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Greyfriars Bobby honoured with new pipe tune

Heriots School children Rebecca Park and Alistair Sherriff  with Ruby, a rescue dog from the Edinburgh Cats and Dogs Home

Heriots School children Rebecca Park and Alistair Sherriff with Ruby, a rescue dog from the Edinburgh Cats and Dogs Home

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

A NEW pipe tune devoted to Scotland’s most famous dog was unveiled at his final resting place.

• Guard of honour to be provided at Greyfriars Kirk by local army cadets as major ceremonial event to be staged

• Statue of Bobby situated just outside the Kirk draws thousands of tourists, having been unveiled in 1873

• A new exhibition is also being launched in the capital’s Central Library to mark the occasion

Greyfriars Bobby was honoured with a major ceremonial event overseen by the Edinburgh’s Lord Provost almost 150 years after a predecessor stepped in to rescue his life.

The event in Greyfriars Kirkyard, attended by more than 100 onlookers as well as local schoolchildren, was being staged to mark 140 years since a statue was erected in Bobby’s honour after his death.

Arguably the city’s most famous statue, it is one of the most popular attractions in the Old Town, with hundreds of tourists posing for pictures there every day.

Bobby’s original owner, John Gray, is believed to have died in 1858, and was buried in the the churchyard. His faithful Skye Terrier is said to have kept constant watch over his master’s grave for years afterwards, when he was looked after by a local cafe owner.

Yesterday’s event coincided with the publication of a new “Greyfriars Bobby Trail” highlighting the dog’s favourite haunts around the Old Town, as well as a new exhibition at the nearby Central Library.

Current Lord Provost Donald Wilson said the city wanted to make more of the famous story, which has already been turned into numerous books and two major films.

The story of Greyfriars Bobby has been much debated over the years, however the Lord Provost, a keen history buff, insisted there were a number of established facts.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt the basic story is true.

“Bobby was definitely the watchdog of John Gray, whose beat included the kirkyard, the Grassmarket, the Cowgate and Candlemaker Row and accompanied him on his patrols everywhere.

“He was extremely well known in those days and even more so after John Gray died because he kept visiting the grave. There was a huge amount of interest in Bobby in those days, so much so that Queen Victoria was known to have visited him.

“He was genuinely threatened with death when new laws meant you needed a licence to have a dog, but William Chambers, the Lord Provost of the day, got the city to foot the bill after persuading his fellow councillors that he actually belonged to the city because he lived in the graveyard, and was their responsibility. The dog collar he bought for Bobby is still in the city’s collections.

“Other towns and cities have other stories about animals, but I honestly believe that this one is the original and the best.”

The pipe tune - Tribute to Greyfriars Bobby - was performed for the first time at the dog’s tombstone in front of the kirk by former world champion piper Jennifer Hutcheon, a member of the Highland Pipers’ Society. A guard of honour was former by army and air force cadets from the nearby George Heriot’s School.

Ms Hutcheon told The Scotsman: “It was actually a bit of a surprise that no-one had come up with a tune for Bobby before, especially as the story is so well known.

“However it was a huge honour especially to perform it before such a huge crowd.”

Yesterday’s event, held on the anniversary of Bobby’s death, came months after a traditional lamp was reinstalled beside the statue on Candlemaker Row.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, which led the restoration, said: “The romantic story of Greyfriars Bobby is synonymous with Edinburgh, and a visit to his grave is undoubtedly of great interest for tourists.

“We were delighted to be able to help improve the setting of Bobby’s statue, by reinstating a traditional lamp standard. This not only enhances a busy part of the World Heritage Site, adjacent to the National Museum of Scotland and the important Greyfriars burial ground, but also helps to further commemorate the city’s famously loyal dog.”

 

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