Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Greyfriars Bobby

The Grave
A red granite stone commemorating a small dog was erected in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, Edinburgh by The Dog Aid Society of Scotland in 1981. The inscription reads, Greyfriars Bobby / Died 14 January 1872 / Aged 16 Years / Let His Loyalty And Devotion / Be A Lesson To Us All / Erected By The Dog Aid Society / Of Scotland And Unveiled By H.R.H. / The Duke Of Gloucester C.C.V.O. / On 13th May 1981.

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Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier, is a legend of questionable historical accuracy. The fact which cannot be disputed is that a little dog lived within the Kirkyard in the mid 19th century and was fed and given shelter by local residents often showing up at Traill’s Restaurant in Greyfriars Place as if summoned by the One O’Clock gun.

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John Traill’s family with Bobby

In 1867 a by-law required that all dogs be licensed by their owners with the understanding that stray or unlicensed dogs would be destroyed. The popularity and public knowledge of Bobby persuaded Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to purchase a license and award him the Freedom of the City. He also purchased a dog collar inscribed with the words: “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed.” The collar is now in the Museum of Edinburgh, Huntly House, on the Royal Mile.

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There are two versions of the legend of Greyfriars Bobby, a little dog with shaggy hair hanging over his eyes and a stumpy tail that died in 14 January 1872.

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Legend 1: John Gray, an unemployed gardener, joined the police force as a night watchman and was assigned a dog named Bobby (the British nickname for a policeman) to cover an area of old Edinburgh that included Upper Cowgate, the Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row, the grounds of Heriot’s Hospital and the Cattle Market. When Gray died in 1858, Bobby followed his master into Greyfriars Kirkyard and was found lying on the grave by the curator the next morning. As dogs were not allowed inside the churchyard he was regularly chased out but continued to return. The curator, James Brown, took pity on the little animal and gave him some food. He also gave him sackcloth to lie on and local residents created a shelter for him to stay warm. He kept vigil at the grave of his master for 14 years until he died. He was then buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray’s grave. (Another story relates that special permission was given to open the grave of John Gray to allow his faithful companion to be interred with him.)

Version 2: Bobby, a nuisance stray that frequented Heriot’s hospital, was chased out by the gardener and took refuge in Greyfriars Kirkyard. James Brown, the curator, became fond of him and began to feed him which encouraged the little dog to frequent the churchyard on a regular basis. Visitors to the churchyard who saw Bobby believed he was a devoted dog refusing to leave his master’s grave and encouraged the curator to tell the story of Greyfriars Bobby.

It is also believed that the original Bobby died in 1867. His story had become known nationwide, and to encourage visitation to the graveyard, he was replaced with a younger dog. The Curator continued to relate the story of Bobby in Traill’s Restaurant.

The legends appear to be a fabrication as proven by the blog below which references newspaper reports and minutes of Edinburgh Council meetings. https://roundthewatertrough.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/greyfriars-bobby-a-shaggy-dog-story/

Nevertheless, the gravestone has become a shrine and fetch sticks, toys and flowers are frequently left there.

The Fountain
On 15 November 1873 a drinking fountain with a life size statue of a dog was unveiled near Greyfriars Kirkyard at the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV bridge in Edinburgh. The red granite fountain offered drinking water to humans using stone drinking cups attached by chains until 1975. Dogs drank from an octagonal trough at ground level.

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Image copyright City of Edinburgh Council, Capital Collections  www.capitalcollections.org.uk

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A plaque on the base reads A tribute / to the affectionate fidelity of / Greyfriars Bobby. / In 1858, this faithful dog followed / the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot / until his death in 1872. / With permission / erected by the / Baroness Burdett-Coutts.

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Inscribed on the statue is: Greyfriars Bobby, from the life just before his death and W.H. Brodie Sc RSA 1872.

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The bronze statue of a terrier was sculpted by William Brodie, and donated by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, the President of the Ladies Committee of the RSPCA.

The backdrop to the monument is Greyfriar Bobby’s Bar, previously known as Traill’s Restaurant. A plaque on the wall states: Greyfriars / “Bobby” / was fed here / from / 1858 to 1872.

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The monument was listed a Category A historic building on 29 April 1977 and is Edinburgh’s smallest listed building.

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When the fountain was first erected a gas street light stood behind the statue, and during the conversion to electricity of the city’s lights, the lamp was removed. It has now been duplicated using historic photographs and salvaged lamp columns with the assistance of a grant from Edinburgh World Heritage.

