Cookstown Leap Year trio plan get together

Sonia Brown Cottage Flowers and Charlene Canavan Canavan school of Motoring
Sonia Brown Cottage Flowers and Charlene Canavan Canavan school of Motoring

It’s rare for Sonia Brown, Charlene Canavan and Joseph McElduff to celebrate a birthday on the day they were actually born.

Their status as leap year babies ensures that genuine birthday festivities are only possible once every four years.

The three ‘leapers’ - who live in the Cookstown area - celebrated their 36th birthdays on Monday, having been born on the same ward at the maternity unit in the Mid Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt, on February 29, 1980.

After their mums were discharged from the hospital everyone lost touch.

That was until Sonia - who runs Cottage Flowers in Orritor Street, Cookstown - happened to call in to Serephina Boutique round the corner in Oldtown Street about a year ago.

They were all preparing to celebrate their 35th birthdays at the time unaware of the connection.

“I was chatting with Charlene Canavan, who is a partner in the business, and she said it was her birthday and I asked her was she going anywhere nice,” recalled Sonia. “That’s when I first discovered we shared the same birthday.

“As we talked it came out that we were born in the same ward and hospital.”

Sonia explained that a customer in the shop happened to remark that she knew of another person whose birthday was on February 29.

“That was Joseph McElduff whose wife, Nichola, happens to work across the road in Caulfields Insurance,” she continued.

“I just thought it was very strange that two of us and the wife of the other should be working so close in the same part of Cookstown.”

Sonia, nee Pickering, said all three ‘leapers’ and their mums and families hope to have a get together in the near future.

“We will be trying to work out a date,” she went on. “Joseph is a civic engineer and works away a lot so it’s not easy getting a suitable date but we’ll come up with something.”

It will be the first time for them to be together since they were in the maternity unit at the Mid Ulster Hospital 36 years ago.

“It should be a good night,” said Sonia who is looking forward to the get together.

Sonia was the first of the trio to pop into the world on February 29 1980.

She arrived in the early hours of the morning. Her mum Geraldine gave birth at 3.55am to be exact.

Joseph and Charlene - who is also the driving instructor behind Canavan School of Motoring - were afternoon babies. He arrived with mother Bridie at 4.20pm, while Charlene was delivered to mum Elizabeth at 5.55pm.