The mythical unicorn may be the official animal of Scotland, but from the multitude of statues that pay tribute to our tail-wagging chums it’s easy to see that dogs have always held a special place in the collective heart of the country’s people. Continuing our series on dog art, we take a look at Scottish sculptures that shine a light on both the four-legged friends of some of Scotland’s most famous residents and canines that defined the word ‘courage.’
While Scottish poet Robert Burns took pen to paper in order to immortalize his beloved border collie Luath in his poem “The Twa Dogs,” over the years several sculptors have chiseled out a place in history for his canine companion. Depictions of Burns with Luath (a Gaelic name meaning ‘swift’) can be seen in Boston, Massachusetts, Ballarat, Australia and in Dumfries, Scotland, where an image in Carrera marble by sculptor Amelia Robertson Hill greets the worshippers of Greyfriers Church.
By ISeneca – Own work; transfered from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3158583
Generations of British children grew up reading the comic strip adventures of Desperate Dan and his barking buddy, a bulldog named Dawg. Although the comic magazine The Dandy in which Dan and his canine companion appeared ended in 2012 on its 75th anniversary, bronze sculptures of the larger-than-life character Dan, his pal Dawg and fellow comic strip legend Minnie the Minx still bring out the child in visitors of the City Square in Dundee, which was the home of the comics’ publishing company, D.C. Thompson & Co.
Scotland’s most well-known dog tribute is undoubtedly the memorial fountain of Greyfriars Bobby, which was erected in 1873 in memory of a dog who stayed by the grave of his human (night watchman John Gray) for 14 years, until January 14, 1872– the day he crossed Rainbow Bridge.
Is the story of Greyfriars Bobby true, or just a tall tale created years ago to boost tourism? Through the years doubts have been cast over the veracity of the canine’s history, but whether fact or fiction the image of the tiny Skye Terrier has become synonymous with a dog’s loyal nature. The devoted dog has been honored in many books, in the Disney movie Greyfriars Bobby, and in a memorial fountain topped with sculptor William Brodie’s bronze depiction of the devoted dog, which stands at one end of the George IV Bridge. Fans of Fidos can also pay respects to the dog’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where his faithfulness is honored annually with a service held on the anniversary of his passing.
By Michael Reeve – Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 15 September 2003. Uploaded to en.wikipedia 22:02, 9 Jun 2004 by en:User:MykReeve and licensed as GFDL., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=111218
Dog-loving lovers of literature who lost themselves in the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel Treasure Island can make a treasured memory on a visit to the Edinburgh suburb of Colinton, where a statue celebrating the author’s childhood was erected in 2013. Located outside of Colinton Parish Church (a house of worship which once echoed with the sermons of Stevenson’s grandfather), the sculpture (created by Alan Herriot) includes the writer’s four-legged friend in his youth– Cuillin, a Skye Terrier named after a mountain range on the Isle of Skye.
Scottish novelist/poet Sir Walter Scott, who wrote such classics as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, expressed in words what all pet parents feel about their own fur babies when he described Maida, one of his many dogs, as “the most perfect creature of heaven.” A constant companion for many years, the adored deerhound posed for posterity alongside his human for several paintings, which are on display in Abbotsford House, the home where Maida once faithfully followed the author. Visitors of Sir Walter Scott’s estate in Melrose can also explore the estate while on the Maida Family Trail, and pay respects to the canine who captured the writer’s heart at Maida’s stone monument, which guards the manor’s hall door. In loving memory of his adored dog, the novelist had the following epitaph carved in Latin: “Beneath the sculpted form which late you bore, Sleep soundly Maida at your Master’s door.”
Tourists strolling through Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh will also spot a salute to Scott and Maida. Sculpted by John Steell from Carrera marble, the dog gazes devotedly up at the writer as his stone image is lost in thought.
