William Brodie, known as Deacon Brodie, (1746-1788)
Born in Edinburgh, William Brodie worked in his father’s successful cabinet making business. He inherited it in 1781 and became the Deacon, or leader of the trade, in Edinburgh. This automatically gave him an influential position on the unelected city council. He was also a member of a convivial society, the Cape Club.
However, Brodie is better known for other reasons. In the mid-1780s he turned to burglary as a lucrative additional income. He worked together with a criminal gang and took part in a series of burglaries around Edinburgh and Leith. In 1788 he was caught, put to trial, convicted and hanged for his crimes.
One member of the jury was William Creech, an Edinburgh bookseller who had also served on the town council with Brodie. Following the trial, Creech published a popular ‘Account of the trial’ in which he suggested that Brodie’s fall was due to an immoral lifestyle.