In 1997 Patrick Malahide played Bailie Creech in the television-movie “Deacon Brodie“. Loosely based on the real life anti-hero of the same name, it tells the story of Deacon William Brodie (Billy Connolly) cabinet maker, deacon of a trades guild and Edinburgh city councilor who led a secret life as a rogue. Having access to his customers’ keys, he and his gang would burgle their houses. You can read about the real Deacon Brodie and the legend of how he supposedly faked his own execution on Wikipedia.
Bailie Creech Hates Deacon Brodie
It doesn’t take long to establish that Bailie Creech hates Deacon Brodie. At first it seems like Creech is obsessed with Brodie’s lover, a prostitute named Annie (Catherine McCormack) with whom Brodie has fathered a child. Philip, their child, is five years old. Annie wants to marry Brodie, so they become an official family. However, he is reluctant to marry a prostitute, knowing it would hurt his position in the community. So he strings her along. Charming.
Creech makes his first appearance shortly after Brodie has crept away from Annie and Philip for the night. Bailie Creech enters her room without so much as a knock. Annie is half dressed and Creech notices, “you’re expecting me,” he says quietly with a smug leer. It is really creepy. She asks about Brodie who Bailie angrily refers to as a “feckless shite.”
Creech offers to move Annie into his household to work in his kitchen. At first it seems like he is interested in her, but his attention quickly goes to Philip who Creech describes as a “wee red haired angel” promising to give the boy a “thorough education.” The way Creech looms over the sleeping Philip is very disturbing to say the least.
The next day we next find Deacon Brodie at his public work preparing for a French banquet. He is 11 weeks behind schedule. Bailie Creech and some other councilmen who have come to see the progress all notice as much. Creech goes for the jugular, “Your father must be spinning in his grave the way you’ve trampled his good name and business into the muck.”
Deacon Brodie brushes the criticisms aside and starts talking about his new execution apparatus. Its main competition is the guillotine which the French will be demonstrating at the banquet. Bailie Creech is incredibly vehement, wondering at “the very notion that the council would even pause to consider the proposal from a contractor who fails his responsibilities…in every respect.” I think he is hinting at Annie and Philip there. It seems rather pointed.
He continues, his intensity growing into wrath, “I intend to make it my business to see that your tender is laughed out of the council and your position as Deacon of the Rites revoked at the first opportunity. My urgent business, my aim in life, my…. raison d’être. You savvy?” He looks so sinister there and really gets in Brodie’s personal space. I almost thought he was going to kiss him. Well, why not? There is a thin line between love and hate 😀
Bailie Creech Loses His Poems
At the capital committee meeting the Procurator Fiscal (Russell Hunter) makes an unexpected appearance. He is there to discuss the recent spate of burglaries (which we know were committed by Brodie and his gang) including the theft of Bailie Creech’s poems. “They ransacked my library and then my scullery making off with half-a-dozen 30lb honey-cured hams and the only manuscript of my own intimate poems of love and romance.” Procurator Fiscal: “An irreplaceable loss, Bailie Creech, to all of Edinburgh literary society.” Was that sarcasm? Deacon Brodie certainly found it amusing much to Bailie Creech’s jaw-jutting indignation.
Of course, the Procurator is more concerned with another burglary which resulted in the loss of the Edinburgh Ceremonial Mace. Yep, Brodie and his gang nicked that too. It is pointed out that the mace is so distinctive that the thieves won’t be able to sell it to a third party without being discovered and hanged. I like to think of it as “Chekhov’s Ceremonial Mace” because it does indeed come into play later.
Brodie jumps on the hanging talk to push his gibbet proposal. Bailie Creech quickly accuses Brodie of “attempting to foist his wretched gallows” on them. He has a bit of fun at Brodie’s expense by saying the condemned will have to “throttle themselves with their own hands because your gibbet wasn’t ready on time.” That got some chuckles from the council. It is a shame he winds up being such a freak because Creech is a pretty funny guy when he wants to be.
