Deacon William Brodie

Given Deacon William Brodie was born over 275 years ago, the facts of his life have been skewed throughout the years, although there are certainties. The Brodies were, and remain, a prestigious Scottish family with an ancient lineage which can be traced back to MacBeth (Brodie Castle in Forres, the family's ancestral home, was built by Clan Brodie in 1567). William was born into a wealthy Edinburgh family on the 28th of September, 1741. His grandfather, Ludovick, had established the Brodie name in Edinburgh by becoming a respected Writer to the Signet in the town, and his father, Francis, rather than follow law, became a prosperous wright and cabinetmaker, and was elected a member of the Town Council as Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights by his fellow craftsmen. This powerful and influential position in Edinburgh was one which William would later assume, becoming the 'Deacon Brodie' we know today. However, despite William's wealth and status, he took to crime and, eventually, after bungling a robbery on the Excise Office, he was revealed as a, "Gentleman by day, thief by night." Tried in Edinburgh's High Court before Lord Braxfield, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on the 1st of October, 1788.

The fiction of Deacon William Brodie is another matter entirely, and began during William's own lifetime. With Deacon Brodie: A Double Life, every opportunity was taken to incorporate 18th century source material — words which William, and others, actually spoke, and events which actually happened in the Edinburgh of 1788. One intriguing question remains however: Why would a man who had wealth, position, and real power in his home town take to crime? It has been said gambling debts drove him to crime, yet, even after he was captured following months on the run, he was still wealthy. Stevenson drew on the Deacon to write Jekyll and Hyde, but the simplistic idea of William having a 'dual nature' misses the mark too. By all accounts he appears to have enjoyed the thrill of crime. One of the novel's reviewers called him, "an adrenaline junkie", and that — as far as looking at the man through 21st century eyes is concerned — is perhaps the 'best' that can be said of him . . . Deacon William Brodie simply lived for the gamble on the turn of a card, and for the excitement to be had from walking a razor's edge.


David Hutchison grew up in Edinburgh where Deacon Brodie was an enigmatic companion from childhood. Writing short pieces for magazines, David first published in the 1980s and, following a moderate success in this field, he ceased work with Britain's Security Services. Later, attending Edinburgh Napier University, and graduating in Photographic Studies, David worked throughout the UK as a professional photographer with a wide range of blue chip clients (he also taught photography at tertiary level, and was an invited Visiting Professional). David lists his interests as trainspotting, neuroplasticity, prison architecture, aikijutsu, and flower arranging. Queried on whether he preferred writing fact or fiction, David said, "These days, nothing I write is factual, it's all fiction." At present David is writing All Flesh Is Grass (the sequel to Lest You Be Judged) which is set in the Edinburgh of 2000 with Detective Chief Inspector Mike Steel in the lead. Currently, David is a resident of a small town in the American Mid-West where he helps with the annual roundup and enjoys being taken to the local bar where he attempts to play guitar.

  • Read the interview with David on Smashwords.
  • Contact David at david_hutchison [at] ymail [dot] com
David Hutchison