5 Touching Stories to Celebrate National Siblings Day

Siblings. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. But at the end of the day, many of us are lucky to have unique relationships and a special bond with our brothers and sisters.

National Siblings Day is the perfect time to explore the fascinating and moving stories of siblings in our newspaper archives, from sporting rivalries to tales of heroic rescues. It’s also a great opportunity to search for your own siblings in the newspapers or the siblings of your parents or grandparents. But first, what is National Siblings Day?  

What is National Siblings Day?

National Siblings Day originated in the United States in the 1990s and falls on 10 April each year. The day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our siblings and how much they mean to us.

We delved into our archives to explore the column inches dedicated to siblings over the decades in British papers. We weren’t disappointed with what we unearthed.  

Sisters’ triple wedding saves family a fortune

A curious event occurred in the tiny Shropshire village of Rowton in the late 1940s. Rowton, with a population of 560, was brought to a standstill by the triple wedding of sisters Hilda, Phyllis and Olive Pearce at the village church on Saturday, 6 August 1949. The event made the front page of the Midlands’ Sunday Mercury

07 Aug 1949, Sun Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, West Midlands, England) Newspapers.com

“The triple wedding was father’s idea,” said Hilda. Two of the sisters were already engaged, and Hilda and her partner planned on tying the knot shortly, so their father said: “Why not have a triple wedding.” At a time when tradition prescribed that the bride’s family pay for the wedding, this must have appeared as a golden opportunity for Mr and Mrs Pearce. Of course, the financial obligations do not lie solely with the bride’s family in modern times. 

The story gets more intriguing as we turn our attention to the three grooms, Walter, William and John Cartwright. That’s right; the Pearces married the Cartwrights. Walter and William were brothers, while John was, coincidentally, of no relation. It should have made proceedings simpler, and the day went without a hitch until the vicar remembered during a hymn that he had only married two of the couples. He interrupted the singing to announce that the ceremony was not quite over and proceeded to marry Olive to John. 

07 Aug 1949, Sun Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, West Midlands, England) Newspapers.com

It didn’t dampen the spirits of the wedding party, who appeared to have had a great day. Each couple even had their own wedding cake, which is a good thing, given the number of attendees. This, no doubt, was especially appreciated by William Pearce, the youngest brother of the brides, who was also celebrating his 11th birthday on the special day and had never experienced a party quite like it.  

Siblings to face each other on the pitch?

The Sunday People ran an interesting story on 17 October 1937 concerning two brothers and their sporting rivalry.

Both footballers, Ehud Rogers, a forward, plied his trade with Newcastle United while his brother Joe, a midfielder, played for Manchester City. The paper reports that nothing would please the two more than to oppose each other during an international football match. How, you ask? Ehud was born in Chirk, Wales, while Joe ‘first saw the light of day at Normanton, in Yorkshire’.

17 Oct 1937, Sun The Sunday People (London, London, England) Newspapers.com

As far as we can see, the brothers did not compete against each other on the national stage, with the advent of WWII ending any hopes of this fascinating meeting.  

Brother and sister reunited after 55 years

More than half a century had passed when brother and sister, Thomas (Tom) and Emily Williams, reunited under the clock at Victoria Station in London in 1952. The East Kent Times and Mail reported that Emily, a governess, rushed to embrace her brother as she saw him approach. The years of separation had done little to erode the strong bond and sibling banter between the two, who almost immediately picked up where they left off when Tom proclaimed: “What an awful hat, Emily.” 

Tom, a trained dentist, departed England in 1895 in an attempt to escape the shackles of a strict upbringing in his father’s household and started a new life in New Zealand. The pair lost contact, but Emily was determined to trace her beloved brother, which she successfully did in the weeks leading up to their meeting. Emily wrote to the New Zealand Prime Minster, and Tom was traced via his WWI pension, which he received after being wounded in action during WWI.  

It transpires that Tom had returned to England in about 1937, and all efforts to trace his sister had proved unsuccessful. Ironically, the siblings were living less than 100 miles from one another. 

12 Mar 1952, Wed The East Kent Times and Mail (Ramsgate, Kent, England) Newspapers.com

So much had changed in the world since Tom’s departure in 1895, as he poetically highlights: ‘Victoria was on the throne when we parted, and it was at Victoria [Station] that we met again.’ What hadn’t changed was their strong bond and love for one another and, evidently, their sense of humour: “Tom is taking me out to buy a celebration gift tomorrow”, noted Emily, “but he insists on choosing it himself – it’s a new hat!” 

A daring rescue to save her brother

Many of us wouldn’t think twice about saving a sibling in danger, just like eight-year-old Eileen Ward in August 1935. 

Eileen and her brother Desmond, a year her junior, were staying with their grandmother in Wolverhampton during the summer holidays. The Hinckley Echo reports that the siblings were playing beside a canal when Desmond decided to go in for a paddle.

Seeing her little brother out of his depth, without a moment’s hesitation, Eileen dived to his rescue. Becoming terrified, writes the Leicester Mercury, Eileen scrambled out of the canal by clutching an iron rail. She went back into the canal for a second attempt as Desmond struggled in the water.

Now, both children were in difficulties, and their screams alerted the attention of two passers-by who dragged them out of the water. None the worse for her ordeal, Eileen waited on the bank to help rub down her brother and warm him up, the latter also pulling through unscathed. 

For her bravery, Eileen was awarded a certificate from the Royal Humane Society during a presentation held by Nuneaton Town Council. The Leicester Evening Mail shows Eileen receiving her certificate and proudly inspecting the award with her brother.

24 Oct 1935, Thu Leicester Evening Mail (Leicester, Leicestershire, England) Newspapers.com

Siblings bonded by their service

In January 1943, deep into the Second World War, the Liverpool-based Evening Express reported on the remarkable story of the Jones siblings of Rhyl, Wales.

The five brothers and sisters were all serving in uniform and doing their bit for the war effort: Archy, in the Royal Air Force; John of the National Fire Service; Gwilym of the Home Guard; Violet, serving with the Women’s Land Army; and Alice, serving with the National Fire Service but destined for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

The war impacted all aspects of society, and siblings, like the Joneses, found themselves separated by world events but connected by their national service. 

08 Jan 1943, Fri Evening Express (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) Newspapers.com

From sporting achievements and acts of bravery to exam results and amateur dramatics, perhaps there are stories about you and your siblings waiting to be discovered in our world of British newspapers. Start your search with a name today.

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