Famous Scots
- Deacon William Brodie (? - 1788)

Deacon Brodie William Brodie's father was a respected cabinetmaker in Edinburgh's Lawnmarket and became a member of the Town Council. But William enjoyed the life of a playboy and although he also became a skilled wood-worker, he spent much of his time gambling (reputedly with loaded dice). Nevertheless, he was able to charm his family and the wealthy customers. On the night of his father's death he was gambling as usual.

Having inherited the family business, Brodie led a double life, first as a qualified tradesman and pillar of the community but also with a dissolute side, gambling heavily. His expenses were increased by his support to his mistresses and five illegitimate children. He also socialised with the gentry of Edinburgh and is known to have met Robert Burns and the painter Sir Henry Raeburn.

Inevitably running short of money, he began to take wax impressions of the keys to houses in which he was working legitimately as a wood-worker. He would then return at night and rob the houses of the items he had identified during the day. He teamed up with an English locksmith, George Smith and together they became very "successful" and daring. They even stole the silver mace from the university.

Two more partners in crime were added to the gang and this was to be Brodie's undoing. During a bungled raid on the Excise Office, Brodie fell asleep during the robbery and the gang only just managed to escape. One of the gang decided to accept the large reward offered by the town council. But Brodie heard of the arrest of his accomplices and fled to Amsterdam. He was found later (on the point of sailing to America) and was extradited to stand trial. Found guilty, he was sentenced to be hanged. It is here that Brodie's notoriety was to increase for it was said that he was provided with a harness to cheat the hangman and that he was spirited away afterwards. Rumours circulated later that he had been seen in Paris.

One of the many alleyways in Edinburgh's Royal Mile has been named after him and the double life of Deacon Brodie as the respectable tradesman and daring thief is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's story of "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".

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