Police investigate Greyfriars Bobby nose vandalism

The black coating on Greyfriars Bobby's new nose has already worn away just three days after restoration work. Picture: Julie Bull
The black coating on Greyfriars Bobby's new nose has already worn away just three days after restoration work. Picture: Julie Bull
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THE STORY of this dog’s devotion to his policeman owner has stolen school children’s hearts across the country for hundreds of years.

But now the legend of Greyfriars Bobby has taken a more sinister twist after it emerged that Scotland’s most caring canine has become the victim of a crime.

Vandals have targeted the iconic statue and destroyed his nose - just days after work was carried out to restore his shiny snout back to black.

Bronze restoration specialists spent five hours cleaning, re-painting and waxing the Skye Terrier’s nose on Tuesday, after it was damaged by thousands of people rubbing the famous snout for luck.

The restoration work was carried out after campaign on social media site Facebook entitled “Stop People Rubbing Greyfriars Bobby’s Nose, It is not a Tradition”, highlighted the wear.

Police Scotland revealed the monument - unveiled on George IV Bridge in 1873 - had been targeted within hours with an “abrasive material” which was intentionally used to strip the repaired area.

PC Nick Davies said: “This crime is as unusual as it is disappointing to observe. The statue is a beloved tourist attraction and is also very popular with Edinburgh’s local residents.

“The nose has recently been touched up to restore it following years of wear and at first it was believed the repair had not adhered correctly to the monument.

“However, we are now treating this as an act of vandalism after discovering that an abrasive has been used to remove the material from the repaired area.

“As such, anyone who remembers seeing any suspicious activity around Greyfriar’s Bobby in the past few days is asked to contact police.”

The damage, valued at £200-300, occurred sometime between 1pm on Tuesday and 5pm on Wednesday.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s Culture and Sport Convener who helped unveil the restoration work on Tuesday, said workers would be called back out to repair the damage.

He said: “The work carried out should have lasted for a number of years and it is highly unlikely that it would have worn away naturally in such a short space of time.

“We will, of course, organise the repair work to be undertaken again and hope that in future people respect the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.”

The tale of Skye terrier Greyfriars Bobby is synonymous with Edinburgh and has featured in two movies.

According to the tale, Bobby belonged to Edinburgh City Police night watchman John Gray. When Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and Bobby spent 14 years guarding the grave until he died himself on 14 January 1872.

The loyal dog is buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from his owner’s grave.

Bobby’s life-size statue - commissioned by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, the President of the Ladies Committee of the RSPCA and sculpted by Edinburgh artist William Brodie - was unveiled in 1873.

It has become a world famous attraction in the capital, drawing millions of admirers.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Council said: “It appears that someone has vandalised Greyfriar’s Bobby after all the coverage of his nose job.

“We can’t be sure just yet but it looks like someone has taken an abrasive, a scourer, to Bobby’s nose.

“We have notified the police about the attack and will be looking for evidence to try and find out who has done this.”

The area is covered by a CCTV camera and it is understood police will examine hours of footage in a bid to track down the culprits.

The nose-job cost the council £400 but Powderhall Bronze have offered to do the second repair for free.

Ryan Kane, a foundry worker at the art specialists said: “We used three coats of protective wax on the dogs nose which is designed to last for years and years. It’s almost impossible for it to come off in just a few days.”

Paul McAuley, Edinburgh City Council’s monuments care officer said: “It’s one of the smallest statues in Edinburgh but probably the most photographed. It’s iconic of Edinburgh.

“But the ‘tradition’ of rubbing the nose for luck is an urban myth. It’s only started in recent years, but it’s ultimately damaging to the statue.”