Annual Greyfriars Bobby ceremony is ‘under threat’

George Robinson with the famous statue.
George Robinson with the famous statue.
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The future of an annual ceremony honouring the life of Capital canine icon Greyfriars Bobby has been thrown into doubt, its supporters claimed today.

On January 14 each year a crowd gathers at Greyfriars Kirkyard to pay tribute to the legendary Skye terrier who died on that day in 1872.

Past ceremonies have been hosted by the Lord Provost, with students from George Heriot’s in charge of laying a special wreath.

Pipers, regimental representatives and other dignitaries have also been present to suitably honour the loyal pooch.

For the past two years the event has been run by business support body Greater Grassmarket, but their contract came to an end in December.

Full responsibility has since been handed to the non-profit One o’Clock Gun Assocation, whose ties with the event go back to 1998.

Association secretary George Robinson claims the ceremony would not be happening at all if it wasn’t for their involvement.

“There were indications that it was going to happen,” said George today.

“Then Greater Grassmarket confirmed the contract was coming to a close just before Christmas. There was no one else to do it. If we hadn’t taken it on, it wouldn’t be going ahead this year.”

He said the Association would be covering expenses themselves and was told by the council that the ceremony could only go ahead providing it’s not funded from public coffers.

“We received permission from the Lord Provost as long as it doesn’t cost the council any money,” explained Mr Robinson, 77.

Cost estimates of the event, which includes a buffet at Greyfriars Kirk, are thought to be low at between £150-£200.

And while George insists that the One o’Clock Gun Association was happy to cover it, he believes there should be moves to utilise the money that the world-famous statue generates through tourism each year.

“It is the biggest thing in the whole town,” asserts George,

“I’d say more folk go to see and it and rub his wee nose than visit the Castle. The statue is free but Bobby generates thousands for the city every year.

“The city should supply a wreath, but we’re going to have to cover that. I feel it should be run by the city; the dog belongs to the city, it’s owned by the council.”

“This is a tradition and we are in danger of losing that tradition. I’d like to see it made into a civic event.

“Nobody can say if the One o’Clock Gun Assocation can continue the responsibility indefinitely.”

Georgina McNeil, supervisor at Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar, said that many tourists were visiting Edinburgh specifically to see Bobby, and agreed that local businesses could be doing more to support events such as this month’s ceremony.

“I think they could do more because it (the association) has drawn people, especially this pub,” she said, “but it’s really hard to speak on behalf of all the businesses that benefit from Bobby.

“It’s a big part of Edinburgh’s history and not something that should be ignored.”