As regular readers will know I rather enjoy strolling around the old kirkyards of Edinburgh. I’m not the only writer to do this – seems an affliction with our kind.
Yesterday evening, before I went to the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Literary Salon, I took a walk through Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s one of my favourite kirkyards in Edinburgh, and I’ve regularly visited it since I was wee.
The Kirk of the Greyfriars was dedicated in 1620 on the site of what had been a Franciscan Friary (of ‘Grey Friars’) from 1447 to 1560. Mary Queen of Scots established the Kirkyard there in 1562.
The kirkyard was the location for the adoption and signing of the famous National Covenant in 1638, which led to civil war and slaughter. A section of Greyfriars Kirkyard was later used as the site of the brutal Covenanters Prison (along with Bass Rock up the Firth of Forth).
There are a lot of graves of note in the kirkyard. The astute philanthropist Mary Erskine is buried there, as is poet Allan Ramsay and mathematician James Stirling. I didn’t realise until someone asked me for directions yesterday, but there’s also a grave in here for a Tom Riddell (note the spelling, muggles) which apparently inspired J.K. Rowling on the choice of Lord Voldemort’s birth name.
Another noteworthy gravestone in the kirkyard is, of course, for Edinburgh’s most famous wee dog Greyfriars Bobby, who takes his name from his famous stomping ground. Close to this is also a grave for his alleged master John ‘Auld Jock’ Gray. Sometimes Bobby’s grave is littered with paper and cards – I’ve seen very cute notes on the ground from children telling them how much they love him.
Outside the kirkyard is a statue and former doggie (and human) drinking fountain, erected in memory of Greyfriars Bobby by the incredible Angela Burdett-Coutts. Above is a photo of the Greyfriars Bobby statue I took a few years ago, before the birth of the weird tourist tradition* of rubbing his nose for luck, which has sadly caused damage. Restoration work on the nose was also vandalised, and now he has a shiny golden muzzle.
Greyfriars Kirkyard has amazing views of the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, George Heriot’s school, and the Flodden Wall which runs through it. My dad and I recently took a night walking tour from Historic Edinburgh Tours which started there, which I’d recommend if you have a couple of hours and want to hear some local stories.
Here are a few photos from last night’s sunset walk around a rather dreich Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh:
*We locals don’t rub Greyfriars Bobby’s nose, and it’s mainly tourists and students who rub David Hume’s foot (though I read that the architect encouraged the latter). We have more elegant traditions, such as spitting on the Heart of Midlothian and checking our watches when the One O’Clock Gun fires.