GREYFRIARS Bobby is to appear in an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol set in Victorian Edinburgh.

The legendary Skye terrier, who spent almost 15 years guarding the grave of nightwatchman John Gray, will be performed by puppeteer Edie Edmunson, who also plays Tiny Tim.

An Edinburgh Christmas Carol mixes characters familiar from Dickens’ 1843 classic with elements from the city’s history and lore.

Directed by award-winning Royal Lyceum favourite Tony Cownie, the Yuletide yarn’s new setting is fitting.

Visiting the city to give a lecture in the early 1840s, Dickens came across a tomb in Canongate Kirkyard. What he read is said to have inspired the miserly protagonist of the beloved tale of festive redemption. What the writer saw was a slab inscribed with “Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie – meal man”, a reference to the deceased’s work as a corn merchant.

The real-life Scroggie won the catering contract for the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822 and was apparently a generous if licentious man who liked to party. One account has him interrupting the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland by grabbing a noblewoman’s bottom.

But darkening skies over the graveyard and failing eyesight meant that Dickens misread the inscription.

“Dickens thought the tomb said ‘mean man’ not ‘meal man’,” says Cownie, who explains that the tomb was lost in a “clear-out in the 1920s”.

The playwright adds: “In his diary Dickens wrote that, even for the dour Scottish Kirk, this was a step too far, to write that someone was mean on their grave. Six months later, he had written the novel.”

The production stars Crawford Logan as Ebenezer Scrooge, a heartless money-lender who makes his clerk Rab Cratchit (Ewan Donald) work long hours for pittance wages. From his drab shop opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard – home to selfless pup Bobby – Scrooge curses Christmas as “humbug”. The attitude was not unusual in 19th-century Scotland. After the Reformation, Christmas was abolished, with an act of the Scottish Parliament in 1640 discharging the “Yule vacance”.

For the austere men of the Kirk, the festival was too “superstitious”, too Catholic and far too much fun.

It was only in 1958 that Christmas Day became a public holiday in Scotland, making this year just the 61st that most people in the country can spend how they choose.

Cownie hopes the show, which also features a rebellious band of street carollers performed by a community choir, will be a hit with younger audiences.

“I always felt Dickens aimed A Christmas Carol at adults,” he says. “Hopefully this production goes some way into redressing that with Greyfriars Bobby. He’s loyal and compassionate and generous, almost the complete antithesis of Scrooge.”

November 28 to January 4, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh