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Betty has experience in being an international celebrity

BETTY Sara once won a competition for the woman who looked most like the Queen, but the dignified English-born grandmother says she cannot imagine anything worse than actually stepping into the reigning royal's shoes.

"I wouldn't have her life for anything," Betty says with a shudder.

For most people this would a throwaway remark, but unlike most, Betty Sara has first hand experience of being an international celebrity.

The mother of the Sara quads, the first quadruplets to be born alive and survive in Australia, Betty found herself the centre of an international media storm, when her four babies were born in 1950.

The main street of Bellingen was jammed with journalists, photographers and newsreel crews teams and Betty found herself on the front page of newspapers and magazines across the world.

She said when told she was having four babies, her first thought was "how everyone is going to look at me."

"I was really quite a reserved and shy person," Betty said.

Doctors conspired to break the news to her gradually, by telling her: "you are definitely going to deliver twins and more than likely triplets."

But she was not surprised there were other rumours in the small town.

"I knew I was so big for some reason or other," Betty said.

"I was huge - I couldn't see my feet."

Fortunately Betty said her unusually large pregnancy was uneventful, with the babies reaching full term, but she did not expect the birth itself to take three days.

In an 80 hour marathon in the 40-bed Bellinger River District Hospital in August 1950, Betty produced four non-identical babies- Alison, Philip, Judith and Mark.

She said she sympathised with her older son Geoffrey, whose remark at the age of four on meeting his new siblings was: "can we give some of them back? "

The birth was the beginning of years of "stardom" for Betty, her husband Percy, who was the Bellingen ambulance superintendant and their children.

In an effort to limit their public exposure, they signed an exclusive 16 year deal with The Australian Womens Weekly which Betty said was respected by other news organisations. The money went into a trust for the children.

Betty dismisses the work involved in looking after five children under four - " I had lots of help" but she does remember her battles with the wood-burning kitchen stove.

Her fame landed Betty a job when the family moved back to Sydney and her children were at school- she went to work for the London Pram Company, a shop selling baby supplies.

"I think it was a bit of a publicity stunt -'Come in and meet the mother of the quads'," She remained with the company for a number of years.

Betty said she was glad when their fame subsided.

"After a couple of years other things were happening and we were not a priority."

Betty and Percy Sara returned to the Coffs Coast before Percy's death in 1983.

Since then Alison has moved to the Coffs Coast and now lives just around the corner from Betty .

Recently all her children, who have now reached retirement age themselves and her grandchildren, returned to Sawtell for Betty's 95th birthday.

"We have had our us and downs like any family, but at the end of the road, everything seemed to work out," Betty said.

'ut she still shies away from publicity.

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