The Black Middens

A story of love and struggle to bring up three children during the war years.
Joe Donnelly, a coble fisherman from cullercoats meets the girl of his dreams when Emily Rose Higgins crashes into him on her bicycle whilst out with her sister Mary Jane. Joe and his brother George, a captain in the British Army ask the two girls out to a dance at the plaza in Tynemouth and they both fall in love. Alan Donnelly the youngest of the brothers is in the Northumberland Fusiliers. it is not long before they all get married. Emily Rose has two children but there are complications during the birth of her third child and she dies leaving Joe to bring up Marina, George, and Helen the newborn child.
After some attempts to try and hire a nanny come house keeper Joe hires a dutch girl called Alina Classen whose parents were both killed by the Germans in the first world war.
Not speaking much English Alina works very hard and teaches the children to speak Dutch and they in turn teach her English. What dev


15. 15

Tell me more about these men of yours said Jane as the two women sat down in the living room.

“You go first said Emily Rose.”

Both women proceeded to tell their mothers everything about the two young men.


The two women lay on the bed that and talked for an hour about Joe and George;

before getting ready for bed.

The women worked in a retail clothes store in Newcastle they had to take the bus every morning but they enjoyed the job. They were paid forty shillings each per week (£2.00) and worked from eight in the morning until five o’clock each night apart from a Saturday when they worked until twelve noon.

However they had to pay there mother ten shillings each for their keep, then there was stocking to buy which was 2/-11d around 25p today. A new blouse was 30/- £1.50p and a new dress 50/- £2.50p. Shoes were 30/- Make up like eyebrow pencils, lipstick, and blusher was 20/-


Their boss Mr Perin was very strict with the girls; they had to be polite even though some of the customers were not. In fact some were very rude to them. Mr Perin had impeccable manners was always punctual and demanded the same from his staff.

Every penny had to be accounted for and stock was checked on a regular basis.

La Carina (The Beauty) had a great clientele with customers coming back time and time again for the latest fashions. The shop had been open since 1901 and prided itself on producing all the latest fashions from Paris and Barcelona. Mary Jane and Emily Rose had both worked there since leaving St Anslums School. They saved up their money in order to but the end of rage items which were sold at a fraction of the price. Emily Rose was good with a sewing machine and many of the clothes they wore were made into different styles each year so that they would last longer.

They did receive good tips from customers which all went in a jar and was shared out between the three of them at the end of the year.

Emily Rose loved Christmas time in the shop where she and Mary Jane would decorate the window and the inside of the shop.

She loved all the hustle and bustle as parents would scurry around trying to pick up a bargain for their children in the snow. She would stop outside of Fenwick’s to watch the puppets in the windows and the music.

Christmas would soon be here she thought as they stood in the cold wind waiting for the bus. It would be time to wear winter clothes soon said Mary Jane as the wind blew against their skirts. They had to place their hands on the hem to stop it blowing up.

Finally the bus arrived and they got on. They were lucky to get a seat some mornings as the bus filled up with workmen and women.

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