Day 37: Spend a Penny

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.

Day 36: Grinch Charming

Ryan’s Daughter, filmed by David Lean in 1968-9, was shot in part on the Ring of Kerry and in part on the nearby Dingle Peninsula. Several scenes were filmed at the lovely and very long beach at Inch. The film was a great boon to tourism in southwest Ireland.

As Laetitia and her group walked that beach, she overheard a conversation between two teenage girls that later became the limerick of the day.

Sighed a wistful teenager from Inch,
“T’would be awesome to marry the Grinch,”
But the thought of green kids
To her plan put the skids
And she thought James would do in a pinch.

Day 35: Passengers Will Please Refrain

Next Laetitia decided to go to the Dingle Peninsula. Located at the head of Dingle Bay, Castlemaine is a gateway town to both the Ring of Kerry and the peninsula. As its name implies, Castlemaine was named for a castle that straddled the Maine River near where it empties into Dingle Bay. Castlemaine had rail service from 1885 until 1960, when the station closed. Near the old station is a restaurant called the Railway Hotel, which features Australian fare. Not so coincidentally, there is a restaurant by the same name in Castlemaine, Australia.

After leading her group on some nature hikes in the area, Laetitia went to the hotel bar for a drink before dinner. The bar had a lot of railroad memorabilia, and the bartender was a man steeped in railroad lore. Laetitia had a conversation with an Australian in the crowd who told her some rude stories about trains and Castlemaine, although she wasn’t sure whether they were about Castlemaine, Ireland, or Castlemaine, Australia. One became the limerick of the day.

Hanging o’er the rear rail of the train
As it entered the town Castlemaine
Was the ample posterior
Of the mother superior
Who had searched for the loo quite in vain.

Day 34: Tennyson, Anyone?

Laetitia and her group visited Ross Castle, built by the O’Donoghue clan during the fifteenth century. The poet Lord Alfred Tennyson visited this area in 1848. The Victorian hotel that he stayed in offered boat rides at sunset. At a spot on the lake known for its echo, the boatman blew a bugle. Tennyson described this scene at sunset on Muckross Lake, with views of Ross Castle, O’Sullivan’s Cascade, and snowy peaks in several verses of a poem called The Princess:

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle, answer echoes, dying, dying, dying.

At Ross Castle, Laetitia and her group boarded a boat. The boat was wooden, constructed of lapped boards held with nails, similar to the Viking boats Laetitia had once seen at a museum in Oslo. According to the boatman, this style of boat has been used on the Killarney lakes for centuries. They went to Innisfallen Island and walked among the ruins of the monastery that had been founded by St. Finian, the Leper, in 640 AD. Thomas Moore had visited here and found it a magical place, describing it as a “fairy isle” in his poem/song, Sweet Innisfallen:

Sweet Inisfallen, long shall dwell
In memory’s dream that sunny smile
Which over thee on that evening fell
When first I saw that fairy isle.

On the return trip, the boatman told Laetitia about a local lad named Bret who hoped to use the island’s magic toward his own ends. The story became the basis of the limerick of the day.

In his boat, Bret delighted in haulin’
Young ladies to “Sweet Innisfallen”
Whom he wished to beguile
On Tom Moore’s “fairy isle”
A practice that some found appallin.’