When sisters Angela, Leona and Pamela Currie made their entrance into the world in the early hours of a balmy Saturday in June, they made history as the first set of triplets to be born in Edinburgh under the care of the newly minted Scottish NHS.
As the latest additions to a family of five boys under the age of five, the triplets were a very special delivery for parents John and Catherine.
The tiny trio were born on June 26, 1948 – just 21 days after the official foundation of NHS Scotland – each weighing in at under 3lbs at the Simpsons Memorial Maternity Pavilion after an easy pregnancy.
“My mother was strong,” Angela said. “She had to be with all those boys at home and she never put up with any nonsense.”
Angela arrived first at 2am “and she never let’s us forget it”, laughs Leona, who followed 15 minutes later. Pamela brought up the rear at 2.30am.
Their mother was delighted when she welcomed her daughters. Leona said: “She had always wanted a little girl and then she got three at once.”
There were no complications during the birth, but the babies were kept in hospital for two months and with round-the-clock care and attention, they soon thrived.
The sisters were brought home to Dreghorn Park near the barracks where their father served as Drum Major in The Royal Scots.
Two houses were made into one to accommodate the now ten-strong family.
Their arrival caused quite a stir in the Capital, with the Evening News taking their photos for the paper.
Big brother Keith Currie was only two when the girls were born, but remembers family life as busy, with the usual sibling rivalries appearing from time to time. He said: “It was chaotic sometimes with so many kids in the house, but there were lots of other families in the area to play with.
“We were as close as you could get with so many of us, but we have been very close throughout life and growing up.”
The girls grew up as a tight trio, never letting their big brothers get the better of them. Leona said: “We were never short of anything to do and we gave as good as we got when the boys tried to take the mickey.”
The triplets attended St Cuthbert’s Primary School and then St Thomas’ secondary school and were always perfectly turned out. Leona said: “We always got attention on the street because my mother liked to dress us the same. People would always stop and say hello.”
Their fame saw them hired for publicity stunts such as the opening of the city’s first multiplex in the 1960s, when the three girls were asked to come along and promote the three screens at the old ABC cinema on Lothian Road. And as teenagers Angela and Leona played football with the Fife Dynamos. Now the sisters are celebrating their 70th birthday alongside the institution that has helped take care of them throughout their lives.
Keith said: “The NHS spared nothing to ensure they had the best of treatment since the day they were born.
“Their birth was unusual, but everything was straightforward thankfully.”
Last week Angela and Leona enjoyed a birthday party held in their honour hosted by their three surviving brothers Norman, Bernard and Keith, as well as various children and grandchildren. The siblings’ oldest brother John and last born brother Alex were remembered on the day.
Pamela couldn’t make it over from Canada where she has lived since 1969 after emigrating with husband, Edinburgh-born David Simpson, but the sisters spoke on the day and have sent photos for each other to enjoy.
The triplets haven’t shared a birthday in person since their 60th when Pamela surprised her older sisters with a visit, arranged by Angela’s husband John Peerless. Angela and John have three children – Andrew, 44, and twins Catherine and Steven, 42. Leona, now divorced, has two sons, George, 47, and Paul, 45 and lives with her sister and brother-in-law in Livingston.
Keith said he had always been proud of his sisters. He said: “It is amazing to think they were the first triplets born on the NHS in Edinburgh and possibly the first in Scotland.”