Newspaper Article 2017 – Three never a crowd

Three never a crowd

Anderson triplets gather for 80th birthday

Almost 80 years ago, New Zealand’s first identical triplets were born, and this Saturday the three Anderson sisters are all in Havelock North to celebrate their combined birthday.

Their arrival on May 12, 1937, was special for their family, but also created a stir in the wider community – not only for the fact they were a unique multiple birth, but also that the coronation of King George VI took place on that date.

The auspicious occasion led to them being dubbed the “Coronation triplets” and for the first years of their life they were famous in Hastings and beyond.

Their parents, James Craig and Agnes Maude Anderson (herself a twin) were inspired by the occasion to give the children royal names, and their birth prompted the King to send the family a King’s bounty of 3 pounds (1 pound per child) to mark the occasion.

The triplets’ first six months were spent at the Karitane Home in Wellington, Havelock North-based triplet Mary Hortop says.

“Mum was a bit sick after the birth and the Government put a special carriage on the train for us to go down there, accompanied by nurses.”

That was the only Government assistance they received, but the community was overwhelmingly generous.

“That’s why we say we owe a lot to the kindness of the people of Hastings who raised money through card evenings and provided knitting and other clothing.”

Initially they only had a pram for one child, but community donations and the efforts of Hastings firm A Christie and Sons resulted in them receiving a special pram made for three that drew people’s attention.

The family lived at Kahuranaki and the girls thrived on the farm where they were schooled, first by a teacher, and then by their mother before they went on to Parkvale School.

Wherever they went in the early days they would be mobbed by people.

“Mum didn’t take us into town in the end – she could not walk down the street without someone stopping her, so she would leave us with an aunt in town,” Mary says.

In the ensuing years the sisters had their own families and while Mary still lives in Havelock North in a Villa at Mary Doyle retirement village, Liz (Palmer) now lives in Summerset in the Bay while Rose (Toms) lives on the sunshine coast in Australia.

They were all in Hawke’s Bay last week in advance of this Saturday’s party that is being held at Riverstones Cafe in the Mary Doyle complex, and to which more than 50 people had been invited.

“We are making this birthday special – the chances of us being together for our 90th birthdays are pretty remote, so we are making the most of it,” says Mary.

Photo captions –

Mary Hortop, will be celebrating her 80th birthday alongside her two sisters Liz and Rose

The Anderson siblings, left, were the first registered triplets to be born in New Zealand.

Original digital file




  • Agnes Maud Anderson
  • James Craig Anderson
  • Warren Buckland
  • Mary Hortop
  • Elizabeth (Liz) Palmer
  • Rose Toms

Date published

9 May 2017

Format of the original

Newspaper article


Havelock North Village Press

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