Feeling mocked, Brodie offers to pay 100 guineas reward for information leading to the arrest of the gang. Creech jumps on that with such alacrity, and a creepy little lick of the lips, that Brodie is compelled to up the ante to 150 guineas. That at least puts Brodie back in the Procurator’s good books.
Brodie sets up a demonstration of his gallows using his apprentice (and seemingly the village idiot) Louis (Ewan Bremner) in a rigged noose. The demonstration fails utterly, but luckily no harm comes to Louis. Ewan Bremner is hilarious as Louis. Interestingly, he appeared in the Inspector Alleyn episode “Dead Water” as Walter McNabb another simple lad.
Then Creech Loses His Eye
Later on at the French banquet Annie, who had consumed laudanum earlier, begins flirting with Bailie Creech, leading him by his cravat to a private room. He initially rejects her kiss which is another hint to his proclivity. Brodie spies on them from a hiding place. Creech once again starts talking about Annie and that “red haired angel” coming to live with him. She asks if he can make love to her like Willie (Deacon Brodie) used to. Creech seems to find that amusing, laughingly shaking his shoulders and pelvis about as he says, “give into wild abandon.” Obviously, he doesn’t really want to, but he reckons he can.
As Bailie complies, Brodie, still hiding, suddenly swings Chekhov’s Ceremonial Mace which he stole earlier whacking Creech in the eye. The injury is clearly a really, really bad one as he lays screaming and bleeding on the ground. Annie, confused as to what is going on, simply holds his wig, lamenting that he isn’t like Willie after all.
It is believed that Annie attacked Creech. At a loss and essentially suffering a nervous breakdown, she later attempts suicide by drowning, planning to take Philip with her. Luckily they are both rescued by fishermen, though the shattered Annie is sent to an asylum. Brodie finally realizes what a mess he has made of things, and now desperately wishes to marry Annie.
Poetic Justice or Brodie Is Hoist by His Own Gibbet.
Now sorely in need of funds, Brodie comes up with a daring heist to rob the excise and customs office. Unfortunately, he brings a very desperate and dangerous Englishman in on the caper, Humphrey Moore (Peter McNamara). The heist goes wrong because Brodie is unable to leave his home on time. His sister Jean (Siobhan Redmund) and his associate Alisdair Gilzean (Alex Norton) are going to be married. Brodie gets caught up in the celebrations, becoming so drunk as to be useless for the burglary that he is supposed to be leading.
The vicious Moore takes charge of the heist leaving Brodie outside in a drunken stupor. All Moore and Brodie’s men can find is a measly 16 guineas. Things turn tragic when Moore shoots a city guard who stumbles upon the burglary. Later, Moore confesses to the burglary but not to the shooting which he intends to pin on Brodie. He quickly gives up Brodie’s gang members, but is holding out on naming Brodie hoping for some sort of plea deal.
While Moore is giving his testimony we see Bailie Creech sporting a black ribbon across his injured eye. He looks so dashing, it is an absolute shame that such exquisite styling is wasted on a deviant like Creech. It makes him appear even more obsessed than before which is pretty impressive.
As the testimony continues, Bailie gives Moore a fantastic deal. “So, how about a wee Royal pardon,hey? You give us this man’s name; we arrange immunity for your crimes in England, and you testify against him in a Scottish court.”
Moore names Brodie as the gang leader and shooter. Creech can not be more thrilled, especially as Brodie and his two gang associates, Simon Donald (Andrew Ainslee) and George Smith (Lorcan Cranitch) are condemned to die.
Now earlier, the council had agreed to go with the French guillotine rather than Brodie’s device. But there is no way it would be ready in time. Despite being insulted by the Procurator Fiscal for organizational ineptitude, Creech is all smiles because he has plans for a bit of the old poetic justice…”an eye for an eye” he purrs while pointing at his patch. Yes, they are going to execute Brodie and the others with his very own gibbet.
