Laetitia met her group in Annascaul. Traditionally a farming and fishing village, it now is home to a painters and potters and a variety of other arty industries. One of Annascaul’s most famous residents was Tom Crean, who was born there and joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15. While in the Navy, he took part in Scott’s 1901-1904 British National Antarctic Expedition on Discovery. After several other polar adventures, he joined the Shackelton Trans-Antarctic Expedition. He retired from the Navy in 1920, and he and his wife owned a pub in Annascaul, called the South Pole, until he died in 1938.
After some walks in the Slieve Mish Mountains, Laetitia and her group decided to stop in the South Pole for a drink. The bartender was an older man who liked to regale anyone who would listen with stories. One of his stories was about the time in Ireland when there were pay-toilets that cost a penny per use. From that era on, the term “spend a penny” came to be a polite way of saying one had to urinate.
The term is still in common use today, and, with the influx of foreign-born workers following the creation of the European Union, has been the source of some humorous situations. The bartender told of a woman friend who had used the term when she had gone into a hotel lobby looking for a toilet. When she told the German desk clerk that she needed to “spend a penny,” she was directed to the hotel gift shop. The recent announcement by Ryanair that they were considering putting pay toilets on their airplanes led to lots of jokes about spending a pound to spend a penny. The discussion gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.
An urgent need to “spend a penny”
Led a dowager lady named Jenny
To vault o’er the wall
Of an occupied stall
And land on the head of poor Lenny.