Deacon Brodie

One good thing has come out of all the expense caused by having to redo the cobbled Royal Mile (it was done just a few years ago but they made an arse of it, so on again local taxpayers fund the work to be redone while businesses nearby are losing trade – good work, Edinburgh council, nice to see our huge tax bill is used so effectively). But it has been a chance for archaeologists to literally dig up some of the city’s history, including finding the old Tolbooth, which is at least 400 years old and is the place where Deacon Brodie was imprisoned and later hung.

Brodie was a highly respectable member of the community – ironically he is said to have funded the gallows on which he later ended his life – but by night he was a gambler, drinker and robber (gee, glad we don’t have such two-faced public figures today, eh??). This split personality is part of the inspiration for a later Edinburgh writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, and his immortal tale Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (although Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is also a major influence). The remains will be wrapped in a protective sheeting before being reburied and the site marked with copper lines once the new surface is put down, just as the site of the old gallows is. Funny to think as you walk down the Royal Mile these innocent looking little copper markers in the stone actually point out where many people, from heretics to robbers to bodysnatchers, witches and even cannibals (Sawney Bean and his family); now it is a tourist site.