Siani Pob Man (1834-1917)
Siani Pob Man (Jane Everywhere) lived in a run down mud walled cottage on the beach in Cei Bach. The walls were so dilapidated that rags were used to fill in the holes, smoke from her fire seeped through gaps in the thatched roof and old sacking was used to cover the windows.
She was baptized, Jane Leonard and was born at Bannau Duon Farm, Llanarth. The author Myra Evans gives a different account and writes that she grew up amongst the gypsies. It is said that her intended married another girl which affected her greatly. After she left the gypsies, she went to live in the cottage on the beach in Cei Bach. 'Jay Dee', writing in the Cambrian News in 1967, mentions that she moved to Cei Bach from Aberaeron in 1884 when she was about 50.
She gained the name Siani Pob Man from her habit of roaming the neighbourhood, stopping at farms and houses for food especially during harvest time or when bread was baked.
She lived with a collection of hens, ducks, cats and a goat. During very high tide, water seeped into the cottage, driving Siani and her hens to the upper floor. Sometimes, the water was so high that she had to abandon the cottage for a while.
Her hens were her 'children' and were free to roam all over the house, sometimes laying eggs in her bed. She sold the eggs to nearby houses but they weren't highly prized because they tended to taste of seaweed. She had more luck selling the eggs to tourists during the Summer months who liked their brown colour. Brown eggs were more popular that white eggs and she would soak any white eggs in tea to change their colour.
She frequented the local Tabernacle Chapel and enjoyed a good sermon but could be judgmental of a bad one. If a minister was particularly awful she called him 'pregethwr cawl dwr' (wishy washy and week) and complained that he wasn't worth the journey to chapel. Even though she was illiterate, she was well versed in the Bible.
Visitors called her 'Siani'r Ieir' - 'Siani of the Hens' due to the fact that she named each hen. Jonathan was her prize cockerel and others were named Bidi, Kit, Richard, Ruth and Charlotte, she kept up to thirty hens at a time.
She wore a red and yellow handkerchief over her head that held a battered trilby hat in place, a black dress with red stripes, red and white patterned shawl and clogs on her feet. She was very popular with the tourists, so popular that postcards of her photograph were published.
Siani was quite canny and played on the fact that some visitors thought that she could tell their fortune, she charged them a penny for a reading. If she thought they were making fun of her, she would chase them, throwing stones and hurling abuse, she had a sharp tongue when needed. She held court outside her cottage, where she sat smoking a pipe, talking to her chickens, singing rhymes, reciting sermons and telling fortunes. Colliers from South Wales were especially fond of her and always called when they visited New Quay. For a piece of tobacco, she would sing her favourite hymn, 'Ar fôr tymhestlog teithio 'rwyf'.
Local people were fond of her and Mrs Longcroft from Llanina House would send parcels of food. The Reverend Aerwyn Jones of Aberdar wrote a poem about her -
'Mae Siani-pob-man yn gwneuthur ei rhan
I gadw y Cei mewn poblogrwydd,
Tra eraill i gyd yn gwneuthur dim byd,
Ond gwledda ar gefn ei henwogrwydd.
Mae pawb trwy'r holl wlad yn dod am iachad
I ardal iach brydferth Ceinewydd,
A'u gwynebau llon yn ymweled a hon,
A theimlant byth mwyach yn ddedwydd'
'Siani-pob-man does her bit
To keep the Cei famous,
Whilst others do nothing
But live on the back of her notoriety.
People from all over come for fresh air
To healthy, beautiful New Quay,
Their faces are jolly when they visit
And they forever feel content.'
This poem appears on postcards depicting Siani.
Even though she lived modestly in a ramshackle cottage and was in receipt of 2/- a week from the Poor Law Union, everyone was surprised when she left £120 to Aberaeron Hospital after her death. The money was found in a wooden chest under her bed with a note stating her intentions.
Nantlais wrote about Siani -
'Ar y morfa gwyrdd yr oedd Shani'n preswylio
A'i drws yn agored i'r cefnfor glas,
Heb ddim i'w difyrru pryd hyn wrth noswylio
Ond y teid yn dod miwn, a'r teid yn mynd mas.'
'Siani lived on the green moor
Her door open to the blue sea,
With nothing to entertain her as evening came
But the tide coming in and the tide going out.'
Her grave can be seen at Henfynyw Cemetery, grave 737, row 60.
It reads -
'Margaret Leonard, Pistyll Gwyn, Dihewyd, m. 23 Tach, 1883 (76). Jane Leonard o Ceibach a merch yr hon a enwyd uchod, m. 3 Ebr. 1917 (83).'
'Margaret Leonard, Pistyll Gwyn, Dihewyd, died November 13, 1833, 76 years of age. Jane Leonard, Cei Bach, her daughter, who died April 3rd 1917, 83 years of age.'
Her cottage on Cei Bach beach has long since disappeared.
Davies, D. R; More facts on Siani Pob Man (letter), Cambrian News 17/9/82
Evans, Myra; Atgofion Cei Newydd, Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion Gyf., 1961 p. 32-34
'Jay Dee'; Shani Pob Man, memories of an old Ceibach character, Cambrian News 20/9/67
Jones, D; Shani-Pob-Man New Quay (letter), Cambrian News, 10/9/82
Jones, Mary; Ddoe, Gwas Gomer, 1981
Lewis, W. J; New Quay and Llanarth, Cambrian News p. 32-33