Sunday, 14 August 2022

Party for neighbours who celebrate birthdays only every four years

FOUR residents of one village with birthdays on February 29 celebrated together.

FOUR residents of one village with birthdays on February 29 celebrated together.

Sheila Huelin, 60, Jo Green, 48, Philip Brennan, 32, and Lily-Mae McGuire, eight, enjoyed tea and cakes and swapped stories about the day they were born.

The party at Woodcote library was organised by Mrs Green, who lives in Grimmer Way with her husband John and is the library manager.

She had made an appeal in the village newsletter asking for anyone else who was born on a leap day after discovering Lily Mae had been.

Mrs Green was born in Portsmouth in 1968 and her father Nicholas Lewis was a Royal Navy officer. Mr Lewis served on HMS Bacchante, which was launched on the day his daughter was born, so every year the crew would send her a birthday cake until 1982 when the frigate was scrapped.

Mrs Green said: “I’ve never met anyone with the same birthday as me but one day Lily-Mae visited the library and was asking all about leap year customs.

“When she told me she’d also been born on a leap day, I asked her to come in for tea to celebrate and it took off from there.

“I was talking to a colleague who knew Sheila and told me she was also born on February 29, so it got me wondering how many others there were.

“It seemed like a nice thing to do and it has been great to finally meet other people with the same birthday. I was actually due on Valentine’s Day so my mum always used to say I was hanging on to be awkward.

“Being born on February 29 has its advantages as I suppose I’m technically only 12!”

Lily-Mae, who attends the village primary school, was born before her due date at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in 2008.

She was accompanied at the party by her parents Andrew and Suzanne and grandparents Francis and Joyce McGuire, who were visiting from Manchester.

Her mother said: “She was really excited. It’s lovely for her to be able to celebrate with other people.” Mrs Huelin, a children’s nurse who lives in West Chiltern with her husband Tim, was born at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford in 1956.

She said: “I was very surprised that there were so many people with the same birthday in such a small  village.”

Mr Brennan, 32, also of Grimmer Way, was born in Widnes and moved to Woodcote with his parents Sean and Bernie, who live in Behoes Lane. He works as a mechanic at S B Engineering in Reading Road, Woodcote.

He said: “It’s quite unusual to be born on a leap day but I wasn’t expecting Jo to put anything like this together. It’s really great.”

Former Woodcote resident James McDougall, who also turned 96 on the day, was invited but was unable attend.

He used to live in Cuddesdon Close but moved to the Westgate House care home in Wallingford a year ago.

Mr McDougall moved to the area in 1962 to take a job with the Prudential in Reading. He lived with his wife Judith, who died in 2004.

His son Terry, of Wayside Green, Woodcote, said: “It’s a shame he couldn’t attend but the home organised a lovely party for him.

“He moved away from the area when he retired but he came back as he was getting isolated and there’s a good sense of community here.”

The odds of being born on a leap day are about one in 1,460 and Woodcote’s adult population is about 2,800.

Statistically, this means there should only be one or two villagers with leap day birthdays.

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