Greyfriars Bobby: Edinburgh minister highlights importance of loyal Bobby's 'beautiful companionship' message during lockdown

As today marks the 149th anniversary of the death of world-famous Skye Terrier Greyfriars Bobby, the minister of Greyfriars Kirk reflects on the importance of a ‘loyal friend’ during lockdown.

By Hannah Brown
Thursday, 14th January 2021, 2:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th January 2021, 5:53 pm
1873 - the year a memorial statue was erected in Edinburgh to Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful dog who slept on his master’s grave for 14 years.
1873 - the year a memorial statue was erected in Edinburgh to Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful dog who slept on his master’s grave for 14 years.

The dog known for standing by his owner’s grave until he himself died, has been held up as a symbol of devotion by the Kirk’s Minister in lockdown.

Speaking about the importance of Bobby’s devotion on the day which marks the loyal pet’s death, Richard Frazer, minister at Greyfriars, said: “In these times of enforced isolation, those of us fortunate enough to have a dog, or some other pet, appreciate more profoundly than ever the beautiful companionship of a loyal friend.

“Bobby’s devotion continues to be an inspiration.”

Every year the Kirk holds a special ceremony on this day to commemorate the terrier, who is immortalised by an Old Town statue.

But this year the has been cancelled by lockdown.

The Kirk hopes their Bobby-inspired event - which celebrates his devotion, with dog lookalikes often attending - will return next year.

However, they hope to go ahead with their regular ‘Pet Blessing Service’, which incorporates Bobby’s story, on Sunday 3 October at 3 pm.

On this day, the Kirk opens up its doors to those of a furry, feathered or fluffy persuasion, for a short service of thanks and blessing for the animals in our lives.

The story of Greyfriars Bobby

In the mid-19th century, an Edinburgh police watchman John Gray decided to get his own watchdog, Bobby, to keep him company through long wintry night shifts.

However, years as a watchmen on the streets of Edinburgh took their toll on John who died of tuberculosis on February 15, 1858.

He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard and Bobby refused to leave his master’s grave, even in the worst of weather.

In 1867 a new by-law was passed that required all dogs to be licensed in the city or they would be destroyed. Sir William Chambers, lord Provost of Edinburgh, decided to pay Bobby’s licence and presented him with a collar with a brass inscription, “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed,” which can be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh.

For fourteen years the dead man’s faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave until his own death on January 14, 1872.

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