In St Neots in Cambridgeshire in 1935 something rather unusual happened. In the upstairs bedroom of this council house four tiny babies were born. No quadruplets had ever lived for more than a few days before and the nation watched with baited breath as they battle to survive.
Against all the odds, here we are today at the eightieth birthday party of the quadruplets at the St Neots museum.
The doctor who delivered them, Ernest Harrison, made the extraordinary offer to take all four babies into his own home for the first six months to give them 24-hour care. Ernest Miles “Dr Ernest, yes, I am named after him. Through his knowledge and care, he protected us and made sure that we did survive.”
Ann, Ernest, Paul and Michael Miles were born November 28, 1935 and today the National Press would report on every minute detail of the quads development. They even charmed King George V who sent them £4 for their coffers. So you just became instant celebrities, the whole nation was waiting for you to survive?
The public even paid money to come and gaze at the little celebrities in their glass-fronted nursery bought by a well-known baby milk company.
Ernest Miles said, “Everyone was scrutinising us as we played and you felt it as a child, it made us very self-conscious.”
Michael Miles said, “I think they tend to think that we were somewhat unique, almost like animals in a zoo.”
Their parents had to take every opportunity to make ends meet. Money was always tight with their father on a lorry-drivers wage.
Ann Miles said “He (Mr Mile) only earned £3 a week, and it took £10 a week to look after us. When you went and bought a pair of shoes for one of us, the other three wanted a new pair as well. So you always had to have four of everything.”
Nowadays, quads are much more common in the UK, with up to four sets born every year. But, in 1935 the miracle of these quads was a boost to public morale at a time when the country was facing a threat from Germany. But, away from the cameras the quads have a bit of fun with their unique situation, especially the two identical brothers.
Michael Miles said, “He liked pulling jokes on other people and I always had to run along because nobody knew the difference between him and me.”
Ernest Miles said, “I got my brother into trouble a few times and he got spanked instead of me, but that was life.”
The newsreels followed them into their teens as the quads began to emerge as four separate individuals. The quads have clocked up more than 200 years of marriage, thirteen children, twenty-three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.