|Birth Day:||September 28, 1741|
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He learned the art of cabinet-making from his father and soon became one of the most respected craftsman in Edinburgh.
In 1774, Brodie's mother is listed as the head of household in their Edinburgh home on Brodie's Close on the Lawnmarket. The family (William and his brothers) are listed as "wrights and undertakers" on the Lawnmarket. By 1787 William Brodie is listed alone as a wright living at Brodie's Close. The house was built towards the foot of the close in 1570, on the south east side of an open court, by Edinburgh magistrate William Little and the close was known as Little's Close until the 18th century.
He reputedly began his criminal career around 1768, when he copied keys to a bank door and stole £800, then enough to maintain a household for several years. In 1786 he recruited a gang of three thieves, John Brown, a thief on the run from a seven-year sentence of transportation, George Smith, a locksmith who ran a grocer's shop in the Cowgate, and Andrew Ainslie, a shoemaker.
The case that led to Brodie's downfall began later in 1788 when he organised an armed raid on an excise office in Chessel's Court on the Canongate. Brodie's plan failed. On the same night, Brown approached the authorities to claim a King's Pardon, which had been offered after a previous robbery, and gave up the names of Smith and Ainslie (initially saying nothing of Brodie's involvement). Smith and Ainslie were arrested, and the next day Brodie attempted to visit them in prison, but was refused. Realising that he had to leave Edinburgh, Brodie escaped to London and then to the Netherlands, intending to flee to the United States, but was arrested in Amsterdam and shipped back to Edinburgh for trial.
The trial of Brodie and Smith started on 27 August 1788. At first there was no hard evidence against Brodie, although the tools of his criminal trade (copied keys, a disguise and pistols) were found in his house and workshops. But with Brown's evidence and Ainslie being persuaded to turn King's Evidence, added to the self-incriminating lines in the letters he had written while on the run, the jury found Brodie and Smith guilty.
Brodie and Smith were hanged at the Old Tolbooth in the High Street on 1 October 1788 before a crowd of 40,000. According to one tale, Brodie wore a steel collar and silver tube to prevent the hanging from being fatal. It was said that he had bribed the hangman to ignore it and arranged for his body to be removed quickly in the hope that he could later be revived. If so, the plan failed. Brodie was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Cuthbert's Chapel of Ease in Chapel Street. However, rumours of his being seen in Paris circulated later and gave the story of his scheme to evade death further publicity.
Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture that had been made by Brodie, wrote a play (with W. E. Henley) entitled Deacon Brodie, or The Double Life, which was unsuccessful. However, Stevenson remained fascinated by the dichotomy between Brodie's respectable façade and his real nature, and this paradox inspired him to write the novel The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, which he published in 1886.
From 1976 to 1989 Deacon Brodie was a figure in the Chamber of Horrors section of the Edinburgh Wax Museum on the Royal Mile.
In 1989, Edinburgh rock band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie wrote and recorded a track titled "Here Comes Deacon Brodie", which appeared on the b-side to their hit "The Rattler".
The "Deacon Brodie" episode of the BBC One television drama anthology Screen One starred Billy Connolly as Brodie, aired on 8 March 1997, and was made in Edinburgh.
Currently, William Brodie is 281 years, 5 months and 23 days old. William Brodie will celebrate 282nd birthday on a Thursday 28th of September 2023.
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