Edinburgh has honoured the life of its second most famous canine with a special event. Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal terrier known for guarding his master’s grave for 14 years after his death, is an iconic story in the Scottish capital and the Disney adaptation of his story in 1961 made a star of the acting pooch who portrayed the local hero – also called Bobby. The remains of the Skye Terrier who starred in the film have been donated to The City of Edinburgh Council and now form part of its archaeology collections. They have been loaned to Greyfriars Kirk for a special exhibition commemorating the legacy near the real-life grave of Scotland’s most loyal companion. At a ceremony in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Depute Lord Provost Lezley Marion Cameron was joined by David Hunter who led the campaign to commemorate the occasion as well as members of the church and friends of the graveyard.
Depute Lord Provost Lezley Marion Cameron, said: “Greyfriars Bobby’s memorial reads ‘Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all’. Countless visitors continue to see Bobby’s grave, his statue, and the many mementos of his life displayed in our Museum of Edinburgh. I’m delighted this further part of the iconic and timeless story of a little dog who would not leave his master’s grave, is going to be on display for visitors to discover. Bobby’s is a story held in enormous respect and affection by people around the world, as is the famous film it inspired. Bobby truly is a world-famous pet, holding a special place in people’s hearts and it’s lovely to be part of this special commemoration.”
Rev Richard Frazer, minister of Greyfriars Kirk, said: “The story of Greyfriars Bobby goes on touching people’s hearts. We are glad to remember this ‘Bobby’ who starred in Walt Disney’s film. The search for his remains is a story in itself, but David’s tenacity and persistence has paid off and now we have an additional item in our museum for people to visit, with a casket made in our Grassmarket Community Project workshop holding the ashes of the wee dog.”
The film pooch, a Skye Terrier and also called Bobby, was gifted to former Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, William Merrilees, by Mr Walt Disney after the film was released. Following the film’s release, Mr Walt Disney gave Bobby to his friend Chief Constable William Merrilees OBE. Mr Merrilees felt that it would be better if Bobby lived with a family, so he gave him to one of his senior officers – Chief Inspector John Turner. Bobby lived happily for the rest of his days with the Turner family in Morningside, Edinburgh. David Hunter, a relative of the Turner family, led a community campaign to find out what happened to Bobby and have his ashes interred at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.
Over the years the site of his grave had been lost. However, after hearing the site was to be developed for housing, with the permission of the developer, Mr Hunter and a team of volunteers undertook an 18-month search for his remains. As in all good stories his remains were finally found in the final days, in January 2023. A specially commissioned casket has been crafted from the wood of an old cherry tree that once stood in the Kirkyard. Designed and made by craftsmen from The Grassmarket Community Project. The casket and ashes were donated to The City of Edinburgh Council in 2023 and now form part of its archaeology collections and have been loaned to Greyfriars Kirk for display.
John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council Archaeologist, said: “It’s not often as an archaeologist that you work on such a unique project to preserve the remains of 1960’s film star. It has been fantastic to work with David, the Kirk and Grassmarket Community and my colleagues in Bereavement Services on this project and to see the enthusiasm and care that everyone has shown in finding a fitting home for his remains.”
The casket will be on display inside the Church together with information about the film and Bobby’s charity work in the city and his life after the film.