This court round-up begins: 'Ayr Autumn Circuit; The Autumn Circuit was opened in the Court House, County Buildings, on Wednesday last October 4 1848, by Lords Mackenzie and Medwyn. WITH A FULL REPORT OF / THE TRIAL AND SENTENCE OF / M'WHEELAN / THE MURDERER!'
In an attention-grabbing style similar to that of a newspaper vendor, this broadside opens with a sensational piece of news to grab the public's interest. Clearly, terrible crimes such as this were very popular with the public, so the broadside focuses on the murder trial rather than reporting on the other crimes that made up the Ayr Autumn Circuit. Found guilty of murder, James McWheelan is sentenced to death. Upon pronouncing sentence, Lord Mackenzie proclaims, 'He that shedeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed'. This quote from the bible reveals the 'Old Testament' nature of the rule of law during this era.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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Date of publication:
1848 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.73(123)
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