Why is Greyfriars Bobby not looking at the graveyard?
I have previously written about ‘The moment of Greyfriars Bobby’ and also compared the statue of this Victorian Edinburgh dog to that of the old brown dog in Battersea. During my visit last week I noted the memorial to James Brown, the former sexton who had fed the dog, and died in an unmarked grave in 1868. The memorial was erected in 2006 apparently because of the part he played in caring for Bobby, or so a local newspaper described it. The memorial to John Gray is also of more modern times. These two men owe their place in the physical landscape to a small dog who, unusually for the time, is commemorated standing alone – outside the Greyfriars Kirk.The people owe their status in this prestigious graveyard to a small dog and, of course, to the myths surrounding this Victorian tale of remembrance after death.
However, the dog is neither looking back west to the kirk where ‘his master’ was buried nor north to the castle where apparently he went every day to hear the lunchtime firing of the guns. Metaphorically he may be looking to the future – or anachronistically to the new wing of the national museum of Scotland – but he is not looking back to the human on whose grave he allegedly ate his dinner and mourned. Although famous for allegiance to one lowly man beyond death the siting of his statue recreates the dog as somewhat separate from the rationale for his public profile. He is now the ‘property’ of the whole of Edinburgh : surely this undermines the very story created about the dog?