Portsmouth's oldest identical twins celebrate milestone birthday
For Portsmouth’s oldest identical twins, sharing is innate.
From experiencing similar events to liking the same clothes, and from having the same toe removed to both loving Marks & Spencer, Beryl Taylor and Barbara Walford have spent life joined at the hip.
Best friends and sisters, they celebrated their 92nd birthday on April 18 which was made even more special after 2020’s lockdown meant they had to spend their previous milestone apart for the first time in their lives.
Born in 1929 in Chesterfield Road, Beryl Olive and Barbara Doris were two of Lilian and Frank Clark’s four daughters. The eldest by 10 minutes, Barbara weighed just three pounds and she was kept wrapped in cotton wool for three months to retain body heat as there were no incubators then. Beryl weighed five pounds.
The Clark family moved from Chesterfield Road to Lynton Grove, where Beryl and Barbara have fond memories of their childhood. Their father, Frank, had a varied working life, first in the RAF then as a shipwright in the dockyard followed by a period working in a funeral parlour. He eventually set up his own business running a bicycle shop, first situated in St Mary’s Road, then in Milton Road, which later became Pompey Tyres. Frank was a clever man, inventing among other things a submarine escape hatch and a barber’s chair. The twins also remember their father as the first person in their street to own a car. When they were small, he acquired a pedal car and converted it into a two-seater with two sets of pedals so they could both drive it.
Beryl and Barbara remember their happy childhood brimming with lovely memories. Some of their earliest are of visiting their aunts, cousins and their maternal grandparents, where they would sing around the piano. They remember skating on Baffins Pond when it froze during the winter; dancing round the Maypole at Westover School on May Day and going to the local shops in New Road with their mother, buying meat at the butchers.
One vivid memory Barbara has is of during the war when they were playing in the street and they heard a plane flying over. They looked up to see something fall out of it, not realising straight away that it was a bomb until it hit the ground and exploded, then being rushed down to the air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden by their parents.
They both started working at the Twilfit corset factory in Highland Road at the age of 14 and were there for many years. Beryl went on to work in the colour loft in the dockyard where she stayed until retirement while Barbara had a variety of jobs, mainly cleaning.
Barbara met her husband Ivor Walford, a Royal Marine known as Jan, as he came from Plymouth, at a dance at the Royal Marine Barracks, Eastney. They married at St Cuthbert’s Church, Baffins, and went on to have three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Ivor died in 2005 but Barbara still has fond memories of the many dances they regularly attended as they both loved it.
Barbara still lives in the Baffins area, where she has lived most of her life and is known by many local people. She did live in Exeter for a short period after getting married but they then returned to Portsmouth. Beryl lived for many years in Old Commercial Road until unfortunately suffering a stroke at the end of 2019, after which she had to move to a care home in Southsea.
Beryl met her husband Frank Taylor through work in the dockyard. They married later in life and did not have any children. Frank passed away several years ago and Beryl remembers him as being very funny and carefree.
As identical twins, they have always been very close and sometimes this has led to them doing and feeling the same things at the same time. They both suffered migraines at the same time; both had the same toe on the same foot removed; both had to have stents fitted following heart attacks; and both have an absolute fear of hospitals for no real reason.They also used to both frequent a wool shop in Tangier Road, run by two sisters, one of whom would knit the garments to order when the customer chose the pattern and wool colour. They would usually visit separately for a change but would often choose the same things, thus making it even more difficult to tell them apart.
As they got older, retired, and both being widowed, they enjoyed going out together almost every day travelling around on buses and trains at 90. They enjoyed visiting their older sister in Bognor Regis and exploring Bosham, Emsworth and Chichester and Havant.
As they were always together and often visited the same places including pubs and cafes regularly, they became quite well known to many people, standing out as identical twins of a ‘certain age’.
With Marks & Spencer being one of their favourite shops, they were certainly known in several of their branches with some of the longer serving staff members still asking after them now.
Fortunately, Beryl and Barbara were able to get together at the care home this year to celebrate their birthday along with their younger sister and a great day was had by all.