The Staffordshire Sentinel of 3rd April 1889 reported the case of Zuba Bailey, a Gypsy, who was charged with vagrancy by telling fortunes.

The first witness was an ‘Elizabeth Wrench, the wife of a potter, who stated that she and her daughter, Fanny, went to the Gypsy encampment in Foley Road . . . There she saw the prisoner, who invited them into her tent. They went in and, at the request of the prisoner, sat down on the floor.’

The Gypsy said ‘well, I suppose you have come to hear a few words. I will tell you something that will do you good. In nine days from today you will have a change and you will do better. Your bad luck will go and good luck will follow.’ She then said, ‘how much money have you?’ The witness replied ‘only 3d.’ Prisoner said ‘I can’t do it for 3d. It isn’t likely that I can.’ Apparently the daughter then lent her mother 6d and went to borrow some money for her own reading. The Gypsy then told the witness, ‘your husband will not be a long liver . . . I can give you something to wear that will make your husband behave better to you.’

Fanny Wrench, having borrowed 1/- from a friend, returned to have her own fortune told. ‘She was told there was a great change for the better before long; there was a dark young man and a light young man after her, but the light one would be best for her.’ The girl was told to come again with 2/- and half-a-pound of best white soap and she would mix it with something which would bring the light young man to her and cause him to marry her and [!] bring her a nice household of furniture. Superintendent Evans said he had received numerous complaints about the doings of the woman and she was therefore found guilty and fined 40/- with costs.

Zuba Bailey was an interesting woman, coming, as she did, from important family lines on both sides. She had been baptised as Azubi Boswell at Bilton St. Leonard, Staffordshire, on 25th February 1856, the daughter of Adolphus Boswell, himself the son of Major Boswell and Mary Linyon, and Trent Lovell/Gibbs.

The family are found in the 1861 census, where Zuba, recorded as ‘Zubi,’ aged 3, is with her parents, Rudolphus (sic), a travelling brazier, and Trenetta, together with siblings Caroline, Orlando, John and Rebecca, at Pit Mounts, on the east side of Buggins Lane, in Wolverhampton, in Staffordshire. The subsequent census of 1871 records Adolphus, even more singularly, as ‘Robert’ and his wife as ‘Mary,’ but all the children are still listed accurately. Zuba seems not to have formed a partnership until she was 30 years of age.

Zuba’s first known child, baptised as Rebecca Boswell on 28th April 1887, and named after her younger sister, was born when Zuba was 31, and recorded as living in ‘a Gypsy tent in King Street.’ The rest of her children, all boys, were baptised with the surname of their father, Thomas Bailey. On October 30th 1888 Herbert Bailey, son of Zuba and Thomas Bailey, was baptised at Fenton, Christ Church, in Staffordshire and Thomas was recorded as a miner. The same details appear for Orlando Bailey, named after a brother of Zuba’s, and baptised on 22nd December 1892, and also for Manrow Bailey, baptised on 6th December 1894, except that, in this last case, the abode is noted as a caravan. At Stoke-on-Trent their last child, named for another brother, John Edward Bailey, was baptised on 20th February 1896, having been born on 4th February that year, at the church of St. Peter ad Vincula, and the father’s occupation noted as hawker, which is then crossed through, and ‘collier’ entered instead.

Zuba married Thomas Bailey in Staffordshire on 16th May 1892 as Zuby Gibbs, using one of her mother’s alternate surnames, and indeed Zuba’s sister, Rebecca, was to use the name Gibbs when baptising her children with her husband, Rabbi Boswell. Thomas seems to have been born some eight or ten years later than Zuba, ages given in the marriage certificate and in subsequent records often varying by a couple of years.

Zuba was buried in 1932, ‘aged 75 years,’ in the registration district of Cheadle, Staffordshire. She must have been a feisty woman in her time – her comment in the court case of 1889, when she was found guilty, was merely to declare, ‘I must be a damned fool if I didn’t take money when it comes to me!’