Greyfriars Bobby – The Dog Who Never Gave Up: E215
Based on the true story of Greyfriars Bobby, this version, written by Kathleen T. Pelley, tells the story of a wee dog with a stout heart and a stumpy tail who keeps vigil on his master’s grave for fourteen years in the city of Edinburgh. (duration 25 minutes) An episode from Journey with Story, a storytelling podcast for kids ages 5-10.
If you would like to enjoy our weekly coloring sheets and other perks, subscribe to our patreon page here
If your little listener wants to ask us a question or send us a drawing inspired by one of our episodes, send it to us at instagram@journeywithstory. Or you can contact us at www.journeywithstory.com. We love to hear from our listeners.
If you enjoy our podcast, you can rate, review, and subscribe at here
Did you know Kathleen is also a children’s picture book author, you can find out more about her books at www.kathleenpelley.com
Greyfriars Bobby – The Dog Who Never Gave Up
Do you know why people often refer to dogs as “man’s best friend?”
Hello everyone. I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. So I think most of you know the answer to my question about dogs being called “man’s best friend.” It is because more than most any other animal, a dog can show its love and loyalty for his master in the most surprising ways. Today’s story is based on a true story about a little dog who lived in the city of Edinburgh a long time ago and became famous because of how he showed that he was indeed his master’s best friend.
So famous was this dog, that years later, Walt Disney made a movie about him and when I was a wee girl growing up in Scotland, this story was one of my most favorite stories. And so today you are hearing my re-telling of the tale.
And it is very fitting that we have a special Scottish story today as yesterday 25 January was what is known in Scotland as Burns Night, when people celebrate the life of a very famous Scottish poet or BARD called Rabbie Burns – he was born on January 25th 1759 and was famous for writing poems in the Scottish vernacular – just means he used lots of Scottish words and his best known work is Auld Lang Syne that people all over the world sing when they bring in the New Year.
Before we begin, please do take a moment so show your loyalty to this podcast, by rating, reviewing and sharing it with others. Thank you so much. And do visit us at www.journeywithstory.com to send us your drawings or letters so we can share with others.
Now let’s take a journey with Greyfriars Bobby- The Dog who Never Gave Up
Oh, there are a few Scottish words here that you may not know
A bobby was a Scottish word for a policeman
Keek – means to peek out
And a smir of rain just means a light mist of rain…
Long ago, on a farm, outside the city of Edinburgh, in the heart of Scotland, a wee dog began his life, nameless and loveless. His owner was a crusty farmer, who cared nary a whit for man nor beast. But still the wee dog did not give up on life. Instead he learned how to nip and yap and dodge the poke of the farmer’s stick.
One day the farmer read a notice in the newspaper: DOGS WANTED – AS WATCHDOGS FOR OUR BOBBIES IN THE CITY POLICE!
So the farmer sold the wee dog to a man who came by in a rickety-clickety cart. “He’s just what those bobbies need,” the farmer told him, “a feisty wee beast, aye picking a fight and afeart o’ no one!” Into the city the cart rattled away, while the farmer returned to work, jangling a pocketful of new coins.
‘Here he is! My new watchdog!” shouted Jock Gray, as he bustled into his house in Hall’s Close. “Now all he needs is a name,” said Jock, as the wee dog keeked out from beneath the constable’s cape.
“Call him Bobby,” said his son,
“After all that’s his job now,” added Mrs. Gray, “a bobby like you.”
So began a new life for the wee dog with the stumpy tail and stout heart. Every day the two bobbies scoured the streets for robbers, rogues, and ruffians. One blast from Jock’s whistle, and off Bobby bolted after pickpocket or thief. No matter how long the chase, Bobby never gave up, not until he had clamped his jaws tight around trouser cuff or petticoat hem. And no matter how long or how hard his captive shouted or shrieked or tried to shake him off, Bobby never gave up until Jock arrived with baton and handcuffs.
On night patrol, Jock and Bobby made their rounds through the cemetery of Greyfriars Churchyard, called after the grey habit of the friars of St. Francis, who once had lived there. Now it was a haunting ground, not only for spooks and specters but also for the host of thieves who lurked there. Whenever Bobby caught a whiff of fear from his master, he pressed in close next to Jock’s legs, like a shaggy shield. “Ye’re a brave wee dug,” whispered Jock.
On their day off, Jock led Bobby up to Calton Hill, where the women hung their laundry away from the city soot and grime. Bobby loved to romp up the heathered hill, charging at the sheets that flip-flopped on the line, like merry ghosts waving in the wind. And at the end of their shift, the pair of them always stopped for a bite to eat at Mr. Traill’s Eating House on Candlemakers Row.
And so in this way, two winters and two summers passed. In the hush of the churchyard or the hustle-bustle of the Grassmarket, by the light of lantern or the glimmer of twilight, through smir of rain or blur of fog, Bobby followed in the footsteps of his master, loving him with every beat of his heart and wag of his tail.
Then, one day, Jock fell sick. Bobby lay at the foot of the bed and watched. Dr. Littlejohn came with the chink of medicine bottles and the reek of potions. But one morning, Bobby awoke to an empty world. In the night his master had died.
