Greyfriars Kirk or Church including Greyfriars Bobby grave and memorial, Edinburgh
Of all the history and tales about Greyfriars, there’s probably one that captures the public imagination more than any other - that of Greyfriars Bobby.
During the 1850s, a man by the name of John Gray, walked the streets of Edinburgh as a night watchman for the local police, and with him, went his trusty Skye Terrier Bobby. They trudged the cobbled streets together but in 1858 John died and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
The story goes that Bobby refused to leave his master’s graveside, no matter what the weather. Several times the gardener of the Kirkyard tried to move Bobby on, but he always returned, and in the end the gardener relented and made up a shelter next to his master’s grave.
Bobby became a bit of a celebrity and was well looked after, but he never left the graveside. For 14 years he kept vigil until he himself died in 1872 aged 16.
In 1981 an unconsecrated grave was made for Bobby near to where John Gray is buried. It has become a shrine for the thousands of visitors who leave flowers, toys and twigs to keep him company.
There are a number of people who have suggested that this wasn’t the real story, but I remember a similar thing that happened several years ago not far from where I used to live.
If you would like to know what he looked like there’s a nice little statue of him on top of a drinking fountain near to the Greyfriars Bobby pub - and if you want to really engross yourself in the story there’s a Walt Disney film based on a children’s book by Eleanor Atkinson.
In 1638 the National Covenant, one of the most significant documents in Scottish history, was signed in Greyfriar’s Kirk.
This document was the Scottish Presbyterian’s answer to Charles I’s religious policy which had been causing a lot of anger. Copies of the Covenant were distributed throughout Scotland and the Covenanters became the catalyst for the Bishop’s Wars of 1639 and 1640. This ultimately led to the English Civil War in 1642 and the execution of the King in 1649.
After the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, the Covenanters found themselves on the back foot and after the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679 over a thousand of them found themselves in a prison in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Although some of them switched allegiance and others escaped, there were many who died here or were executed. The area where the prison stood is still here and there’s a Martyr’s Memorial in the bottom right hand corner of the Kirkyard.
Amongst those who survived many were sentenced to Transportation. A plaque next to where the prison stood tells us that the final 257 men being transported boarded a ship at Leith, but never made it to North America. It got wrecked off of the Orkneys. 48 survived.
I’m not sure if any of the Covenanters are buried in Greyfriars or not, but there are plenty of tombstones and mausoleums here including one to the famous architects William Adam and his son, John. Apart from the Adams family, Sir George Mackenzie is interred here, which I’m not sure if is appropriate or not. You see, Mr Mackenzie, or to his adversaries, ‘Bluidy Mackenzie’ was the Lord Advocate responsible for dishing out the penalties to the Covenanters.
If you think you may want to visit Mackenzie’s mausoleum I suggest you think again. Apparently a lot of paranormal activity takes place here. Whatever the truth to all this stuff is I don’t know, but it seems like there are plenty of witnesses to the ‘Mackenzie Poltergeist’ - including an exorcist, who supposedly died not long after his experience of ‘evil forces’.
Some of us may scoff at all this stuff, but a whole new business has sprung up around nightime ghost tours of the Kirkyard.
Would I be happy to go on one? I’m not sure. Bear in mind this graveyard was the haunt (!) of grave robbers and ‘Resurrection Men’ who supplied the medical college with ‘samples’.
Come to think of it I’m probably a prime candidate for a heart attack without inflicting this sort of thing on myself, so I think I’ll probably give it a miss. There’s enough time to find out what it’s like on the other side when the Grim Reaper comes knocking anyway. I don’t think there’s any need for me to go looking for him.
One ghost you won't mind seeing is that of Greyfriars Bobby, sometimes known as the World's Most Faithful Dog. He catapulted to fame in the 19th century when, according to legend, his owner died and his dog spent the next 14 years dutifully sitting by his grave until he too died. There's been many challenges to the story, but it endures because it tells us what we want to hear - dogs are loyal and this dog was the epitome of loyal dogs. The dog's grave is in front of Greyfriars church, but his monument is outside the graveyard where Candlemaker Row meets Chambers Street. If you look carefully you'll see the dog's statue has a white nose - this isn't by design; another legend has it that if you rub the dog's nose it brings you luck, and thousands of tourists have done just that.
