The Real Jekyll and Hyde

Most of us have different sides to our personalities but none, surely, quite as extreme as the subject of this fascinating book: The Man Who Was Jekyll and Hyde: The Lives and Crimes of Deacon Brodie, by Edinburgh-based author, Rick Wilson.  The book skilfully follows the twists and turns of Brodie’s life, alternating between respectability on the one hand and evil crime on the other.

The title gives no real clue about the true personality of the book, which tells the reader in chilling detail about Brodie, who was a highly respected cabinetmaker and Councillor by day and reputation. However, at night he became a monster preying, with his ‘gang’ as a thief in the old town of the city of Edinburgh.  Another trick Brodie played with great success was to ingratiate himself with the richest and most influential members of Edinburgh Society, then robbing them dressed as a masked burglar. With the money he obtained Brodie funded a second life, involving five children and two mistresses.

Wilson marks 5 March 1788 as the date on which Brodie’s final destiny with fate began. He had thought he could cheat the people, justice and even death by robbing the Excise office to fund his projected new life. Still this proved profoundly disappointing as the amount of money stolen for which his gang risked their lives turn out to be only £16 as they failed to find the £600 hidden in a drawer.

Brodie was eventually found out when an accomplice informed on him. He tried to flee the country to start a new life abroad but was blocked and let down at every turn despite using a number of aliases and attempting to use his legendary charm to buy the assistance of others whom he met on the way. After various convoluted attempts to get away to America he was finally caught and returned to Scotland where he and his chief accomplice, George Smith, faced trial. They were convicted and sentenced to hang.

There is still a theory propounded by Robert Chalmers in his book ‘Traditions of Edinburgh’ of an complex plot, arranged with the executioner, to construct an elaborate device hidden below the neck to prevent the noose from doing its final job. This was never proved one way or another but Rick Wilson’s vivid account of the life and times of Deacon Brodie still keeps the final mystery alive!

It is believed Brodie’s terrible story inspired the great writer, Robert Louis Stevenson to create the classic tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde a century later.

This is a very well-written and fascinating book which has been exceedingly and deeply researched.

The book is published by The History Press in paperback and costs £12.99 – in my view well-worth it.


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Christine Richard OBE FRSA Christine has over 25 years' experience in public life in Scotland in the fields of politics, education, public relations and charity work. For 12 years she served on the City of Edinburgh District Council and was her Group's leader for 4 years. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was made an OBE. Christine is a member of the Board of The Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy. She has just completed six years on the Board of The Edinburgh International Festival. Christine's business experience has covered the fields of theatre, economic development, science, coal mining, education and training. She has held a number of non-executive directorships in these disciplines. She is a trained and experienced personal relationships counsellor and a business and personal mentor. In 2005 Christine established Christine Richard Associates who undertake Event Management and Public Relations as well as company and individual profiling. She coordinated the 'Yes to Edinburgh' campaign on congestion charging in Edinburgh. ten years ago Christine co-founded West Lothian Women in Business, which is a network for women who are self-employed and also for women managers. Christine has now stepped down from the Chair of this thriving organisation. For 5 years Christine was a magistrate in the District Court. She was also a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on the appointment of Justices of the Peace. She has been an adviser to Government in various areas of policy, including health, local government and education. Christine is a trained and experienced radio and television broadcaster and writer as well as an entertaining and accomplished speaker. She has a wealth of topics on which she is invited to speak. These range from witty after lunch and after dinner speaking to the more serious topics of the economy, health, education, enterprise, the Powers of the Mind and Life/work balance. She writes reviews and articles for lifestyle magazine, Lothian Life. She took part as a contestant in an ITV gourmet TV show, Chef V Britain, challenging TV chef Gino D'Acampo to cook her signature dish, Posh Cottage Pie. Currently Christine is a member of the Goodison Group in Scotland and Scotland's Futures. Also she is involved in the group Changing the Chemistry of Scottish Boards. Her first novel, Whitewalls, a modern Scottish family saga has been published by New Generation Publishing and is available on all internet books siets and from libraries. She is writing a sequel Autumn at Whitewalls. Her leisure interests include her family, literature, music, theatre, food, wine and horse racing. She is a member of a racing syndicate, which has two horses in training.

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