Birthdays are usually a shared event for twins but for one set reaching their 80th year this week, celebrations will be twofold after they were born THREE DAYS apart.
It hit the local headlines back in 1938 when a 29-year-old Georgina ‘Ena’ Wilkinson gave birth to daughter Beryl on July 24 and then - unexpectedly - Cyril followed three days later at St Mary’s Hospital in Armley.
In the days before scans, Ena and her husband had no idea they were expecting twins - with Cyril Snr even going home to celebrate the birth of his daughter before he was called back the next day.
Now, 80 years on, their twins are preparing to celebrate their landmark birthdays, albeit on different continents with Cyril - now called Joe - still in Leeds but Beryl now living in Canada.
Grandfather-of-two Joe, of Roundhay, said people are always surprised when he mentions the story behind his and his sister’s quirky birth.
“Everyone I talk to says ‘Three days?!’
“It was unknown then. In the paper at the time - either the Yorkshire Evening Post or Leeds Mercury - the headline was ‘Twins born with a difference’.”
He recalled: “The story I got was from my father. He said on July 24 1938 my mother was admitted to Leeds hospital - I think it was St Mary’s Hospital in Leeds 12 - when she went into labour. She gave birth to a baby girl. My father went home that same day and everything was fine, he left to go home and celebrate.
“Then the next day the police came to the door - because there were no telephones in those days - and said ‘You had better go back to the hospital, your wife has gone back into labour’.
“He couldn’t understand it.
“She’d gone back into labour and three days [after Beryl], I arrived.
“There were no scans in those days as you can appreciate so I think it was probably unique.”
An expert from the University of Leeds told the Yorkshire Evening Post that twins being born hours – let alone days – apart is a rare occurrence.
Dr Tomasina Stacey, lecturer in maternal care at the university, said because when Beryl and Joe were born there were no scans, frequently the first healthcare staff knew that twins were on their way was at the time mum was giving birth.
Occasionally after the first twin is born the mum’s contractions cease and the delivery of the second baby is delayed.
She said: “When you have twins who have separate placentas and membranes (they are called dichorionic/dizygotic twins) they can be born hours and potential days apart.
“If there is a delay in the birth of the second twin, healthcare staff will intervene and ensure the mum’s contractions continue or she will have a Caesarean section to speed up the baby’s birth. That is done to ensure the baby is born safely.”
Thankfully in this case, both Beryl and Joe arrived safely and went on to have happy, successful lives.
Beryl, who set up a cleaning business, has settled in British Columbia and has two three children and two grandchildren.
Joe - whose name comes from his time in the Merchant Navy when ‘Junior’ for ‘Cyril Junior’ turned into Joe - has two children and two grandchildren.
After his time in the Navy, he had 30-year career with British Rail and later worked as a butler for a catering agency which saw him serve the likes of President Clinton and Neil Armstrong during dinners at Harewood House in Leeds.
The twins also have a brother, David, 71, who lives in Ripon.
Joe said he can’t remember how they celebrated their birthdays when he was growing up.
“As we got older we had one each but probably when we were younger we celebrated either on my sister’s birthday or my birthday, I can’t remember.”
But this year they will be both be surrounded by their families on their own landmark birthdays, albeit nearly 4,000 miles apart.
Despite the geographical distance between the two, the pair still have their twin bond and Beryl flew to England last year to visit.
Joe said: “[Even though] my sister lives in Canada, we phone every week and are very close.”