Sheffield twins Olive and Doris have lived through 90 fascinating years – including a war, the Depression and austerity

A 90th birthday is cause for a special celebration – but when twins turn 90, the celebration is twice as big and twice as joyous.

By Rochelle Barrand
Thursday, 18 April, 2019, 10:17
Sheffield twins Olive Vokins (left) and Doris Rhodes (right), nee Wharton, have celebrated their 90th birthday.

Doris Rhodes and Olive Vokins, (nee Wharton), celebrated their milestone birthday surrounded by family – including each of their two daughters, Doris’ five grandchildren and two great grandchildren and Olive’s three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The pair were born on March, 30, 1929, in Barber Road, Walkley.

Doris’ daughter Helen Winning said her mum has told her that was quite the surprise for their parents, Ruth and Leonard.

She said: “It was Good Friday and their mother, Ruth, had a huge shock when, having given birth to Olive, the doctor said ‘wait a minute – there’s another one’. Twenty minutes later, Doris arrived.

The twins grew up in Crookes, where the family lived in Cobden View Road and later Truswell Road.

Helen said: “They had a happy childhood as the youngest in a family of six, with two older brothers and two older sisters.”

Sheffield twins Olive Vokins and Doris Rhodes, nee Wharton, have celebrated their 90th birthday. The pair are pictured at their sisters wedding as bridemaids.

Their father, Leonard, had been injured fighting in France in the First World War and worked as a tram driver for Sheffield Corporation for many years.

Their mother, Ruth, was fully occupied in bringing up a large family with limited means.

The twins went to Lydgate Lane School, which has now been open for more than 100 years. They were also regular attenders at the former Crookes Congregational Church.

When Doris and Olive were just ten-years-old, their early life was shattered by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

Sheffield twins Olive Vokins and Doris Rhodes, nee Wharton, have celebrated their 90th birthday.

Both their brothers joined the army and went away to war, and their older sisters worked in the factories making tools and munitions.

Helen said: “They both have vivid memories of taking cover in the air raid shelter in the middle of the night. They talk about how cold it was and how frightening it was to be woken up and rushed outside into the shelter in the garden.

“They also remember the Sheffield Blitz in December 1940, when they could see the bombs dropping and the city centre burning down in the valley from their vantage point up at Crookes. Schooling was disrupted too, with many lessons being held in private homes and no regular timetable.”

The girls left school at 14 and worked until they married; Doris married Norman in 1955 and Olive married Tom in 1956.

Sheffield twins Olive Vokins and Doris Rhodes, nee Wharton, have celebrated their 90th birthday.

Doris had a career in singing and gave concerts all over Yorkshire. She and Norman moved to York in 1999. Olive has lived her whole life in Sheffield. Both twins are now widowed.

Helen added: “The world is a very different place from when they were born.

“They could not have dreamed of the advent of television and pop culture, the growth of cars and the explosion of consumer goods today, the invention of computers and mobile phones and the creation of the world wide web.

“They have been ruled by three Kings and a Queen, seen 17 Prime Ministers and experienced the demise of the British Empire.

“They have lived through the Depression, the Second World War, the austerity of the fifties, the swinging sixties, the strikes of the seventies, the eighties, nineties and noughties.

“They are now into their tenth decade. They are still full of life, although as both of them said on their birthday, they are surprised to still be here.”

Sheffield twins Olive Vokins and Doris Rhodes, nee Wharton, have celebrated their 90th birthday. They are pictured outside their house as young girls.

The duo marked their special day with cards, presents, balloons, champagne and birthday cake.