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Travels in County Clare 1534 - 1911
(extracts from The Strangers Gaze, edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh)

John Howard, Public Institutions of County Clare, April 1788

John Howard, self appointed inspector of prisons, was born in Hackney, London into a well-off family. At twenty six he married his landlady, a widow of fifty two, under obligation, as she had nursed him through a long illness. Appointed sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1763, he was appalled at the intolerable distress of prisoners. Thus began his career as a prison reformer. Prisoners could be kept in gaol even if found not guilty before a court until certain fees were paid to the gaoler. Howard travelled all over Britain visiting gaols and bridewells, paying particular attention to the ravages caused by prison fever and small-pox. Two bills were eventually introduced into parliament for the abolition of gaoler’s fees and the improvement of insanitary conditions in gaols. Howard continued his self imposed task of inspecting gaols, visiting prisons in France, Holland, Flanders and Germany. In 1787 he commenced his fourth inspection of English gaols and his third of Ireland. He had previously visited gaols in Ireland in 1767 and gaols and hospitals in 1775. Howard was a deeply religious man with a powerful will and great endurance. In Clare he visited the charter school at Newmarket where orphaned children received a Protestant education and the county gaol and infirmary in Ennis. He also inspected the Erasmus Smith foundation, built in 1775 for the education of better off students.

Newmarket school. April 4, 1788. Eighteen girls and fourteen boys. The rooms clean and free from disorders. The master does not live in the school house.

Ennis county gaol has been built about seven years. Only one dayroom for both men and women. The criminals have beds and proper bedding. Allowance, a threepenny loaf (weight one pound eleven ounces); a twopenny loaf and a penny worth of milk, as at Limerick and Tralee, would be better. April 4, 1788. Debtors 6. Felons etc. 19.
The county infirmary at Ennis, built about fifteen years ago, has two wards on the first floor, one for each sex. The floors and walls were very dirty. None of the patients had sheets, two excepted, who said they brought in all their bedding; the others lay on a little hay or straw, and had hardly any blankets to cover them. No fuel. (The criminals in the county gaol had blankets and fuel.) The allowance is two pennyworth of bread a day and three halfpenny worth of milk. April 4, 1788. 16 patients.

A poor house adjoins to the infirmary at Ennis, in which were twenty aged persons, who had an allowance of four pence a day for diet but no fuel. The house was not very dirty and they seemed to have an attentive and honest keeper.

At Galway and Ennis I visited the schools of the Erasmus Smith foundation, which are well conducted and provided with able masters. With the worthy master of the former, the Rev Mr Campbell, I had much conversation relative to a more general and liberal mode of education in that country. Mr Campbell testified the readiness of many of the Catholics to send their children to Protestant schools; and he is of the opinion that many would by these means be brought over, were the most promising of them enabled by moderate aid to pursue their further education in the university. It might also be advisable to remove from the charter schools some of the most improved children to these schools, or such provincial ones as might be established.

Taken from The Works of John Howard Esq., An Account of the principal Lazarettos in Europe, (London 1791) pp 93-4.

An Agriculturalist’s Account of Clare, 1776
Arthur Young


Journey Through County Clare, 1788
Daniel Augustus Beaufort