As York celebrates the new Casper triplets, MAXINE GORDON meets the first set of triplets born at York Hospital - 30 years ago

ON JULY 26 there will be one very special birthday party in York.

For 30 years ago Emma, Kirsty, and Kay Clark were born at York Hospital – believed to be the first set of triplets born there.

The birth made the front page of the then Yorkshire Evening Press, much like how the arrival of trio Harper-Gwen, Marvella and Evalynn Casper at York hospital was the ‘splash’ or front page of The Press in recent weeks.

Back in 1993, Audrey and Sandy Clark already had a two-year-old daughter, Lucie – so to say they had their hands full was the understatement of the century.

How did they manage? And do they have any tips to pass on to Jenni and James Casper who have two other young daughters as well as their three new babies.

“If a friend or family member offers to help – take it! Even if it is just for an hour so you can go an have a coffee,” says Audrey.

“And enjoy it,” adds Sandy, a former coal miner who worked shifts when the triplet babies were small. “Relish every moment. Sometimes you are tearing your hair out, wondering: ‘why me?’ – but you have to enjoy it while you can. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

York Press: The Clark triplets on their christening dayThe Clark triplets on their christening day (Image: Supplied)

Turning back the clock to 1993 - a time when John Major was Prime Minister, Blur and Oasis were about to explode on to the music scene and an average house in York cost about £50,000 - Audrey and Sandy got a shock when they went to an early pregnancy scan.

Audrey had suffered a bleed and doctors feared she had an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes).

But during the scan, the couple received some surprising news. Audrey says: "They asked me: 'Have you had IVF or anything like that because there seems to be three babies here."


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The couple were told that originally Audrey had been pregnant with four babies - but had lost one, hence her bleeding, leaving her with three.

"The nurse said: 'do you want to tell your husband or shall !?' I said: 'You tell him - I'm in too much shock'."

York Press: School days with big sister LucieSchool days with big sister Lucie (Image: Supplied)

Audrey says it was the first time the hospital had dealt with a triplet birth. Neither her consultant, midwife nor health visitor had experience of triplets at York.

The babies were delivered by caesarean section and stayed in York hospital for four days - with only one day in special care.

Emma arrived first, weighing 5lbs 1oz, Kirsty was next, 4lbs 13oz, then Kay at 4lbs 11oz.

They were bottle fed - and Sandy recalls spending £200 in one go buying nappies and formula milk for the triplets.

Manoeuvring them around was a challenge. "We bought a mini bus!" says Sandy. "We needed it to cart everyone around."

At first, the couple used a double pram to take the babies out. "I carried Kay on my back as she was the lightest," recalls Audrey.

"When Kay got too heavy I couldn't get a triple buggy so got a single and a double one and Sandy joined them together."

York Press: The girls as teenagersThe girls as teenagers (Image: Supplied)

The relentless routine of feeding, changing and looking after tiny triplets was - not surprisingly - the biggest challenge the couple faced.

Luckily, they received help from a nanny through the night for the first few months which was paid for by the local authority.

"Then one day - when the girls were about six months - we said enough is enough - and we took it from there,"says Sandy. "It was hard work, but we set out to enjoy it."

He adds: "We kept a diary until they were 14 - and wrote everything down. We had 92 people in the house over the years, from carers to health care people."

Another struggle was telling them apart. The babies wore their hospital name bands at first, then were assigned baby bouncers in contrasting designs. They wore different clothes and as they grew older, had unique hair cuts too. Audrey even made three separate cakes for the girls on their birthday.

As soon as the babies were born they were given advice that they followed to the letter. "Give them their own identity," says Sandy. "This was the advice from TAMBA which is now the Twins Trust."

Audrey continues: "They might be babies born on the same day, but they are individuals."

And it appears the advice paid off. Meeting the Clark family today, your first thought is: are they really triplets?

First-born Emma has long black hair in a middle pattern and is wearing a colourful printed shirt, tucked into jeans. She has green nail varnish and is clutching a designer hand bag. She studied drama and performing arts at university - and, her sisters say, is the only one of the three who can sing. She lives with her partner just outside York and works in retail.

York Press: Bridesmaids at Lucie's weddingBridesmaids at Lucie's wedding (Image: Supplied)

Kirsty's hair is dyed pink, red, and under her black T-shirt you can just make out her latest tattoo. She has nose piercings and is preparing to return to university in the autumn to become an operating theatre manager.

She and younger triplet Kay currently live at home. Kay - who they call the 'baby' of the family - has long black hair, with a long fringe, is dressed in black, and has several tattoos (Emma has none). She is the only one of the three wearing glasses, although the others have contact lenses. Kay studied photography at uni and now works in retail.

But look closely and you can see the family resemblance - and the women say that they do get mistaken for each other while out and about it York.

Are they identical? Sandy says the triplets went through a series of tests when they were younger and the conclusion was that they were. He also points to significant things happening at the same time. "We went on holiday and they all lost the same two teeth!"

Elder sister Lucie admits she felt left out when the triplets were growing up. "They played together and because I was blonde and they were dark they used to tell me I was adopted!"

The triplets, who attended St Oswald's primary and Fulford schools, admit they never fell out over boys, instead argued over the "petty things".

York Press: The Clark family todayThe Clark family today (Image: Maxine Gordon)

Lucie is married now with an eight-year-old son, Oliver, but still tries to make the regular Friday night get together at the family house just off Fulford.

And when July 26 comes around, the plan is for them all to be together to celebrate.

Just before we bid our farewell, they are huddled around a mobile phone trying to book the rooftop Sora Sky Bar for birthday drinks.

It would seem a fitting place to raise a glass to their 30th birthday - and for Sandy and Audrey who back in 1993 were the toast of York with their very special new arrivals.