A farm labourer was kicked to death in Litherland by a group of Irishmen in 1878 in what appeared to be a racially motivated attack.
On Sunday 2nd June of that year at around 10pm Robert Bradshaw was walking down Field Lane with his brother William, having been to the Litherland Hotel (now The Priory). They saw seven men talking with Irish accents on the other side of the road, who without warning came over and knocked William and Robert down, kicking them as they were on the floor.
Both men managed to get up and ran after the group to try and get their hats back, Robert getting there first only to be knocked about again. He had to be helped up by two of William's friends who were in the locality and they took him to a doctor as his face was covered in blood and he couldn't answer when asked who he was. The disturbance had been heard by several locals who came out of the hotel and their homes and followed the attackers who were heading towards Orrell.
Police officers went to Mr Birch's farm in Orrell and allowed to question those living in what was known as the 'Irish House'. Being unable to account for the movements that night four men were arrested and charged with unlawful wounding. They were Charles Finn, Michael Carney, James Carney and Patrick Murphy. The following day when it was light the road towards the farm was searched and there were found to be a number of blood stains as well as fence rails which were covered in blood.
William had gone home in a dazed state and fainted, not coming around until the Monday morning when Robert returned in a cab, having been operated upon. He was initially able to recall what had happened and gave a deposition but on the Tuesday morning his condition took a turn for the worse and he lost all his senses, dying on the Friday evening. He was twenty years old. A post mortem found that death was due to a fractured skull, which had been caused by a kick or blunt instrument.
On Tuesday 11th June an inquest was held before Mr Driffield at the Mill Randle Hotel. As this was taking place Robert's funeral cortege went past, with many of the crowd outside weeping bitterly. William and several other locals gave evidence as to what they saw and the jury returned verdict of manslaughter against the four men, who were all aged in their twenties.
At the Liverpool assizes on 26th July evidence was heard that suggested James Carney was the ringleader but the others were all culpable in one way or another. After guilty verdicts were returned Lord Chief Justice Cockburn told the men they had 'engaged in a spirit of nationalist animosity'. He then sentenced James Carney to six years penal servitude, Michael Carney five years and the other two to twelve months hard labour.