Monday, 3 January 2011

The night watchman's dog

In 1856 John Gray was a night watchman working for the Edinburgh City Police Department. His work demanded that he have a watchdog and Gray got a Skye terrier called Bobby. For two years they were inseparable. Then, on February 15th 1858 John Gray died of tuberculosis. He was buried in the churchyard of Greyfriars Church in the Old Town of Edinburgh. The morning after the burial Bobby was found lying on top of the grave. Dogs were not allowed in the cemetery and Bobby was chased away by the church sexton. During the night Bobby returned and was again repulsed the following morning. This scenario was played out for several days until the sexton took pity on the dog and let him stay. Bobby was faithful to his post even in the most inclement of weather and despite determined efforts to coax him into the warm. The sexton provided him with food and water and built him a shelter near the grave. He continued to be faithful to his dead master for an amazing fourteen years. The fame of his blind devotion spread. In 1867 a new byelaw was passed. All dogs were to be licensed or they would be destroyed. Bobby’s case came up before the City Council and The Lord Provost, Sir William Chambers (co-founder of Chamber’s Dictionary and president of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was so taken with Bobby’s plight that he ordered his license fees to be paid indefinitely. He gave Bobby a collar that was inscribed “Greyfriars Bobby from The Lord Provost 1867 licensed.” (The collar can be seen in The Museum of Edinburgh,)
Bobby died in 1872 and was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars churchyard near his beloved master. His red granite headstone, unveiled by the Duke of Gloucester in 1981 reads “Greyfriars Bobby – died 14th January 1872 aged 16 years. Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”