HE has been vandalised, his legend has been doubted, and now his nose is being rubbed away.

It’s surely more than a wee metal dug can take, and now friends of Greyfriars Bobby are out to try to save his nose which is gradually being worn away by visitors who wrongfully think rubbing it brings them luck.

Bobby, or at least the bronze version of him, stands outside Greyfriars Kirkyard where legend says he watched over his master’s grave for 14 years before he died and was buried there himself in 1872.

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The statue was erected only a year later, and that is why we know it is an accurate depiction in life size of the wee terrier, as the sculptor William Brodie had made the model of the dog before he died. It is now Edinburgh’s smallest listed building, Category A no less, and the City Council has responsibility for its care, as befits a famous local hero.

Only four years ago, the black-painted statue was restored at a cost of £400 paid for by the council tax payers of Edinburgh. The City Council then appealed for people to stop rubbing the nose of the statue that sits atop a granite former drinking fountain – when it was first built, it was for both humans and dogs to drink from.

Now a fresh appeal has been made to people to stop rubbing Bobby’s nose, and as usual these days, it is taking place on social media.

Edinburgh woman Evelyn Duncan has set up a Facebook page Greyfriars Bobby – Save Bobby’s Nose. It says: “Poor wee Bobby is getting his nose rubbed away. Do people think this is going to bring them luck? It’s not so lucky for Bobby as he soon won’t have a nose.”

Duncan said: “I wanted to find out if anyone else felt the same about the damage to Bobby’s nose. Every time I pass the monument I have to fight the urge to get out of my car and tell people to stop rubbing his wee nose. It mystifies me that people think rubbing it is going to bring them luck.”

Backing her is Martin Hogg who wrote: “I had heard it was the result of some irresponsible tour guide starting the ‘rub it for luck’ nonsense.

“In the case of Bobby, I think the plinth on which he stands should be raised higher up, above people’s reach.”

Ken Steven commented: “I’d like to find the tour guide who made up this ‘tradition’ and give their nose a good rubbing.”


Most of the tale is legend – but a dog really was saved
By Hamish MacPherson

UNUSUALLY for an American film about Scottish history the Walt Disney studios got quite a lot of their version of the Greyfriars Bobby correct.

There was a dog called Bobby, he did live in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh really did save his life by buying a licence. That gentleman was Sir William Chambers, who was also a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the collar he bought for Bobby is in the Museum of Edinburgh.

The rest is legend, not least because Chambers himself was a publisher and a self-publicist who delighted in embellishing the story over the years.

Bobby was supposedly the pet of an Edinburgh night watchman called John Gray – not the shepherd Jock in the movie – who died in 1867 when Bobby was allegedly just two. For the next 14 years the wee dog watched over his master’s grave except for the one occasion when he was rounded up by the local dog wardens who periodically emptied Edinburgh’s cemeteries of dogs – they were known for being full of canine inhabitants at times.

It has been said that the original Bobby died and local coffee house owner, John Traill, substituted another terrier-like dog as people had read the story in The Scotsman and elsewhere and came to visit Bobby and the convenient Traill establishment.

Whether he was the original or not, Bobby died in 1872 and an English philanthropist of Scottish extraction, Lady Angela Burdett-Coutts, paid for a drinking fountain and statue of Bobby to be erected on George IV Bridge between Greyfriars Kirkyard and Chambers Street, named after the very same Lord Provost that saved the little dog’s life. The tradition of rubbing the statue’s nose for good luck is a recent myth that has caught on so much that Bobby is now two-tone.