Monday, February 20, 2017


There are a number of twins in my family - I have twins, as does my sister.  I have twin first cousins, my Grandmother was a twin, and her aunt and uncle were twins.  So multiple births have always interested me.  These days, most multiple births are successful and end with two or more health babies as well as a live mother.  

Multiple births in times gone by were fraught with danger for both mother and babies.  Most often one, if not both (or more) children would die during or soon after birth.  For example, my grandfather Pat Nidd's mother had stillborn twin girls in 1918.  Twins being born alive and healthy and staying that way were rare.  Triplets were even rarer.  Following are the histories of some families who did have triplets - normally the outcome was not good, and multiples rarely all made it through infancy - or even through the first day of life. 

The Morgan Triplets

One such case were the Morgan triplets who were born in the small town of Kumara, on the West Coast of the South Island in 1888.  Their father James Henry Morgan had married Annie Carroll in 1876.  In reasonably quick succession, Annie Morgan gave birth to seven children:

Ellen Morgan (1878)
Margaret Maria Morgan (1879)
Henry Morgan (1880)
George Morgan (1881)
Annie Jane Morgan (1884)
Barbara Elizabeth Morgan (1885)
Peter Morgan (1886)

At the time of the triplets' birth James Morgan was the Manager of the Long Tunnel Gold Mining Company - he was already supporting a large family.  Then on 13 July 1888, at their home on the Main Street of Kumara, Annie gave birth to triplet babies.  Amazingly, they all survived birth. However, they were no doubt premature and without special care, and a mother no doubt beside herself busy with a gaggle of small children under the age of 10, the good luck ended there.  The triplets were:

Charles Morgan (13 July 1888 - 15 July 1888).  Little Charles died aged only two days.
Bridget Morgan (13 July 1888 - 1988).  The sole female triplet, Bridget, died aged 5 weeks.
Thomas Morgan (13 July 1888) appears to have survived birth and hopefully lived a love and happy life!

Following the triplets birth, the Morgans went on to have at least three more children:

Robert Morgan (1889)
William Laurence Morgan (1891)
Bella Morgan (1892)

The Bremner Triplets
For some families the tragedy of losing triplets was to be only the beginning. The case of the tragic Bremner family, is extreme.  

William Gordon Bremner married Mary Alice Booth in 1891.  They had both been born in 1862 meaning they were almost thirty by the time they married - a little late for those days.  The couple lived in the Poverty Bay area.  Following their marriage they had three little boys:

James Halloran Bremner was born in 1892.
John "Jack" Robertson Bremner was born a year later in 1893. 
William Gilbert "Gilbert" Booth Bremner was born in 1895.

Two years later, no doubt unexpectedly Mary gave birth to the triplets - two girls and a boy.  However, the sisters died within a week and the little boy didn't survive to see two years.  The triplets were:

Isabella Bremner (29 May 1897 - 29 May 1897).  Little Isabella died aged just two hours. 
Helen Bremner (29 May 1897 - 31 May 1897).  Baby Helen was next to pass away,  aged only 48 hours.
David Moray Gordon Bremner (29 May 1897 - 1899).  David lasted longer than his baby sisters, dying aged 22 months.

It's hard to imagine how hard it must be to lose one baby, let alone two in quick succession - little David must have been very much loved, and his loss must have been devastating to the family and put a huge strain on them.  However, even worse was to come.  

William Gordon and Mary Alice Bremner appeared before the Supreme Court in Gisborne in September 1909 and obtained a divorce.  The grounds are unclear.

When World War One rolled around, all three of the popular, sporty Bremner sons enlisted.  Tragically, as with their triplet siblings, one after the other, they succumbed. 

Jack, the middle son, was the first to die, being killed in action at Somme, France on 22 June 1916).  
A year later, on 20 July 1917, Gilbert was also lost, dying of the wounds he received at a battle in Palestine.
The eldest son, James  was the last to die of wounds he received at Gallipoli, finally passing away on 8 September 1918.

It's unclear what Mary's relationship had been with her sons after her divorce from their father, as she is not mentioned in the war records, or in the newpapers after their deaths - sympathy being given to their father and aunts instead.  Mary died in 1925 and William followed in 1927.  The end of their family line as far as I can ascertain.  

