The Legend of Greyfriars Bobby

Bobby became famous in history for mourning his master at his graveside for 14 years. One man says the story is untrue.

John Gray was a night watchman with the Edinburgh Police Force, and his partner was a Skye terrier named Bobby. The dog would keep him company while he made his nightly rounds through the city. The two had a special bond and were virtually inseparable for about two years. In 1858, Gray died of tuberculosis and was buried in Greyfriars cemetery.

Bobby followed the funeral procession and stayed at Gray's graveside after everyone left. The cemetery's caretaker would chase him away, but the dog would keep coming back, not wanting to leave. Eventually, the caretaker gave up and provided a shelter for Bobby by placing sacking beneath two tablestones next to Gray’s grave. The local residents were touched by the dog's loyalty to his master.

Everyday at one o'clock, a gun shot would sound from the Edinburgh Castle, and Bobby would leave the graveside for a midday meal. He would go to a coffee house he and Gray use to frequent for his free meal then return back to the cemetery. The story of Bobby's loyalty was spreading, and people from far away would come to see the dog.

In 1867, all dogs were required to be licensed in the city or they would be destroyed. Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, paid for Bobby's license and even gave the dog a collar, which is now on display in the Museum of Edinburgh.

Bobby stayed at Gray's graveside for 14 years before he died in 1872. He was buried in the same cemetery with Gray, not far from his grave. His headstone reads: "Greyfriars Bobby - died 14th January 1872 - aged 16 years - Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all." In 1873, a drinking fountain topped with a statue of Bobby was erected near the cemetery.

The commemorative statue and nearby graves attract tourists from all around the world, and several books and films have been based on Bobby's story. Bobby has been famous for more than 150 years as the most faithful dog in the world, but according to Dr. Jan Bondeson, the story was a hoax. He came to this conclusion in 2011 after spending five years reviewing contemporary archives and eyewitness accounts.

Bondeson, a historian and senior lecturer at the Cardiff University, says there were two Bobbies from 1858 to 1872, and that neither of them belonged to the man they sat by in Greyfriars cemetery. The first dog was a stray who stayed at the cemetery because he was treated well. People just assumed he was mourning his deceased master. With the attention Bobby was drawing, money was being donated to the cemetery and business was very good at the local restaurant. When the stray died in 1867, he was replaced with a similar dog to keep visitors coming.

Bondeson added "It won’t ever be possible to debunk the story of Greyfriars Bobby – he’s a living legend, the most faithful dog in the world, and bigger than all of us."