higher one was put up in the year of the battle of Waterloo to commemorate a woman called Jean Grant and it is inscribed with a text from the Bible – which may well equally apply to Bobby. ‘With such sacrifice God is well pleased”
One hot summer there was an outbreak of dog distemper and all dogs were required to be licensed and muzzled and if not, they were to be destroyed. The Lord Provost of the City personally paid for Bobby’s licence to protect him in the absence of his late owner, to whom he remained so faithful.
From May 1862 John Traill, the new owner of the Eating House gave Bobby his dinner until Bobby’s death on 14th January 1872. According to records Bobby died in John Traill’s home and friends got together and buried him in the triangular flower bed beneath the tree in front of the old Greyfriars Kirk, on unconsecreated ground.
We were able to spend some time in the very tranquil Kirkyard and saw both the grave of John Gray and little Bobby.
There is a statue out on the main road which was modelled on Bobby in real life which attracts a great number of tourists. As does the pub named in his honour.

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I loved the irony of the “No Dogs Allowed” sign at the entrance to the Kirkyard

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At the bottom of the sign you can read it says ” except guide dogs, police dogs in the execution of their duty” and someone has graffitied and bobby

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It was lovely to come home after two days away to be greeted with such enthusiasm by our own two dogs, and to reflect on the devotion of man’s best friend in the life of Greyfriars Bobby.

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