William Brodie (28 September 1741 – 1 October 1788), more commonly known by his prestigious title of Deacon Brodie, was a Scottish cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild and Edinburgh city councillor, who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill, and partly to fund his gambling.
Popular myth holds that Deacon Brodie built the first gallows in Edinburgh and was also its first victim. Of this William Roughead in Classic Crimes states that after research he was sure that although the Deacon may have had some hand in the design, "...it was certainly not of his construction, nor was he the first to benefit by its ingenuity".
Sign at Deacon Brodie's Tavern on Edinburgh's Royal Mile
Brodie's alter ego
Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture 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 was inspired to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).
Deacon Brodie is commemorated by a pub of that name on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, on the corner of the Lawnmarket and Bank Street which leads down to The Mound, and a close off the Royal Mile, which contained his family residence and workshops, still bears the name "Brodie's Close". A pub in New York City carrying his name sits on the south side of the famous west side 46th Street Restaurant Row between 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue.
In 1997 a TV movie of the same name starring Billy Connolly was made in Edinburgh