The Brodie brothers were sons of a Banff ship-master and were brought up in Aberdeen. William became a plumber but his skill in modelling small wax and clay portraits encouraged well-wishers to send him to the Trustees' Academy (School of Design) in Edinburgh in 1847. He later continued his studies in Rome. On his return to Scotland in 1854 he sculpted some of the figures on the Scott Monument, the bronze of Greyfriars Bobby and numerous portraits of his contemporaries. Alexander worked in his brother's Edinburgh studio and attended classes at the Academy's School of Design. He set up on his own in Aberdeen and was working on commissions for Queen Victoria when he died by suicide aged thirty-seven.