The fountain suffered damage due to vandalism and a car accident in 1984 which required repair. It was restored the following year. However, a recent custom of rubbing Bobby’s nose for luck removed the black finish and exposed the underlying brass. On 1st October 2013, Powderhall Bronze, a sculpture conservation and restoration specialist, was hired to clean, wax and re-patinate Bobby’s nose.

edinburghspotlight Greyfriars bobby

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Memento Mori

Memento Mori is a term used to describe funerary art. Gravestones will often display this Latin phrase which translated means, Remember You Will Die, which is more of a warning to the living rather than the deceased upon whose headstone it is engraved.

Creative Commons License. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/4358919924
Creative Commons License. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/4358919924

This gravestone is located in St. Cuthbert Churchyard, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. The natural patina is a result of moss growing in the damp climate with further erosion damage due to the extremes of the Scottish weather.

Erosion of the stone has obliterated much of the original inscription. The few words which are still legible state:
Who died 7th Feb
Aged 48 years
His children who
Also Thomas
Burgess

The symbols on this headstone represent several aspects of Memento Mori.

  • The winged effigy represents the deceased soul in flight.
  • The banner inscribed with the words Memento Mori is a reminder that death is unavoidable.
  • Skulls are a frequent feature on gravestones around the world appearing in various forms often with crossbones. It is a symbol of death, mortality, penitence, and sin.
  • Arched columns symbolize the passage to Heaven.
  • The drapes represent mourning and the partition between life and death.

Life is short, and shortly it will end;
Death comes quickly and respects no one,
Death destroys everything and takes pity on no one.
To death we are hastening, let us refrain from sinning.

In the second example the word Memento Mori is again visible. The reversed letter N is used. Although I have researched I can find no reason for the reversal. Many opinions offer illiteracy as a reason; however, it may simply be the letterform used during the period (e.g. the letters f, j, and v were used to represent s, i and u.)

Creative Commons License. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/4358905866/
Creative Commons License. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/4358905866/

Symbolism on this headstone represents the passage of time and the inevitability of death.
Bones: mortality and death
Hourglass: Passage of time
Rosettes: Brevity of earthly existence.

Death like an overflowing stream
Sweeps us away our life’s a dream
An empty tale a morning flowr,
Cut down and witherd in an hour. 1797

The third example once again denotes mortality and death with the symbols of the skull and bones.

Creative Commons License. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/4358903270

A skull represents death and mortality
A single bone is symbolic of death and decay.

Our life is ever on the wing
And death is ever nigh
The moment when our life begins
We all begin to die. 1791

Note: Did you notice that the skulls in the photos bear scars?

Graffiti and Vandalism

Graffiti and vandalism seem to be a peculiarity of youth; can’t say I have ever seen or heard of a mature individual spray painting any form of public property. Not restricted to race, religion or country, it is a manifestation seen around the world.

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St. Cuthbert’s Cemetery, Edinburgh, Scotland

Desecrated Jewish graves around the world have been painted with swastikas, and I won’t recognize that horrendous action with a photo.

In the Old Calton Burial Ground in Edinburgh, Scotland, graffiti perhaps identifies the painter as a psycho.

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Graffiti on Jim Morrison’s grave in Pere Lachaise Cemetry, Paris, France. Visitors seem to think they have more to say than he did.

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A grave in Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland, claims there is no God.

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In Singapore a despondent has inscribed a message of love.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49503031667@N01/345520444
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49503031667@N01/345520444

In the Sydney township of Castlereagh, Australia there is an isolated graveyard which provides graffiti opportunism. The First Fleet pioneers do not deserve such disrespect.

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In Trondheim Norway, Jewish gravestones have been attacked with flamboyant pink paint.

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Graffiti on the gravestone of New Zealand’s first Governor William Hobson, at the Symonds Street cemetery in Auckland shows the disillusion of the vandal. The treaty which was signed in 1840 by representatives of the British government and various Māori ownership chiefs, recognised Māori ownership of their lands and other properties, and gave Māori the rights of British subjects.

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In St. Mary’s Cemetery, Bismarck, North Dakota, USA, a devil worshipper has desecrated a large memorial stone.

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Drunk and bored teenagers without an artistic bent often resort to plain vandalism by toppling gravestones and knocking over or breaking statues

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Desecration of physical memorials is not the only type of vandalism. Illegally drinking alcohol and doing drugs leaves the area littered with empty bottles and discarded needles.

It’s sad and disgraceful that the memory of departed loved ones are so often vandalized and desecrated. The isolation and loneliness of cemeteries can leave visitors feeling unsafe which creates a catch 22 situation.

An inscription on a grave in Milton, Ontario, Canada suggests: ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’ I would suggest that the last enemy is vandalism. Would vandals be so eager to kick over the gravestone of their own mother or grandfather?