But Bobby did not give up on life. Instead he did what he had always done. Bobby followed his master. As the funeral procession wound its way into Greyfriars Churchyard, Bobby trotted behind. After the service, he curled up on top of the grave. All night he lay there, the crumbled earth beneath his belly and the distant scent of his master seeping over him.
The next morning he heard the rattle of keys in the gates. “No dugs allowed here!” roared James Brown the gardener. “Get away!”
But Bobby did not budge. Instead he gave a bossy bark and bared his teeth. The gardener charged at him. Round and round the cemetery they whirled. Finally, red-faced and panting, the gardener gave up. And Bobby returned to his post.
That night a horde of cats came caterwauling. At once Bobby sprang into their midst, and sent them scattering. From his cottage window, James Brown watched. “Maybe one feisty wee dog is not so bad after all,” he muttered. “Not if he can rid us of those pesky cats.” The next day he brought Bobby a bone and tossed him an old sackcloth. “There ye are,” he said, “ye can bide here a while.”
So Bobby made a new friend as he began his new life in Greyfriars Churchyard. Night after night, beneath the moon and the stars and the heavens, Bobby lay on his master’s grave. By day, he chased rabbits or scolded the schoolboys who tried to clamber over the cemetery wall.
As word of Bobby spread, people came to catch a glimpse of him sitting on his master’s grave. Some tried to lure him away from his post with the promise of a warm bed and a hot meal. But neither cold nor hunger were enough to make Bobby give up his vigil.
At night when the wind whipped and the rain pelted, Bobby huddled for shelter beneath the table stone beside the grave. And when the pangs of hunger gnawed at him, he learned that the boom from the cannon in the castle on the hill, the city’s new time signal, meant dinnertime at the Mr. Traill’s Eating House on Candlemakers Row.
Every day now, at the stroke of one, clusters of people jostled outside the churchyard to catch a glimpse of Bobby, as he bounded off the grave with the boom of the gun, and charged up to the Eating House. There, Mr. Traill always had a dish of stew or piece of pie waiting for him.
Years passed. Bobby made more friends: William Dow, a joiner, James Anderson, an upholsterer, and many of the customers at the Eating House. Bakers and bankers, soldiers and serving girls all delighted at the sight of Bobby sitting on his master’s grave.
But there was one person who was neither a well-wisher nor an admirer. Sadie Smithers, a gossip and a busybody, had long complained about Bobby. “It is a disgrace to allow a dog in a churchyard,” she sad. “This is holy ground and no place for an animal.” But no one paid her any heed, until…
One day a new law passed, requiring all dogs, under penalty of death to have a license and a collar. Sadie Smith pounced at the chance to tattle on Bobby. “That dog in Greyfriars Churchyard has no collar or license,” she told the police. “You need to do something about him!”
Word spread fast. Outside Greyfriars Churchyard, the caddies, those lads who hauled water to all the houses, gathered to swap their snippet of news.
“The police asked Mr. Traill to buy Bobby a license.”
“He said he didnae have seven shillings to spend on a dog that didnae even belong to him.”
“Now it’s up to the Lord Provost. But it looks as though Bobby is going to die!”
That night a lone figure stood outside the gates of the cemetery and looked in at Bobby, as he lay asleep on the grave. It was the Lord Provost. “Is that not a holy sight,” he whispered. “Surely St. Francis and all his friars must be smiling down on this wee dog, whose love for his master reaches up to heaven itself.”
The next day he issued a proclamation. “I hereby declare that Greyfriars Bobby belongs to all the people of Edinburgh, and as Lord Provost of the city, I will buy Bobby’s collar and license. Let his love and devotion be a lesson to us all.”
From that day forward, Greyfriars Bobby became known and loved throughout all of Scotland and beyond. Artists came to sketch his shaggy face. News Reporters came to write his story. Even Queen Victoria herself came to catch a glimpse of this wee dog with the stumpy tail and stout heart.
Over the years Bobby never wanted for food or friends. On cold winter nights, he took shelter with James Brown or Mr. Traill. On long summer days, he liked to take a dander up to the castle on the hill, where he swaggered along behind the soldiers as they marched to the skirl of the bagpipes and the beat of the drum. But he never stayed away from the churchyard for long. And he never gave up on his master – ever. Always he returned to the grave, to watch and to wait with a love that gentled the world.
COPYRIGHT – Kathleen T. Pelley 2023- All rights reserved
On 14th January 1872, Bobby, the Sky terrier, died at Mr. Traill’s home in Keir Street. At the time of his death, Bobby was sixteen years old, and had kept vigil by his master’s grave for fourteen years. Although he could not be buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, as that was consecrated ground, he was buried in a triangular flower plot just outside and still very close to his beloved master. Bobby’s dinner dish and the collar that the Lord Provost, Sir William Chambers gave to Bobby in 1867 are on display in Huntly House Museum in Edinburgh.
When I grew up and went to University in the city of Edinburgh, I used to live right next to Greyfriars Bobby’s statue at the top of Candlemaker’s Row. And when I lived in America and visited schools for an author’s visit, I always told children about Bobby as he is such a part of our Scottish history and no matter what one of my books I read to children, they always wanted to hear more about Greyfriars Bobby – I hope you love this story as much as I do. And maybe it is a good reminder for us all, to try and be as loving and loyal to all of our friends and family as Bobby was to his master.
Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story.