IT was a rare achievement considered fit for the King’s written approval.

Pregnant Isabel Kilner knew she was expecting a child when she went into labour on Christmas Eve 1940 - and she ended up with triplets.

Now her three grown up children have celebrated their 80th birthday.

David Kilner, and his sisters Margaret and Jennifer joined together - via Zoom - for a virtual meeting on the morning of Christmas Eve.

David, who lives at Riding Mill, is still amazed at the remarkable achievement which led to his mother receiving the King’s Bounty - a payment of £3 and a letter from King George VI.

“She was only expecting one,” said David, “But the doctor told her there was a lot of movement for one, so my mother braced herself for a second.

“After giving birth to twins, she relaxed which is quite understandable in the circumstances, but she quickly had to re-focus because another was on the way.

“Of course there were no scans in those days. Things were very different but it was quite an achievement and something we are all very proud of.”

It’s also remarkable that some eight decades later, all three were able to meet during one of the most challenging years in living memory.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, David was unable to meet up in person with Jennifer, who lives in Gosforth, and Margaret, in Edinburgh.

He explained: “It would have been lovely to meet up properly, but my nephew Peter, who lives in Japan, organised a Zoom meeting for us.

“It just goes to show what can be done with technology now and it enabled us to celebrate such a special occasion.”

Born in Walkerville, Newcastle, the triplets moved to Heaton with their parents at the age of eight.

Their father, Wilfred Kilner, was a solicitor, and was a co-founder of the law firm Hay & Kilner which continues to operate from Newcastle.

The King's Bounty letter, dated January 3, 1941, said that a cheque for £3 was enclosed - a substantial sum during wartime Britain and the equivalent of over £150 in today's money.

It read: "The keeper of the Privy Purse has received His Majesty's commands to pay the King's Bounty to Mrs Isabel M. Kilner. The enclosed cheque for three pounds is accordingly forwarded, with His Majesty's good wishes for the future welfare of the children."

The family still have the treasured letter, printed on official paper, with reference to both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

The siblings’ older brother John, died in 2016 at the age of 78.