Bronte pioneer Stratford Cross down

Greyfriars Churchyard

Greyfriars Churchyard is inconspicuously tucked away on Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh, Scotland. Although not a large cemetery it contains a variety of burial options including vaults, sepulchres, tombs and mausoleums. It is rife with history, hauntings and a fair amount of mystery. Bodies have been buried here since 1562 although records were not kept until 1658. The location of many graves is unknown, and bones are regularly washed to the surface during heavy rainstorms. Hundreds of persecuted and martyred Covenanters lie here. Stones hundreds of years old marred by coal fire smoke and acid rain still stand albeit in a blackened mossy state. Although it seems that time almost stands still here, you will be surprised how quickly it passes as you wander through the graves.

The 17th century Greyfriars Kirk is still a working parish and worth a visit. A museum and gift shop are also located on the site.

Hugo Arnot, Edinburgh historian, describing Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1779
“The graves are so crowded on each other that the sextons frequently cannot avoid in opening a ripe grave encroaching on one not fit to be touched. The whole presents a scene equally nauseous and unwholesome. How soon this spot will be so surchrged with animal juices and oils, that, becoming one mass of coruption, its noxious steams will burst forth with the prey of a pestilence, we shall not pretend to determine; but we will venture to say, the effects of this burying-ground would ere now have been severly felt, were it not that, besides the coldness of the climate, they have been checked by the acidity of the coal smoke and the height of the winds, which in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh blow with extraordinary violence.”

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Missionary Rev. John Ross

This gravestone is located in the Newington Cemetery, Edinburgh, Scotland.

John Ross belonged to the United Presbyterian Church which was famous for its missions. As soon as he was ordained as a minister in 1872 he married M. A. Stewart and they departed for China. His wife died the following year giving birth to their first child, a son named Drummond. In 1876, he married Catherine, a sister of one of his fellow missionaries. He lived in China for 40 years as a missionary in Manchuria and Korea. His study of linguistics gave him an understanding of 11 languages. He began translating the New Testament into Korean, a project that took 10 years to complete, and which led to the spread of Christianity in Korea. Throughout his lifetime he wrote several books on the subject of missionary work in Manchuria. He returned to Edinburgh, Scotland in 1910 due to ill health.

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The Scottish Bible Society designed this gravestone and arranged for it to be made in Korea then shipped to Scotland. It is engraved in both English and Korean.

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In
Loving Memory
Of
Rev. John Ross D. D.
For over forty years missionary
Of the U. F. Church in Manchuria,
China
Died in Edinburgh 7th August 1915,
Aged 74 years.
Also his children
Hugh, Findlay, Jackie,
And Cathie Jane,
Who died in infancy,
Buried in Newchwang, N. China.
Findlay M. Ross M. C.
His youngest son,
Lieut. 9th Batt. The Royal Scots,
Killed in action in France 1st. Aug 1918,
Aged 25 years, and buried at
British Cemetery, Raperie, Nr. Soissons.
Also his wife
Isabella Strapp McFadyen
Who died in Glasgow
19th December 1930

A dedication stone beneath the gravestone

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The Korean Church
Thank God for
John Ross
Who Translated The New Testament Into Korean
Between 1877 -1887
And Gave Them The Word Of Life

 

Newington Cemetery

Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh, Scotland

In 1846 this site was known as Echo Bank Cemetery, and later became known as the Newington Necropolis. The original Gothic lodge is still in evidence and is used as a gatekeeper’s cottage.

This cemetery is neglected and vandalized.  Tombstones are toppled over and broken.  It is overrun with ivy, and in some instances it is impossible to see the headstones.  The gravestones located at the perimeter wall are impossible to reach because the ground is covered in vegetation.  It is objectionable that this hallowed ground has been neglected and allowed to deteriorate, and yet it is a very peaceful island in the midst of the city where the sun shines through the foliage of the ancient trees and lends a sadness and eeriness to the scene.

It is one of the most haunting sites I’ve visited. Large and spacious it covers a large area in the city. It is both open and wooded. The overgrown foliage entangles the tombstones, obliterates the names whilst the shade from the trees plunges the area into gloom. At every turn the rustling leaves seem ominous, and I checked over my shoulder more than once. I was transported to a book I once read “A Fine and Lonely Place,” which told the story of an old man who frequented a cemetery. Perhaps that is what triggered my fascination with cemeteries and gravestone and the history of inscriptions.

There is a wrought iron fenced area against the front wall containing gravestones with images of the Star of David and Hebrew writing. The Jewish section was created in 1945, and it seems to me vindictive and intolerant that even in death the Jews are segregated from the others.

