The birth of triplets was a rare occurrence in the 19th century. When Mrs Agnes Melville, wife of Mr Ninian Melville of Kogarah gave birth to triplets in February 1895, the newspaper Truth gave the credit to Kogarah itself, as a ‘rising suburb on the Illawarra line’. It stated “Strong sea-air, the invigorating ozone, the picturesque sea-beach, and the general climatic clemencies of the romantic little suburb are chief contributing factors,” which rather underplays the role played by Mrs Melville. There was a politician of the day with the same name, Ninian Melville, which was the cause of some misunderstanding, and one jester accused the politician of ‘creating his own constituency’.
In some cases in the nineteenth century, multiple births qualified the parents for what was known as The Queen’s Bounty. Queen Victoria would give £3 to the family, but only on condition that the infants survived, and only if the parents were respectable but too poor to meet the unforeseen demands of having extra mouths to feed. In the case of the Kogarah triplets, the Melvilles would not have been considered for this charitable donation.
The Melvilles lived at Gloucester Road, Kogarah for many years, and had three older children before the triplets arrived. A photo of the triplets, Rose, Daisy and Sydney, celebrating their 21st birthday appeared in the St George Call on 4 March 1916, p5. Unfortunately Sydney died in 1921, aged 26, of pneumonia and pleurisy.