Wandering up and down the Lawnmarket, you can’t fail to notice the name of Deacon Brodie. There’s Brodie’s Close, the Deacon’s House Café and Deacon Brodie’s Tavern – so who was Deacon Brodie?
He was born William Brodie in 1741, and his father was head (or Deacon) of the Guild of Cabinet Makers. Following in his father’s footsteps he also took over the name of Deacon, but what made (William) Deacon Brodie stand out was his double life, so much so that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a fictional novel based around him.
By day, Brodie was a craftsman and councillor, and by night, a drinker, gambler and thief; Eventually the inevitable happened and he got caught. He was brought to justice, found guilty, and was hanged on October 1st 1788 at the Tolbooth Prison in the High Street.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, if you haven’t already guessed by now, was first published in 1886 and went by the title of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It’s impossible to walk past Brodie’s Close, because at the entrance to it there’s usually a model of Deacon Brodie stood outside with the sole intention of enticing customers into the Deacon’s House Café.
The name of the café is a bit misleading really because it wasn’t actually his house, but his workshop: His home no longer exists but according to those in the know it was probably a bit further down the close.
The café is bound to attract plenty of tourists, and I’ve no doubt Dr Jekyll would have been quite happy to have popped in here during the daytime for a quick cup of tea, but personally I prefer the nighttime – and the Tavern across the road!