Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Deacon Brodie

Let's play Momus Trivial Pursuit. Which two Momus songs mention a character called Deacon Brodie, and who was he?

This notorious 18th century Edinburgh playboy and burglar appears in The Day The Circus Came To Town (1986) and Paolo (1996).

Brodie inherited his father's business and proceeded to gamble and drink -- and maintain two wives and five illegitimate children. He socialised with celebrities such as Robert Burns and to maintain himself in lavish style he took impressions of the keys to premises he worked in as a wright... and then robbed the owners during the night.

Ostensibly a respectable member of the Town Council, Deacon Brodie was unmasked as the result of an unsuccessful armed raid on the Excise Office. He managed to escape to Holland but was arrested there, brought back for trial, convicted and hanged in public in the High Street in 1788.

Rumour has it that Brodie cheated the rope by bribing the hangman and was seen later in Paris, leaving things open for a sequel set in the French Revolution. In fact his story had a much more poignant ending. He was executed with an improved version of the gallows he himself had invented.

Robert Louis Stevenson, when he wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was inspired by Deacon Brodie's double life. So he's not only a symbol of schizophrenia, like the city of Edinburgh itself with its New and Old Towns, (respectable and scurrilous respectively, rational and sordid, ordered and chaotic) but finally, a little wooden figurine in front of a Scottish Cafe on the cleaned up Royal Mile, he has a place as a small narrative, a tour guide staple, a PoMo simulacrum at the end of history.

(By the way, I survived my eye operation. Thanks for all your well-wishing. In the next few weeks it'll become apparent whether any sight starts coming back to the pulpy grape which currently passes for my right eye.)