Bunny here at the keyboard, sharing a little Irish canine history on this fine Saint Patrick’s Day.
It’s a bit of a tradition for me to share a little Greyhound history on Saint Patrick’s Day, because Ireland is important in Greyhound history. Today, I have a tale of another breed of dog from Ireland. I thought it would be fun to share the story of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who became quite famous.
The story goes that in 1850 a man named John Gray moved his family to Edinburgh. He’d been a gardener, but he couldn’t find work, so he began to work as a nightwatchman for the police. He decided to get a dog to help keep him company during the long nights on patrol, so he got a Skye Terrier and named him Bobby.
They became very close and spent many nights patrolling the streets together. However, Mr. Gray caught tuberculosis and died in 1858. Bobby went to Mr. Gray’s grave every day and stayed there, waiting for him. Soon, the story of his devotion spread and people were quite endeared when they learned of it. No matter how bad the weather, Bobby wouldn’t leave.
The groundskeeper of the cemetery tried to get Bobby to leave, but had no luck. Eventually, he made a makeshift shelter for him using some sacking suspended between two tablestones at the side of Mr. Gray’s grave. Bobby’s fame spread throughout Edinburgh and it’s reported that many people gathered every day at 1:00. This was when the gun would go off marking the hour and Bobby would leave the grave to go and eat. A man named William Dow had been a friend of John Gray’s and they’d eaten lunch together at a local coffee house. Every day, Bobby followed Mr. Dow to the coffee house where he was given a meal.
A new by law was passed in 1867 that said all dogs had to have a license or they would be destroyed. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, paid for Bobby’s license and gave him a collar with a brass plate that bore the inscription “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed.” The collar can still be seen in the Museum of Edinburgh.
The people of Edinburgh took good care of Bobby, but he never would leave his human’s grave. He stayed there until he died in 1872 at the age of sixteen. He watched over Mr. Dow’s grave for fourteen years. Baroness Angelia Georgina Burdett-Coutts was so touched by Bobby’s story that she asked the city council for permission to erect a granite fountain with a statue of Bobby on top in the cemetery. It was sculpted by William Brody and still stands in the cemetery today as a tribute to the city’s most faithful and famous dog.
We should all have a friend so loyal. Some academics now claim that the story of Bobby is a hoax, but I think his legend is worth sharing. After all, there was never a story about a cat that was so loyal. We dogs have a well-deserved reputation.