On my last few trips to Edinburgh, I watched Bobby’s nose get worse and worse. It really makes me sad that so much damage is being done to this popular statue. And so I felt the need to write a blog to tell people of the damage this new ‘superstition’ is causing, and to encourage people to save Bobby’s nose.
Incase you don’t know, Bobby is a statue of a dog. It’s known as Greyfriars Bobby, as it is located just outside Greyfriars Kirkyard, which is also where you will find Bobby’s grave. It’s a cute, life size statue of a very loyal dog, whose story warms my heart. However, over the years tourists have started rubbing his nose for luck. This is causing damage to his nose, as the paint wears away and he now has a golden, shiny nose, which is slowly being completely rubbed away.
The Story of Greyfriars Bobby
Bobby was a Skye terrier, owned by John Gray. John was part of the Edinburgh City Police, employed as a Night Watchman. He bought Bobby so that he would have company on his night shifts. The pair of them were a common sight on a cold Edinburgh night.
Unfortunately, John died in 1858, which left Bobby alone. Bobby showed undying loyalty to his master even in death, as he refused to leave John’s grave. He stayed there until he himself died in 1872, after a fourteen year vigil.
This loyalty touched the hearts of many locals, and his fame spread even further afield. The locals took good care of Bobby, providing him food and shelter during his vigil. When a by-law was passed requiring all dogs to be licensed in 1867, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh actually paid for his license and presented Bobby with a collar.
It wasn’t long after Bobby’s own death that his statue was erected. The life-sized statue of the Skye terrier was revealed in 1873. It has stood outside Greyfriars Kirkyard since then and has become the most photographed statue in Edinburgh.
Why Do People Rub Bobby’s Nose
No one actually knows how this modern ‘tradition’ started, but apparently people (well, tourists) believe that it will bring them luck. But why, I have no idea.
I first visited Edinburgh in 2013 and Bobby’s nose was black, in keeping with the rest of him (I must have been there not long after the repair work). Since then I have been to Edinburgh three times and each time I see his nose get worse and worse. The golden patch grows and the details are being lost. The last time I was there, in September 2018 I was shocked at the crowds of people surrounding Bobby just to touch his nose. I’d never seen it this bad before.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these kind of superstitions and traditions, but only when they have a story to match. For instance, the Hume statue in Edinburgh, rubbing his toe is meant to be lucky as some law students did it the night before their exams and all passed. And the Musicians of Bremen links to the Brothers Grimm story. The parts of these statues that are rubbed, and now shiny, are not as intricate as Bobby’s nose and so there is no actual damage (other than the paint rubbing off).
Save Bobby’s Nose
So, I am here to tell you that rubbing Bobby’s nose will not bring you good luck. Instead it is damaging this statue that remembers a beautiful story. So…
STOP IT! PLEASE!
The last time the council repaired Bobby’s nose was in 2013, which cost them £400. In 2016 they said that they had no plans to repair it again. And I don’t blame them, what’s the point if it’s just going to get rubbed and damaged again? So if you want Bobby returned to his former glory, don’t rub his nose, or any other part of him.
A Facebook campaign has even been set up by a local woman, Evelyn Duncan, to try and spread the word.
So next time you are visiting Bobby, don’t touch. Remember that everyone has a part to play if we are to Save Bobby’s Nose.
Oh, I didn’t know about this until now. It’s very important to not damage the statue which stands for a sweet memory.
It is such a shame that Bobby is being damaged. I hope the fad ends soon so he can be fixed.
Aw, poor Bobby! I too hope that this stops – I’ve seen many a statue in various countries which have the same look thanks to being rubbed, but as you say, they’re not so intricate. There’s no need to damage Bobby’s statue!
It’s the fact it’s his nose, which really is an intricate part of the statue. I can’t believe how people can’t see the damage being done. It’s such a shame.
The story is so so beautiful, what a puppy dog! It frustrates me when tourists begin something and it sticks that can be destructive. My personal one that annoys me is when tourists build those stone towers called cairns. In some places, there is so many of them it looks weird and I feel it disrupts the natural habitat. Sorry just my little rant to add on the end ha ha.
I first saw Cairns on Kilimanjaro, they were in memory of guides that dies (so I was told), but since then they seem to have sprung up EVERYWHERE!
This is the first time I’m reading about Bobby’s story. It really is very sad to learn that it is being used in this way. Tourists must always try to avoid this sort of behavior.
Is there anything they can do though? Probably put a chain around that doesn’t allow people to touch the statue.
Bobby is on a corner on quite a popular walkway, I think if they put a chain up it would block the path too much. It’s such a shame. I don’t mind if there’s actually a story to go with it, or it has been tradition for centuries. But rubbing Bobby has neither.
Poor Bobby! What a touching story! And thank you for sharing. When we travel, we obsessively follow all typical touristy things to do. But after reading your post, we will think twice to make sure we are not inadvertently damaging something.
I am the same, if I’m honest. It’s hard not to join in, when you see so many people doing something, you automatically think it’s fine. Nowadays I try to think before doing, I want to “take only pictures, leave only footprints” when I travel
I never knew about Bobby’s nose but it was a wonderful read that this statue is the symbol of night watchman and how people licensed dogs after 1867. Oh it is a superstition that rubbing the nose will bring good luck.
Glad you enjoyed the article. It is such a lovely story, but such a shame the statue is now being damaged.
Poor Bobby! I hope people stop rubbing his nose and the council can raise funds to restore it. I’m trying to be more conscious on my travels but as Nat says, sometimes when a lot of people are doing the same thing you often join in thinking its fine or that it is the custom.
I hope it stops so the council do fix him again. But I doubt it’ll happen any time soon.
I may be the devil’s advocate here but… Why not letting people enjoy their silly traditions and fix it later? This statue can always be fixed, restored or changed by a new one. We are not talking about the Sixtine Chapel here… arent we?
Good point. The problem is, the council have already spent money fixing Bobby’s nose, for it to be damaged again in just a short time. It’s because it’s his nose that is being rubbed, it’s a very intricate part of the statue, so the detail is being lost. The council are refusing to fix Bobby again as it is literally a waste of money. Plus the no one knows where the tradition started, if there was a story behind why you should rub, I wouldn’t have a problem. But there is literally nothing. I love superstitions, but not when there is no reason for them.
It’s weird how these things get started, but once they do start, it’s nearly impossible to stop. I hope your article helps keep people away from poor Bobby’s nose!
I really don’t understand how it started! No one seems to know, but the crowd follows. I’m hoping the word gets spread so that it eventually stops.
I had never heard about Bobby before. This is such a heartwarming story, animals and dogs especially are amazing! It’s so sad people feel the need to damage its statue over a silly superstition. It’s good to spread the word, I hope people/tourist will realise how stupid this is and stop!
I hope so too! It is such a lovely story and it’s so sad that Bobby’s memory is being damaged.
Thanks for making me aware about Bobby’s story. It’s really very saddening to know about the damage. I hope it does not get affected at all. It’s a really sweet memory of the cute puppy.
It is such a shame that the damage is happening. I hope it stops soon so his nose can be fixed
Saw his gold nose today, thought why has he got a gold nose? Didn’t enter my head it is where people have rubbed it, honestly thought it was part of the statue and his story. I didn’t see anyone rub it while there. A sign that dispells the myth and requests you don’t do it would help. Canny believe the council didn’t think of having a sign when they fixed it, they are usually the first to put up ‘No this or that’ sign.
In all honesty, I doubt a sign would stop people from doing it… But it could be worth a try!