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Brodie, William

Born: 1741 AD
Died: 1788 AD
Nationality: Scottish
Categories: Felon

1741 – William Brodie was born.

         – Brodie was a respectable businessman, member of the burgh council and deacon (or president) of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons.

         – Brodie became a burglar and thief. He used his daytime job as a way to gain knowledge about the security mechanisms of his clients and to copy their keys using wax impressions.

1768 – He reputedly began his criminal career, when he copied keys to a bank door and stole £800.

1786 – He recruited a gang of three thieves, Brown, Smith and Ainslie.

         – He organised an armed raid on an Excise office in Chessel’s Court on the Canongate. Brodie’s plan failed and Ainslie was captured.

         – The trial started on the 27th of August. At first there was no hard evidence against Brodie before the tools of his criminal trade were found in his house; copied keys, a disguise and pistols. The jury found Brodie and his henchman George Smith, a grocer, guilty. Smith was an English locksmith, he was responsible for a number of thefts, even stealing the silver mace from the University of Edinburgh.

1788 – Brodie and Smith were hanged at the Tolbooth on the 1st of October, using a gallows Brodie had designed and funded the year before.

         – Deacon Brodie is commemorated by a pub of that name on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, on the corner between the Lawnmarket and Bank Street which leads down to The Mound, and a close (or alleyway) off the Royal Mile has been named after him, there is also a pub in Ward Road, Dundee named after him.

         – William Brodie died.