Three sets of candles for triplets’ 80th
by Ruby Harfield
Friends and family of New Zealand’s ﬁrst identical triplets gathered in Havelock North on Saturday to celebrate their 80th birthday.
Mary Hortop, Liz Palmer and Rose Toms (nee Anderson) wanted the special afternoon tea to be held in Hastings to acknowledge the generosity shown by the community when they were born.
On May 12, 1937, the sisters were born in Hastings to James and Agnes Anderson, who farmed in Kahuranaki and had no idea they were having triplets.
The family, which included four older siblings, was helped by the people of Hastings with money, clothing and furniture.
Mrs Toms, the youngest triplet, said it was important they had the event in Hastings because of how much the Hastings community had done for the family.
“They did such a lot for us, they really helped Mum and Dad when we were born.
“I would like to think people know how much we appreciated it.”
The party was also a way for extended family to get together, many of whom had come from Australia and other parts of New Zealand and had not met for years.
Mrs Hortop lives in Havelock North, Mrs Palmer in Napier and Mrs Toms in Australia.
“All the cousins were getting to know each other and exchanging email addresses,” Mrs Toms said.
The young ones even went out together after the party and she hoped the relationships would continue.
First-born, Mrs Hortop said she just enjoyed sitting back and watching everyone catch up.
“Words cannot describe how wonderful it was . . . It was incredibly beautiful with beautiful people that came.”
One of their nieces said she would not have missed the party for the world, which really summed up the importance of the evening for the family, Mrs Hortop said.
“When the bagpipes were playing we weren’t the only ones that had tears in our eyes, our Dad was from Scotland.”
Friends also celebrated with the sisters with one who had known them since the ﬁrst day they started school 72 years ago.
“She’s been on the journey with us,” Mrs Toms said.
Being identical triplets in Hastings 80 years ago and born on the same date as the coronation of King George VI meant the sisters certainly received a lot of attention growing up.
Mrs Hortop had a phone call early on Saturday morning from someone who was 4 years old when they were born and remembered it clearly because their mother would not stop talking about the triplets.
The three sisters have always had a close relationship but it was nice when they were able to start their own individual lives, Mrs Toms said.
“Everyone saw us as the triplets, three people but one entity.
“As soon as we could we stopped wearing the same clothes. Meeting the Queen in 1954 was the last time we all dressed alike.”
However, they still have many similarities, with two of the sisters nearly buying the same present on Saturday morning without knowing – and not for the ﬁrst time.
Photo caption – CELEBRATION: Mary Hortop, Liz Palmer and Rose Toms, the first identical triplets born in New Zealand, celebrating their 80th birthday party at Riverstones Cafe at Mary Doyle Hurst Lifecare, Havelock North.