It wasn't until years later, when reminiscing about our mother, my sister and I discussed our separate visions of that filthy old man with our pennies. Combining a dirty old man and you don't know where he put it in my mind conjured up a picture of the old homeless man we frequently passed on our way to school, ragged filthy clothes, old rope tied around his waist to keep his coat closed against the weather, face blacked by dirt and wood smoke, sticking pennies up his nose. Apparently back in those days, my spacial awareness had not developed to the still somewhat inadequate level it has now reached.
You see, an Irish penny, when I was a child, measured 1.215 inches in diameter. It would have been a feat worthy of notation in the Guinness Book of World Records if anyone could get something that size up their nose, and the question as to why a homeless old man would want to, never crossed my mind.
My sister, on the other hand, considered a much more private, and even more unpleasant, orifice into which the same homeless old man inserted the pennies she was very careful to no longer put in her mouth. While he possibly could have had more success inserting pennies in her suggested location, again the question of why never crossed her mind.
Needless to say, whereever my mother thought he was putting the pennies didn't matter, and we never thought to ask her, but her dire warning worked, we never did put coins of any denomination into our mouth, and to this day I tend to carefully wash my hands after handling coins.
The 'new' Irish penny (post decimalization) would be much more suitable as it is considerably smaller than the old one and I suppose rolled up notes would be much more easily inserted into most orifices.