A farmer who killed his brother in law with a pitchfork in 1854 was found guilty and recommended to mercy, leading to a punishment of just six months in gaol.
Henry Shacklady was a 29 year old farm labourer who was employed on a casual basis by his brother in law, 40 year old Henry Mercer. However on 7th August that year due to his drunken habits, Shacklady was told by Mercer that his services would no longer be required.
Three days later Shacklady had been drinking and came across Mercer in a wheatfield on the road to Simonswood, near Kirkby station that had opened four years earlier. Mercer went off to his granary and returned to a pitchfork, leading to Shacklady pleading 'Thou are not going to kill me are thou.' He then ran off fearing for his life but when Mercer caught him, he was struck in the head and fell to the ground.
Mercer then struck him again and Shacklady's sister Martha Webster, who had been helping their sister and Mercer's wife after she gave birth to a baby, tried to get between them. However the fork was swung at her and when she got out of the way it hit her brother on the head.
Shacklady never got up again and a post mortem established infusion on the brain as a result of the blow to the head. An inquest at the home of Mrs Ashcroft in Redbrow returned a verdict of wilful murder and Mercer was committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes, which were taking place at the end of that month.
On 24th August Mercer was found guilty of manslaughter but with a recommendation for mercy. Baron Platt told him he had 'rendered himself an irresponsible agent by drunkenness' and hoped he would 'reflect on the transaction' as 'drunkenness is the curse of the nation.' Commenting that his previous good character had saved him, Mercer was then sentenced to six months imprisonment.