On the shores of Malbay, in Clare, stands a little sea-bathing place, called Miltown, all glittering with whitewash; and the most glittering part of it is a large house full of thorough lights, which is described in the guide books of a few years ago as a fine hotel, where sixty beds are made up for visitors. Travellers had better not go there now in expectation of a bed, for this house is at present a workhouse another auxiliary of Ennistymon and spoken of with pride for its healthy situation. Yet, on the way to it we saw a painful sight a cart or truck, loaded very heavily with paupers chiefly children, with some women the whole being guarded by three of the constabulary, carrying arms. These were runaways, we were told, who were being brought from gaol to Miltown workhouse. We know nothing of the merits of the case, but the spectacle was not a pleasant one. If the dread of ophthalmia causes any to abscond, we do not wonder at it. The story goes, however, that many put themselves in the way of the disease, actually try to catch it, to avoid work and obtain the superior diet ordered for the patients. The Poor Law Commissioners believe this.
From a letter of Harriet Martineau, dated September 22nd. , 1852. Published in The English traveller in Ireland, Harrington, John (ed.) , Dublin, Wolfhound Press, 1991.