George Smith & Deacon Brodie |
Deacon William Brodie was a very respectable citizen of the old town of
Edinburgh, by day a cabinet maker, the top of his profession. When his
father died in 1780, he inherited the family business, the home in Brodies
Close and £10,000. A sum that should have set him up
But he had some bad habits: He used to drink, and gamble and he had not
one, but two mistresses. This life style took quite a lot of his money.
So by night he used to rob the houses and businesses in the area.
It was not hard for him to find the opportunity: As a cabinet maker he
would often go to people's houses to measure up in order to make a cabinet.
In those days people used to keep their keys on a latch on the back of
the door. He would wait until their attention was distracted and would
make an impression of the keys in a piece of putty. He would then give
it to his locksmith accomplice George Smith who would make a duplicate
set of keys.
Late night robberies became common place in the old town of Edinburgh
and of course no one suspected the respectable Deacon. But his ambitions
grew and he decided to rob the excise office. However Deacon Brodie was
recognised and fled from the scene, but he was eventually caught and sentenced
Always inventive he even now tried to cheat justice.
He employed a surgeon to insert a metal pipe inside his throat, the idea
was that his wind pipe would not be crushed as the rope tightened around
his neck. When his body was cut down his friends rushed him to the surgeon.
His plan failed however, they could not revive him, he was dead. Ironically
the very gallows that he had designed had sealed his fate.
Deacon Brodie's double life of good and evil was the inspiration for Robert
Louis Stevenson's work
"The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".