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 1782, he inherited the family business, the
home in Brodies
Close and £10,000. A sum that should have set him up for life.
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 to hang.
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