Thursday, 4 August 2011
'Very Good For The Local Economy'
Occasionally I wish myth-busters didn't exists since it can be more comforting to believe the fable.
It must have been nearly 50 years ago since I first saw the statue of the Skye terrier Greyfriars Bobby atop his pedestal near the main entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. I've always been slightly disappointed when I see it because it lacks some of the character and features of a terrier, but the memorial, with its accompanying fountain, is a lasting tribute to the loyalty of man's best friend.
In my childhood every wee one knew the story of how the policeman's wee dug sat on his master's grave for many years, before submitting to old age himself.
Now, after five years of research, a British historian Jan Bondeson has published a book in which he dispels the story as traditionally told. Bobby was a stray and there were two of them according to Mr Bondeson. He says his research shows the first dog died in 1867 and was replaced with another by Mr Brown, the cemetery curator and Mr Traill, a local restauranteur. These two men were responsible for spreading the story and visitors to the churchyard increased 100-fold, with many donating money to Mr Brown and refreshing themselves at Mr Traill's establishment.
Locals supported the fable as they had no desire to cause upset and they too were aware that Bobby ! and 2 were very good for the local economy.
Although Mr Brown and Mr Traill were entrepreneurs they were not in the same league as Disney who produced, in 1961, a sickly sentimental film starring a dog named Bobby and a fictional farmer as his owner. It was a box office success. Even today, having seen it several times, I still think it's one of the many films which had a little too much of the Hollywood treatment, although, for me, that enhances its entertainment value.
Mr Bondeson admits it won't be possible to debunk the story of Greyfriars Bobby but his research sounds as intriguing as the original story. Maybe it's time I removed my rose-tinted glasses and had a read of his book.