This sentimental film from Walt Disney Studios is based on a true story and takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1865.
The opening scenes show Cauldbrae Farm in the Scottish countryside where the farmer (Gordon Jackson) is forced to let his elderly shepherd, Auld Jock (Alex Mackenzie), go.
As the farmer drives the old man into town, Bobby – the pet dog of the farmer’s daughter, Elsie (Gennie Nevinson) who is very attached to the old man – runs the eight miles into town after them.
Bobby finds Auld Jock who is ill, and remains by his side as the old man dies that night while sleeping in a flophouse.
When he is buried the next day in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the dog refuses to leave the gravesite.
Caretaker James Brown (Donald Crisp) tries to chase him away, and local restaurant owner Mr Traill (Laurence Naismith) decides to take care of Bobby. He wants to adopt the dog, but every night Bobby sneaks back into the graveyard and sleeps on Jock’s grave.
While both Traill and James Brown grow very fond of Bobby and welcome his visits, the dog is also taken in by the poor urchins who live near the graveyard and play with him during the day.
One day, a stuffy constable on the beat (Jameson Clark) sees the dog in Traill’s eating house and threatens to turn him in for not having a collar, which costs seven shillings.
Traill refuses to pay the money on principle since the dog doesn’t sleep in his home. Brown volunteers to pay the fee but Traill maintains he has no right to do so either.
The case is argued in court, at which time the children of the town appear with seven shillings which they have raised penny by penny from all the local youngsters, who feel they have a stake in Bobby.
The Lord Provost (Andrew Cruickshank) is so impressed by this action that he gives the dog the Freedom of the City, making him city property – with a special collar declaring the fact.
Now Bobby runs free, spending time with all his friends, and still returning to the gravesite every night to sleep with his oldest friend and master. Bobby sleeps faithfully on Auld Jock’s grave every night for fourteen years, regardless of the weather.
Greyfriars Bobby is a charming film with a beautiful atmosphere, but it moves very slowly and takes an interminable length of time to get to the point.
There is an aimlessness to much of the story that frequently produces boredom and impatience and it isn’t until the final third of the film that there is any indication of where the plot (such as it is) is leading.
But Donald Crisp and Laurence Naismith are a joy to watch in their slowly-building feud and an impeccable array of supporting players round out the cast.
You can visit a statue of the real Bobby on the George IV Bridge in Edinburgh, near the graveyard where his master is buried. Bobby’s inscribed collar survives and it’s in the Museum of Edinburgh in the Canongate (Royal Mile).
Sgt. Davie Maclean
Old woman caretaker
Farmer’s daughter (Elsie)