Greyfriars Bobby figure to fetch £1,000 at auction

Border terrier Joey sniffs out the original model. Picture: Jane Barlow
Border terrier Joey sniffs out the original model. Picture: Jane Barlow
Share this article
Have your say

THE original plaster model of Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Bobby bronze statue is expected to raise £1,000 at auction this week.

The model was made for Edinburgh Council to approve before the final statue was cast in bronze and placed in Candlemaker Row following the Skye terrier’s death in 1872.

The plaster model of the statue was gifted to Chief Constable William Merrilees of the then Lothian and Peebles Constabulary by the company that made it, after he offered his help with the 1961 Walt Disney film about the famous dog.

The chief constable was also given the star of the film – a dog named Wee Bobby – who acted as joint best man at Merrilees’ wedding in 1968.

The 140-year-old plaster statue is now being sold at auction this Saturday for Margaret Cumming, Merrilees’ granddaughter.

“Wee Bobby had a very special place in our family and the statue is a happy reminder of him, but sadly in the future I will not have space to keep him,” she said.

Greyfriars Bobby showed a dog is man’s best friend after he reportedly spent the last years of his life guarding his master’s grave in the mid-19th century.

His owner, John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh city police as a night watchman, had been buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard following his death from tuberculosis in 1858.

Bobby spent the next 14 years sitting at his grave, surviving on food given to him by a nearby restaurant.

When in 1867 it was argued that a dog without an owner should be destroyed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh paid for his licence, making him the responsibility of the council.

He died in 1872 and was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard. His statue, which is an attraction for hundreds of tourists posing for pictures there every day, was erected nearby.

Last week, at a ceremony to mark the 140th anniversary of the statue, a new pipe tune – Tribute to Greyfriars Bobby – was performed at the dog’s tombstone by former world champion piper Jennifer Hutcheon. A guard of honour was formed by army and airforce cadets from nearby George Heriot’s School.

The 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.

However, the story of Greyfriars Bobby has been doubted over the years.

In 2011 Jan Bondeson at Cardiff University suggested Bobby was a Victorian publicity stunt by local businesses to drum up tourist revenue. According to his research, Bobby was a stray dog trained to remain in the graveyard. When he died, he was replaced by a younger dog.

However current Lord Provost and history buff Donald Wilson, said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt the basic story is true.

“Bobby was definitely the watchdog of John Gray.”

The plaster statue will be sold by Lyon & Turnbull, in Edinburgh, on 26 January.