A WOMAN who made history and headlines worldwide when she gave birth to the world’s smallest surviving quadruplets has died aged 86.

Phoebe Meacham, of Woodcutters Avenue, Leigh, died surrounded by her family at Southend Hospital on Thursday afternoon, after contracting pneumonia following a fall.

She made headlines on January 3, 1962 when she gave birth at Rochford Hospital to Lucille, Yana, Christopher and Edward, who, between them, weighed just 12lbs 11oz.

At the time they said to be the smallest quadruplets known to have survived and made it into the Guinness Book of Records as well as being featured in newspapers worldwide.

The media followed “the famous Meacham quads” as they grew up, marking their christening, their first day at Fairways Infant School in Leigh and other milestones.


World-famous – at the hospital with the babies in 1962

After her death, son, Edward described his mother as a strong woman, who got on with her life despite the media attention.

He said: “My mother took it all in her stride. She was a very down-to-earth person and just dealt with it, I was always very proud of her.

“She would get letters from all over the world, many of them from America, where people loved trying to find out if they were related to her.

“Growing up, we had an awareness of what was going on but it wasn’t too intrusive.

“We had our photos taken at birthdays and things like that and there were television interviews, but my mother protected us from most of it. We quite enjoyed it.”


Milestone – the quads with their mother and grandmother on their first day at school, in 1966

Born to Nathan and Unity Buckley in Rayleigh in 1928, Mrs Meacham went to Eastwood High School and worked in a wartime barrage balloon factory.

In peacetime she became an auxiliary nurse, marrying husband, Ronald, at Southend Register Office in 1952. The following year their first child, Ronald, was born.

The family moved into the two-bedroom bungalow in Woodcutters Avenue a short while before the quads were born. Eight years later, the couple split up.

Later she worked in various jobs, mostly agricultural, and retired aged 62.

She leaves daughters Lucille Feron and Yana Ross, sons Christopher and Edward and grandchildren Kirsty 21, Alastair, 23 and Phoebe, 21.

First son, Ronald died of cancer five years ago.

Edward added: “She lived life to the full and loved her family – she never saw it as a burden.

“Right up to her accident she was as strong as an ox – she was a wonderful woman.”


Proud mum – Mrs Meacham with the quads when they turned 18 in 1980