By Stefan Schäfer, Lich – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19525202
American journalist Christopher Morley once said that “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” One tail-wagging chum who enjoyed chinwags with his human was Toby, the four-pawed pal of James Clerk Maxwell. The Irish Terrier who so often listened intently as the scientist confided his latest theory of electromagnetic radiation or color vision has been immortalized by sculptor Alexander Stoddart in a monument of the mathematical physicist on George Street in Edinburgh.
By Kim Traynor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16281489
Sightseers visiting Scotland’s capital city may find themselves wondering why a depiction of a canine from California greets people strolling through Princes Street Gardens. As Edinburgh and San Diego are sister cities, both proudly display statues commemorating their most famous faithful Fidos.
Although Greyfriar’s Bobby has garnered a more prominent position in history, a bronze sculpture of Bum reminds dog devotees of a St. Bernard/Spaniel mix who was beloved by the citizens of the city once known as “New Town” in the latter half of the 19th century.
Arriving in San Diego as a stow-away aboard a steamship, Bum soon became everybody’s buddy, and the city’s residents happily tended to his every need. Bum’s visit to the area butcher would lead to the dog’s dining on tasty chops, while a stop at a restaurant would yield tidbits offered by a Chinese fisherman. At the end of the day, the sweet-natured Spot was always welcome to lay his head on the front porch of his choice.
In his heart a wanderer, Bum liked to spend time at the train station, which became the site of both courage and crisis for the canine. The dog, who was credited with saving a puppy who had wandered on to the train tracks, lost part of a leg when he was struck by a train during a dog fight. The tail-wagging traveler also decided one day to hop aboard one of the outgoing trains, and enjoyed a trip to Los Angeles before his safe return home.
Bum crossed Rainbow Bridge on November 19, 1898, but his memory lives on thanks to the two life-size sculptures created by artist Jessica McCain, which reside in Edinburgh and in the pocket park in San Diego’s Gaslamp District.
By Ad Meskens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34609732
Famous for boldly aiding Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from Scotland after the Jacobite uprising, the image of Flora Macdonald– and a faithful border collie– have been immortalized in a bronze statue which has stood outside Inverness Castle since 1896.
By Unukorno – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7674550
Isle of Skye
Considered Britain’s most endangered native dog breed, it is estimated that within the next 40 years statues of Skye Terriers, like the ones on the grounds of Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye, will be all that is left for people to remember the loyal hunting dogs. Unveiled in 2014 by HRH Princess Anne, “The Homecoming,” created by sculptor Georgie Welch, features both a ‘prick ear’ and a ‘drop ear’ Skye Terrier.
Photo Credit: Visit Scotland
Named after the Norwegian word for “teddy bear,” the memory of Bamse is still embraced by the public. A World War II hero, the St. Bernard was a crew member aboard the Royal Norwegian Navy minesweeper the Thorodd, which was stationed for the extent of the war in Dundee and Montrose. Gaining fame for rescuing a sailor who had fallen into the sea, saving an officer from a knife attack, fetching sailors’ from bars and raising the crews’ spirits, Bamse was bequeathed the role of mascot for the Royal Norwegian Navy.
Although Bamse crossed Rainbow Bridge on July 22, 1944, his memory lives on through the book Sea Dog Bamse: World War II Canine Hero, and in sculptures in both Honningsvag, Norway and in Montrose, Scotland, the city where he went to his final rest. (More information can be found about the courageous canine at The Montrose Heritage Trust Bamse Project website.)
Fans of Golden Retrievers have a golden opportunity to visit the birthplace of the breed, the Guisachan estate, of which the village of Tomich in the Scottish Highlands is part. In the 1880s Lord Tweedmouth (aka Dudley Marjoribanks) introduced Goldens to the world by crossing a Tweed water spaniel with a wavy-coated retriever. The Friends of Guisachan, which invite dog lovers to mark the 150th anniversary of the breed’s creation at Guisachan House in July 2018, commissioned the life-sized bronze homage to one of the most popular dog breeds in the world.