Ruth Brown's The Ghost of Greyfriar’s Bobby
Book review by Monica Friedman
A Faithful Dog Stands Vigil at His Master’s Grave in Edinburgh
“In 1858,” the commemorative plaque on a fountain in Edinburgh, Scotland reads, a “faithful dog,” known as Greyfriar’s Bobby, “followed the remains of his master to Greyfriar’s Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872.”
Literature loves a faithful dog, and Greyfriar’s Bobby may be, perhaps the most faithful of all, standing vigil for over a decade over his master’s grave.
The fountain erected in his memory features a sculpture of the noble animal, along with “a fountain for dogs,” testifying of the love of a dog for a man, along with the love of humans for dogs in general.
Review - The Ghost of Greyfriar's Bobby
Despite the title, Bobby’s ghost does not appear in this book, which is a celebration of life, rather than a haunting tale. It is not scary, although much of it takes place in a graveyard, and it is appropriate for all ages.
It is Bobby’s memory that remains, celebrated by the townspeople and inspiring those who hear it. Ruth Brown’s version posits two modern, pre-adolescent children, bored of sightseeing and tired of waiting for their parents, reading the plaque, learning the story, and finding their way to the churchyard, where a kind gardener fleshes out the tale for them.
In his youth, Bobby worked nights with his master, Old Jock, guarding the cattle about to go up for sale at the market, sitting outside even in the coldest and darkest part of the year. He ate, with his master, at Mrs. Ramsay’s café: “She’d always save a special tidbit for Bobby—a bone, a bun, or sometimes even a piece of pie.” Everyone knew Bobby by name. On Old Jock’s days off, master and pup would walk the Scottish countryside.
Upon Old Jock’s death, “Bobby followed his master for the very last time. It was here that they came, to the churchyard of Greyfriar’s, where Old Jock is buried.
Bobby got as close as he could to Old Jock, and that’s where he stayed.” The drawing shows the tiny, pathetic, long haired pooch, his head and legs covered with blowing snow, standing mournfully near the grave.
When his hunger becomes too great to stand, he returns to Mrs. Ramsay, who feeds him, while, “The people of the town were so touched by the little dog’s loyalty to Jock that they looked after him, and the children always stopped to say hello as they passed.”
For fourteen years, Bobby lives in the churchyard beside his master’s grave. When he dies, he is buried “very near his beloved master.” No one can forget this simple tale of a dog’s loving devotion.
The Ghost of Greyfriar's Bobby is a modern legend, one that shares the values we most appreciate in our companion animals. The idea that a simple old man who is no more than a night watchman of livestock should be so devotedly mourned and elaborately adored by an animal stirs the heart of the reader.
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