The Holmes Triplets

Make no mistake, all babies were at risk of failing to survive birth.  Before having and losing a multiple birth, some families had already lost children.

Gustaf Holmes came to NZ and was naturalised in 1893.  He married Rhoda Emily Rainton (born in 1872) in 1895.

Gustaf and Rhoda's first daughter Jane Louisa Holmes was born in 1897) but sadly passed away aged only 5 weeks.

For some years there is no record of any birth.  Perhaps Rhoda had difficulty becoming pregnant or perhaps she miscarried many times.  What we do know for sure is that on 28 October 1901 she gave birth to triplet babies - one boy and two girls, in Ponsonby, Auckland.  

The first triplet, Annie Beatrice Holmes died five days later.  The second triplet, 
Albert Edward Holmes died 3 months later in 1902.  

However, the last triplet, Clara May Holmes appeared to be made of stronger stuff, and so it must have been torturous for her parents when she too passed away aged just five months on 29 March 1902, at her parents' home in Farrar Street, Ponsonby.

A final child, Mary Annie Holmes, was born to Gustaf and Rhoda in 1903 - this must have given them a huge amount of joy.  Tragically though, Rhoda herself is noted to have died at the age of 35 in 1908.  Gustaf's fate is unclear, as is that of little Mary who would have only been 4 or 5 at the time of her mother's death.  It is possible that they left for Australia or elsewhere, to leave the tragedies Gustaf had experienced in New Zealand behind.  

The Aydon Triplets
Archibald Alexander Aydon (1856 - 1929) was a bootmaker who lived in Nelson.  Born in 1856 - 1929), he married May June Woodward (1860 - 1939), in 1881, when she was 20 or 21 years of age.   

Boys seemed to be in the blood, and the couple's first seven children were all strapping boys:

The eldest son, Phillip Woodward Aydon (1882 - 1963), married Amy aka Emma Caldwell (1886 - 1969) in 1907.  

The second son, Archibald Joseph Woodward Aydon (1883 - 1958) married a girl who was undoubtedly a relative, Gertrude May Woodward, in 1911.  They had a son, Keith Langley Aydon in 1912 and a stillborn baby in 1916.  Sadly, young Keith died prematurely in 1928 aged just 16 years.  Gertrude died in 1960.  

The third son, Frederick Edwin Woodward Aydon, was born in 1885.  Fred worked as a confectioner and married Phoebe Ellen Bartlett (who had been born in 1884) in 1914. Together, they had a baby, Allan Aydon (14 March 1916 - 1998).  Fred was a solo cornetist with the National Reserve Band.  Tragically, Fred died of influenza on 12 November 1918 here in New Zealand, at the Featherston Military Camp.   Phoebe never remarried, dying in 1959 at the age of 75.

Fourth son, George William Woodward Aydon was born in 1887 and married Mary Barnes in 1914.  George and Mary's son, Albert, was born on 15 July 1915 (died 1992).  George worked  as a tinsmith in Wellington.  He died at his home, 48 Rolleston Street, Wellington on 16 November 1918 of influenza, four days after the death of his older brother Fred. 

Fifth son was Harry Woodward Aydon (1890 - 1964).  Harry was probably named after Mr Aydon's brother in law, Harry Rickards a well known theatrical proprietor who had married Mr Aydon's elder sister in 1879.  

Sixth son, Horace Woodward Aydon (1891 - 19 July 1936), married Alice Collard  (24 August 1992 - 1976) in 1914.  Horace worked as a biscuit maker at Griffins in Wellington.  Horace and Alice's daughter, Audrey Jane/May, was born on 29 September 1916.  In 1936 Audrey married Noel Victor Rogers (16 July 1911 - 1996).  She died in 2001.  Horace and Alice also had two sons, Maurice William (24 January 1919 - 1993) and Horace Frederick (1 March 1924 - 1997).  

The seventh of this run of boys was Sydney Alexander Woodward Aydon (1893 - 1956).  He married Louise Neville in 1923.  

These boys were then followed by two little girls, and yet another brother, who was not as strong as his elder brothers:

Charlotte Winifred Beatrice "Beattie" Aydon (1897).  The eldest Aydon daughter was also known as Beatrix and apparently had a lovely soprano voice.  She left Nelson in November 1917 and it is unclear where she went.  
Percy Woodward Aydon (1898 - 1898).  Little Percy died aged 5 weeks.  
Maselle Woodward Aydon (2 March 1901 - 1986) married Arthur Earnest Strong (29 October 1890) in 1927.