Unlike his owner, an ordinary Edinburgh policeman, the dog has become so famous that he's starred in many a book, movie and documentary.
Greyfriars Kirkyard touches on many aspects of Edinburgh's history. Being a central part of the city for many centuries, the great and good have interred themselves here by the dozen. There's also less obvious touches, like the Mortsafes which lie above the graves of some Victorian bodies to protect them from body snatchers. Some famous names you might recognize in the graveyard include the poet William McGonagall, reformer George Buchanan and Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, the inventor of the steamship.
Most recently the mausoleum of George Mackenzie was disturbed, resulting in a popular belief in the existence of a poltergeist haunting the graveyard. His story has been aired on a number of paranormal television shows and is claimed to be the most famous existing ghost in the world. He's been blamed for a number of unpleasant incidents, especially to tourists, resulting in cuts, scratches and bruises. Maybe he was responsible for my son's nasty fall and cut knees, or maybe that was just the loose gravel...
We took the opportunity to visit the Kirk and the cemetery - it was late in the afternoon and it was warm and quite peaceful. Famous for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the little dog who stood guard on his owner's grave for many years.
Originally a Franciscan convent , which were called Greyfryars , but now it belongs to the Church of Scotland .
The church yard ( kirkyard ) is a cemetery , in which apart from being full of macabre stories and legends claims to be one of the places that produce the greatest number of paranormal events.
It is a pleasant garden, quiet, where you can see the tombs of important personages in large mausoleums, others with gravestones , some tombs are protected with bars and locks , to avoid steal the corpses , others are also marked with a skull and crossbones indicating that someone had died there by the Plague
The dog Bobby, a Scott Terrier , with a history of fidelity to his master, who thrilled the people of Edinburgh, has helped to give more fame to this cemetery
Since they could not bury an animal in the cemetery , Holy Land , they decided to bury him at the door, so he should be near his owner and there we may see his statue
Originalmente fue un convento Franciscano , que se les llamaba Greyfryars , pero en la actualidad pertenece a la Iglesia Escocesa .
El patio de la Iglesia ( Kirkyard ) es un cementerio, en el que aparte de estar lleno de historias, de leyendas macabras y de presumir de ser uno de los sitios en los que se producen el mayor número de sucesos paranormales es un jardín agradable, tranquilo donde se pueden ver los enterramientos de personajes importantes en grandes mausoleos , otros están con lápidas normales, alguno tiene la tumba protegida con rejas y candados, para que no robaran el cadáver , también otras están señaladas con una calavera y los huesos cruzados indicando que allí había muerto alguien por la Peste
El perro Bobby , un Scott Terrier, con una historia de fidelidad a su amo, que emocionó a la gente de Edimburgo, ha ayudado a dar más fama a este cementerio
Como no podían enterrar a un animal en el cementerio, tierra Santa, decidieron enterrarlo en la puerta para que estuviera junto a su dueño y allí podemos ver su estatua
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a church and cemetery just a little ways off of the Royal Mile. We visited because I wanted to see the bronze sculpture of Greyfriars Bobby, the little dog who stayed near his master's grave until his own death, 14 years later. The sculpture is life-size and stands outside a pub named after him. It definitely is a great photo op for taking your picture with him. You can also visit Bobby's grave, which is to the left of the pub and through a gate, the first grave you see when you walk into the Kirkyard. People sometimes leave coins or little toys for him on his grave; we left a stick for him to fetch in heaven. Also nearby, if of interest, is the Elephant House Cafe, the "birthplace of Harry Potter." J.K. Rowling was said to be inspired to create Hogwarts by the wonderful view of Edinburgh Castle from the cafe.