A Grotesque Revelation
Creech pays a visit to Brodie in his cell. He wants to know where Brodie hid his poetry. “My book of my dreams.” Brodie says it is somewhere safe. Creech malevolently tells Brodie that his death will not be easy or quick. Brodie thinks Creech is jealous over Annie. Creech continues prodding, “You just don’t know do you.” Brodie admits it was he who took Creech’s eye. Creech wonders why Brodie didn’t notice that his heart wasn’t in it when he was with Annie. “I thought you knew. I thought you read my love poetry.”
Brodie did read the poems and thought they were “shite.” Brodie recites what he thinks is a particularly silly passage: “My angel with the rust-red hair,” and has a laugh because Annie doesn’t have red hair. “The only one with red hair is wee Philip.” Then he notices Creech’s evil smirk.
Horrified, he tries to throttle Creech who simply pulls his neck back a bit. He screams that Creech is the devil and a beast. A guard pushes Brodie back with a staff as Creech mockingly waves bye-bye.
As per legend, Brodie outfoxes the hang man. Since he’ll choke rather than have his neck snapped, some of his friends plan to remove the body as soon as possible…before death. A piece of metal is crafted to fit inside his windpipe to prevent it being crushed. Unfortunately, those plans do no extend to Brodie’s other friends who been condemned. They just get to die horrible deaths, completely unaware that Brodie (the man who got them in the mess in the first place) will survive. I found that part very depressing as Brodie’s condemned co-conspirators are actually very sweet.
The hangings go through with Balie Creech watching. He is so smug and delighted, but little does he know Brodie will survive the whole ordeal.
After the execution, Creech goes to the asylum to get Annie to sign adoption papers handing Philip over to him. But, when he gets there, Annie is nowhere to be seen. The tub of water she had been in is now full of eels, a slippery surprise for Creech. She has escaped the asylum and will marry Brodie in France. So, Annie and Philip are finally safe.
Later Brodie’s coffin is exhumed before the council. It is full of Creech’s stolen honey cured hams….and his poetry. Well, not just his poetry, but also lots of strong evidence that he sodomized young boys and had plans to do the same to Philip.
Creech tries to play off the poetry by acting like it was just a fanciful appreciation of youth, but the testimonial evidence is far more damning. The Procurator Fiscal has him arrested, and that is the last we see of Bailie Creech as he is frog-marched to jail.
This is a good production. It has that somewhat light touch that made-for-television films often do despite the fact it deals with very dark themes. RFodchuk and I both felt Creech’s comeuppance lacked a certain gravitas considering the awfulness of his crimes. His arrest didn’t feel much more serious than Chisholm’s comic downfall in an “Officer and a Car Salesman“. That probably is because of the made- for-television aspect though, so I’m not really sure how they could have made it better. Perhaps eliminating the pedophile angle all together and having Creech be obsessed with Annie would have been better. It would have been better for me at any rate.
However, Patrick Malahide was very sinister as Creech. The way he licked his lips with a smug leer was very creepy and disturbing. This sort of subject matter is always going to be difficult to film, but they did an excellent job of illustrating the absolute deviance through Creech’s expressions and general air of peculiar menace.
Billy Connolly was perfectly cast as the roguish and selfish Deacon Brodie. In some ways it reminded me a bit of “Georgian Minder” (with extra darkness) with Brodie being a sort of mash-up of Daley and Terry. It is like what would happen if they were melded into one person 🙂
The “Minder” analogy falls apart, though, with Bailie Creech because despite his obsession with ridding Edinburgh of Brodie, there is *nothing* remotely Chisholm like about him. I think a Georgian Chisholm would happily watch Creech hang at any gibbet. Oh Chisholm, where are you when we need you most? You even have a Scottish name!
As for the “real” Bailie Creech, I think this must be his Wikipedia entry. It is of a William Creech who wrote an “Account of the Trial of Deacon Brodie”. I’d say TV Creech is very loosely based on him. Obviously, the production took considerable liberties with the real history in all respects, as is most often the case. Clearly they needed a proper villain, and they certainly got one with Patrick Malahide’s malevolent portrayal.