All the children went to St Mary's School in Nelson.  

Following the birth and survival of these two girls, the family must have seemed complete - ten children after all in the space of 19 years was probably enough for Mrs Aydon.  However, at the age of 42/43, on 20 May 1903, she gave birth to triplet boys.  

The first of these triplet boys, Thomas Woodward Aydon died aged just three weeks.  The second, Edward Woodward Aydon died in 1904 aged a year.  However, in this case, the surviving triplet, William Woodward Aydon lived to the age of 68.

The Jacobsen Triplets

Sometimes, however, against all odds, all three triplets survived to adulthood. Imagine how much of a novelty the following three babies must have been in their day!

A fellow called John (possibly also known as Johan) Jacobsen lived with Mary Eliza Reid (1870 - 1944) in Blenheim.  He doesn't appear to have actually formally married her, however, until 1929!  
This lack of a marriage certificate didn't stop them from having a fair few little Jacobsens.  It did stop them legally registering their children's births until 1939, however!  Why did they take so long to marry?  Perhaps one or the other were legally married to another and unable to obtain a divorce?  It is possible that they married around the time of their triplet's 21st birthday.  In any event, the children of their union are:

Eldest son Ernest Frank Jacobsen (1892 - 1959) married Maud Newth (1891 - 1951) in 1914.
Eldest daughter Ethel Maude Jacobsen (11 June 1894 - 1981) married William Roy Askew in 1917.  However Roy, as he was known, was killed in action during WWI in 1918. Ethel then married Clifford Woolley in 1918. 
Third child Miriam Frances Jacobsen (1897 - 1971) married James Atwood in 1917. 
Fourth child was Bruce Theodore Jacobsen (1901 - 1962)
Fifth child was Lilian Myrtle Jacobsen 
Sixth child was Jacob Neils Jacobsen (23 June 1905 - 1978)

Following the birth of six healthy children, Mary Reid gave birth to triplets - two little boys and one girl.  
Christina Olga "Olga" Jacobsen (21 April 1908 - 1956) married Albert Cecil Rohde (1 July 1908 - 1977) in 1929. They had at least one son, Johan Christian Rohde (1933 - 1997)
Ivan Wilson Jacobsen (21 April 1908 - 1978)
Archie John Jacobsen (21 April 1908) married Margaret Amy Neame (1888 - 1949) in 1932.

The triplets were christened at the Methodist Church in Blenheim in April 1909 and were described as being 'fine, healthy and thriving'.  

The Thurlow Triplets

Yet another happy ending for a triplet birth starts with the marriage of Albert Edward Thurlow (1878 - 1968) and Beatrice Margaret Corliss (1878 - 1952) in 1902.  

Their first child,  Eleanor Marguerita Florence Thurlow was born on 10 January 1903.  She married Alexander Howard Abernethy (2 November 1898 - 1977) in 1926.  Eleanor died in 1986.

Next came  Albert Cyril Thurlow on 15 April 1904.  He died in 1985.  

Third born was Thelma Beatrice Thurlow was born on 4 March 1906.  She married Redmond George Wingham in 1930.

Next to be born were a set of triplets and their births were reported as being somewhat unusual, even for triplets - with newspapers reporting that sole female of the trio, Gladys, was born on 30 September while her brother were born days later on 2 October.  This is highly unusual - especially given that the triplets all survived.  The triplets were:

Gladys Mary Thurlow (30 September 1909 - 1987).  Gladys married Thomas Andrew Haig (19 November 1906 - 1986) in 1935.
William Raymond "Ray" Thurlow (1909). 
Francis Bagley "Frank" Thurlow (1909).  Frank's middle name was in deference to the doctor who delivered them.  In 1935 Frank married Isabel Mary Burridge (2 September 1913 - 1982)

The triplets were born in Becks Township in Central Otago and their mother was attended to by a Dr Bagley.  

Years later the triplets all celebrated their 21st birthdays on 30 September 1930 with their family.  Triplets all attaining the age of majority was a novelty.    

The triplets were followed by a younger brother:

Clyde Kitchener Thurlow on 15 October 1914.  He died in 1999. 

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