Greyfriars Bobby - Revisionist View

Revisionist View

In 2011, after five years of research, Jan Bondeson published Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World, the most detailed biography of Bobby to date. In it he dispelled the story as traditionally told and offered a different version.

As background, in 19th century Europe there are documented over 60 'graveyard dogs', or 'cemetery dogs'. These were stray dogs which were fed by visitors and curators to the point the dogs made the graveyards their home. People thought, "Oh look at that poor dog, waiting by his master's grave," so they kept looking after them: the stray dog had free food while graveyard curators had company and a good story to tell visitors. In Bobby's case, he was originally a stray that hung around nearby Heriot's hospital, but became such a nuisance the hospital gardener threw him into the graveyard. James Brown, the curator of the graveyard, was fond of Bobby's company and began to feed him to keep him around. Visitors saw Bobby and liked to believe he was loyally staying by his masters grave, and provided Brown with tips to hear Bobby's "story". After an article about Bobby appeared in the Scotsman visitation rates to the graveyard increased by 100 fold with people arriving from all over England and Scotland. "They would give James Brown a handsome tip and have lunch in the Traills' restaurant." It was a lucrative situation for Bobby, Brown and the local community.

Bondeson believes in May or June 1867 the original Bobby died and was replaced with a younger dog because he states pictures of him show a clear change. The first was an old tired-looking mongrel, the second was a lively youthful Skye terrier that ran around and reportedly fought with other dogs. This also explains the longevity of Bobby, 18 years, since Skye terriers usually only live around 10-12 years.

When the story of Bobby first broke it was believed his owner had been a shepherd buried in the graveyard. Later, a scholar named Forbes Macgregor, who wrote a biography of Greyfriars Bobby, believed the owner was John Gray, a local policeman buried there in 1858. Neither makes full sense since a shepherd wouldn't normally use a terrier for herding sheep, nor would a small terrier normally be used as a police dog.

Over the years local Edinburgh residents who knew the facts had talked in public, there were even newspaper articles that cast doubt on the story, and even while Bobby was alive some councilors cast doubt on his story when it was discussed at Edinburgh City Council. However, the romantic legend of Bobby was so ingrained and beloved that any revisionism over the years went largely unnoticed. Jan Bondeson stated "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."

Read more about this topic:  Greyfriars Bobby

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