Greyfiars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfairs Church in Central Edinburgh.It is located on the southern edge of the Old Town in the shadow of the Castle and next to Princes st.Gardens.the graveyard and its monuments are protected as a category A listed building.Greyfiars takes its name from the 'Franciscan Friary' on the site which was dissolved in 1559.The churchyard was founded in 1561/2 to replace the churchyard at St.Giles which was considered full.Reputedly haunted by the restless spirit of 'George Mackenzie' buried there in 1691.The 'Mackenzie Poltergeist' is said to cause bruising,bites and cuts to those that come into contact with it and many visitors have reported to have felt strange sensations.There are several Ghost Tours that come to Greyfiars for those brave enough to walk around it at night.
Greyfriar's Bobby came about when John Gray had to have a watch dog when he joined the Police. However the Policeman had to look for another watchdog soon after. He chose a young puppy, a Skye terrier, around six months old. He was called Bobby because of links with the Police.
Bobby kept John Gray company through his working and personal life. He even guarded his master's grave until 1872 after 14 years. Bobby met many friends and was well respected in the community. Today you can see a monument in tribute on Candlemaker Row and also his graveyard in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
This little statue of a dog is Bobby, the Skye Terrier who belonged to an Edinburgh police constable called John Gray. Bobby was a loyal watch dog for John until 1858 when his master died. John Gray was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard and little Bobby mourned him for 14 years, rarely leaving the Kirkyard and his master's graveside. This made Bobby a local celebrity and he was well-loved and fed by the locals until he died in 1874.
The bronze statue of Greyfriars Bobby near the Greyfriars Kirkyard was commissioned in 1870 and sculpted by William Brodie.
You can read more about Bobby's story on the website listed below.
Greyfriar's Bobby was a little dog, who until this day has remained the symbol for utmost loyalty in Edinburgh. This faithful Skye Terrier mourned his master for 14 years and has become a much-loved character in the city's history.
John Gray, a policeman / constable, was obliged to have a watch dog. He chose a Skye terrier, about 6 months old. As he was a police dog, John Gray decided to name him "Bobby!"
Their patrol area included the Upper Cowgate, the Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row, the grounds of Heriot's Hospital and the Cattle Market.
Night duty at the Cattle market was not very pleasant. The duty policeman and his dog, in all kinds of weather, had to keep on the move around the pens to prevent theft. Bobby kept close to his master's heels to avoid the hooves of the often unruly cattle. The sight of this well-respected policeman and his little dog was a common one, and the citizens of these neighbourhoods knew the two well.
Unfortunately, being outdoors so much in the wet & cold weather ultimately caused John Gray to die of tuberculosis in 1858. Bobby made the Kirkyard his home and lay on his master's grave every day. Dogs were not allowed in the cemetery, but there was no gate to prevent Bobby from entering. Often in very bad weather, attempts were made to encourage him indoors, but he refused to leave the grave. The groundskeeper and his family started to feed the little dog. At almost any time during the day, he would be seen in or around the Kirkyard. He had made many friends.
A few years later, the city introduced a dog licence that not many people could afford... as Bobby was "ownerless", he was destined to be put down. But the Lord Provost Sir William Chambers (Director of the SSPCA**) heard of this and paid Bobby's tax. He was given a collar and tags and thereby saved.
Throughout the years the little dog kept vigil by his master's grave, and the various residents of Candlemakers Row made sure he was fed and taken care of. From May 1862 John Traill, the new "owner", gave Bobby his dinner, until Bobby's death on 14th January 1872. He also gave Bobby a dish engraved "Bobby's Dinner Dish" which is on display in the Museum of Edinburgh at the bottom of the Royal Mile (see my separate "Things to Do" Tip) as well as other memorabilia including a picture of Bobby with the Traill family and his collar.
Today, you can visit Bobby's grave at the entrance to Greyfriar's Kirkyard – a rare honour that a little dog may be buried in a cemetery! I found it quite touching that people still leave little toys for Bobby on his grave. Further inside the cemetery you can also visit John Gray's grave.
Bobby's gravestone reads:
Died 14th January 1872, aged 16 years.
Let his loyalty & devotion be a lesson to us all.
