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On This Day... 1st October 1788: Poor Wullie

By Alexander Clapperton, October 1, 2018 - 12:45am
Deacon William Brodie and some of his tools

1st October 1788 - On this day Deacon William Brodie was hanged along with his accomplice George Smith for burglary and housebreaking.

Prior to his arrest, Brodie had been living a double life. By day he was known around the upper-class parts of town as a successful businessman, council member and deacon of the Edinburgh Incorporation of Wrights and Masons. He was a professional carpenter, and did work for some of the richest people in the city.

However, by night he could be found in the taverns of the Cowgate, where he was known as a prolific gambler and womaniser. His nocturnal activities included founding two illigitimate families, and ran him deeply into debt.

His legitimate occupation provided him with the means to make considerably more from his clients than they had intended. When working on a house or other property, Brodie would usually be provided with a key to allow him access (since the occupants would not wish to be present during the work). He would make a copy, and then wait a while after completing the work and returning the original. He would then use his copied key to enter the unsuspecting client's property and rob them of all their valuables, entering and exiting without leaving a trace of his presence. His first crime was the robbery of a bank, whose safe he installed and then emptied of £800.


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