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If there is another world he lived in bliss
If there be none he made the most of this. 1938

In mansions of glory and endless delight
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright
And sing with a glittering crown on my brow
If ever I love thee my Jesus ‘tis now.

This stone recalls sad thoughts of one who in the summer’s shady bloom straight from the arms of love went down to the gloomy portals of the tomb. 1869

A Report Filed for Edinburgh Evening News, 06 February 1991:
On Monday I went for a walk in a graveyard. Preoccupied with sombre thoughts in these sombre times, I stood before a huge memorial stone “to the honoured memory of one hundred and thirty nine British sailors and soldiers who gave their lives for their country during the Great War 1914-1918”.

In large letters across the top of the memorial was written: “Their name liveth for evermore”. Behind it was a large ragged heap of stones and an unkempt tangle of undergrowth. The place was dirty, depressing and very cold.

These days, there should be no need to remind ourselves of the need to respect the dead. It behoves us all to honour those who have passed away, whether they died by accident, of old age, in the First World War, or in a futile fight for oil.

It follows that any civilised society should take great care of its graves. In Newington cemetery near Cameron Toll, where I was, the graves have been allowed to go to rack and ruin.

Headstones had collapsed, crosses were broken and graffiti disfigured tombs. Broken glass, rusty tin cans and plastic bags were littered all over the place. In some places the undergrowth was so thick that it was difficult to see or get to the burial grounds.

In the summer the graveyard is swamped with weeds and bushes. It is infested with hundreds of giant hogweeds which in sunlight cause serious burns to the skin. It is, as the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Edinburgh South, Struan Stevenson, told me, “an utter disgrace”.

He said he had received complaints from local people that “they need a machete to hack their way to their loved ones’ graves”. He thought it was outrageous that a cemetery regularly visited by hundreds of people should have been allowed to deteriorate from a place of rest into a jungle.

A few years ago, a teenage boy was killed by a falling tombstone. Perhaps that is why at the entrance to Newington cemetery there is an ugly sign. “Warning”, it says. “This cemetery is private property. The owners cannot accept responsibility for accidents to unauthorised persons.”

*UPDATE* September 2015

After two years of hard work by volunteers the cemetery has been restored to its former glory. Dozens of volunteers met each month armed with secateurs, sheers and rakes to tame the undergrowth and uncover concealed graves. During the process an empty catacomb in the centre of the graveyard was discovered.

The Friends of Newington Cemetery have produced a map of the 14-acre graveyard identifying the graves of famous people and a Commonwealth War Graves memorial.

Martyr’s Stone

This monument known as the Martyr’s Stone is set into the north east corner wall of Greyfriar’s Cemetery in Edinburgh.

The tomb was erected in 1706. The original structure contained a triangular pediment and two columns with scroll capitals with a large slab of white marble containing text (documented below), and beneath a carving of an open bible containing text from the book of Revelation ending with these words, ‘This tomb was first erected by James Curie, Merchant in Pentland, and others, 1706, renewed 1771.

As can be seen in the photograph hundreds of years of neglect and fierce weather has damaged the monument.

Martyr's Stone
Martyr’s Stone

Halt Passenger, take heed, what you do see,
This tomb doth shew, for what some men did die,
Here lies interred the dust of those who stood
Against perjury, resisting unto blood
Adhering to the Covenants, and laws
Establishing the same, which was the cause
Then lives were sacrificed unto the lust
Of Prelatists abjured. Though here their dust
Lies mixed with murderers, and other crew
Whom justice justly did to death pursue
But as for them, no cause was to be found
Worthy of death, but only they were found.
Constant and steadfast, zealous witnessing
For the Prerogatives of CHRIST their KING.
Which truths were sealed by famous Guthrie’s head
And all along to Mr. Renwick’s blood.
They did endure the wrath of enemies
Reproaches, torments, deaths and injuries
But yet they’re those who from such trouble came
And now triumph in glory with the LAMB.
 
From May 27th, 1661 that the most noble Marquis
Of Argyle was beheaded to the 17th of February 1688
That Mr. James Renwick suffered, were one way
Or other Murdered and Destroyed for the same cause, about
Eighteen thousand of whom were executed at Edinburgh, about an
Hundred of Noblemen, Gentlemen, Ministers and Others, noble
Martyrs for Jesus Christ. The most of them lie here.
 
For a particular account of the cause and manner of their Sufferings, see
The Cloud of Witnesses, Crookshanks, and Defoe’s histories.

Note: The National Covenant was a protest by Scottish Presbyterians against Charles I’s preference for a High Anglican form of worship which was considered too Catholic. The most fervent and well known protestors being:
Archibald, Marquis of Argyle
James Renwick, a Presbyterian Minister
James Guthrie, a minister at Stirling.