Erected by the Dog Aid Society
and unveiled by H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester on 13th May 1881.
--> In 1961 Walt Disney released the movie "Greyfriar's Bobby: The True Story of a Dog."
Especially for dog/animal lovers, this is a must-see in Edinburgh.
Outside the Greyfriar Bobby's Pub there is a statue/fountain in Bobby's honour.
--> see my separate "Restaurant Tip" on this Bar.
**SSPCA = Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
One of the main places on the tourist trail, mainly due to the association with Greyfriars Bobby - immortalised in a film. The statue of the wee terrier is outside the entrance to the churchyard.
The Kirk dates back to 1620, so it's coming up for 400 years old. It has important associations with Scottish history - the website has an excellent history and I'm not going to try to create my own version. Check it out.
I was at George Heriot's School for 13 years - it lies to the west of the churchyard. All our end of term services were held at Greyfriars, so the inside is well known to me.
When I was in final year, one of our favourite escapades was head into the churchyard at lunchtime, hide our blazers & ties behind a historic gravestone, and head into Sandy Bell's (aka Forest Hill Bar) for a pint and a pie.
Also a good spot for sunbathing in summer term
Yup, you guessed it, we went on a City of the Dead Tour. I have been on many, simply because I wanted to catch a ghost on camera and also to frighten the beejesus out of my guests. They never feel satisfied unless they have seen or heard of a real Scottish ghost.
The storytellers are pretty good. The one in the photie (forget his name for a minute there) but he is an official paranormal investigator and spends a lot of time hunting for ghosts, energy balls, flames of energy, the local ghosts and anything else he can find while spending time where no sane mortal would go in the small wee hours of the morning. Kudos mate.
The thing that most tourists come to see and hear about is the wee cairn terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. The shepherd who came to town to trade took ill and died and his little one year old dog didn't know what to do, except sleep on his Master's grave until he died 14 years later.
According to the storyteller, this was a load of pish. The dog is not buried in the graveyard but miles away. The gravestone erected is brand new, visitors leave little doggie toys at the base and no one really knows the truth but it makes a lovely narrative.
The main details of the graveyard go as follows: Many thousands of people were buried here, standing up to create more room. Over the many many years of Edinburgh's existence, the bones rotted, became part of the soil, were scraped up and removed, bones worked their way to the surface and the latest ultrasound of the area reveals a complete indistinguishable mass of human remains. A great black blob many feet deep. Nothing specific. It has been described as being like a layer cake. So many scrapings, burials and covering up.
In the Coventers' Prison, I entered the *cell* which was open to the elements, wind, rain, snow, heat where the prisoners were kept until they died and stood up against the back wall. I felt the walls behind me with my hands, they were *breathing* in that I could feel air on my hands. One German took a movie on his camera and it clearly showed me up against the wall with faces going past me in the wall. All I felt was a slight breeze. I seem to attract the spirits. Myfanwe (VTer) has a couple of pics of me surrounded by a mist. Ask her if you want to see.
The MacKenzie Poltergeist is also famous. He hates women and comes out and attacks them in the Graveyard. He also haunts the Vaults just for fun. Victims find marks on their bodies days and even weeks later. Scratchings, scrapes, bruises, even puncture wounds. The victims have no recollecion how it happened.
I have been to the Vaults many times with visitors and also the Graveyard (funny how they don't want to go without me) and have had unexplained breaks in my skin and scratches. WOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Visit the vaults and the Graveyard at night. It's pretty good and very scary.
Greyfriars' courtyard is famous with Bobby's story. It is about a dog called Bobby who once owned by John Gray, a policeman of Edinburgh. After his owner's dead and was buried in Greyfriars, the loyal and faithfull dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave for 14 years (only leaving for food) until his own death in 1872.
Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier whose master, John Gray, died one market day in 1858. For 14 long years the ever-loyal little dog refused to leave his graveside in Greyfriars' Kirkyard. Bobby was looked after until his death by the local people, who gave him a collar. When Bobby died he was laid to rest in a different part of the graveyard.