The pub was named for Deacon William Brodie, who was born in the mid 1700's, and grew up to be a respectable cabinet maker and city councillor in Edinburgh. But he also gambled, and as his debts grew, he took to criminal means to support his lifestyle. His secret life also included two mistresses and five children.
He not only built cabinets, but he installed and repaired locks. Thus he was perfectly situated for a live of crime. As president (deacon) of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons, he had some status, and socialized with some members of the upper crust. In addition, he was often called upon to make repairs in houses of the gentry. Thus, he not only had ample opportunity to survey their belongings and the layouts of their houses, in repairing and installing their locks, he was able to make was impressions of their keys.
Almost twenty years after his criminal career began, Brodie took on three thieves, and planned an armed raid on the Excise Office in Cannongate. When the raid went awry and one of his henchmen was captured, he sang like a canary, and the jig was up. Brodie had violated the K.I.S.S. principle.
He escaped to the Continent, but was captured and returned to Edinburgh for trial. He was hanged on October 1, 1788. A popular story claims that he had built the gallows and was the first hanged on it, but that seems to be apocryphal. Apparently, he innovated "the drop".
It is also said that with his double life, he was the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson's father owned furniture made by Brodie, but as far as is known was not robbed by him.
There is a pub in New York City named after him, within walking distance of the hotel I'm staying in next month. Hmmm. Sounds like a good place to check out.
[Illustration via Fortune City]