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


16. 16

George Donnelly left for the Yorkshire Moors at nine o’clock that evening he hoped to reach the barracks at one in the morning. He had to be on parade at seven so it didn’t give him a lot of time. The Woleseley car was a sturdy thing and she had never broken down.

George pulled in at a garage and filled up the tank then headed off.

He surprised himself when he got to the barracks at twelve thirty two.”

George parked his car then headed straight to his quarters.

He unpacked his uniform then ironed his shirt for parade before going to bed.


Joe was up at dawn he walked down to boat after breakfast pulled the coble into the sea with the use of a cart then when he had taken the cart back he would up the sail and wait until the wind took her out to sea. The high bow allowed the boat to go out in big swells. His father told him that the Vikings were responsible for the boats design others say it was the Dutch. The boat was made from only four pieces of wood bent and shaped to form the boat. The flat bottom allowed it to be launched from the shallows on the beach. The bow of the boat had a tarpaulin cover that sheltered you from the wind and some of the rain.

The boat sailed steadily out until he reached the spot to drop his net. Then it would be left for up to six hours. In the mean time Joe would check both his lobster and crab pots. Once emptied, they would be baited and then set again. Joe looked for the marker buoy which would tell him where his pots were. The fist line of twenty pots gave him twelve good sized lobsters but two were hens that were spawning so they went back; now he had only ten.

The crab pots did better with forty good sized crabs. On the market they would fetch five bob each 25p. And the lobsters 10/- each 50p he would make £15 pounds from his pots today the bait of fish heads cost him nothing he also picked up herring that was discarded after they were being loaded by the ton onto wagons.

Joe came along with his sack and filled it up then kept a few dozen to make soused herrings done in vinegar. The mackerel he found was used for bait for lobsters and crabs. The oily fish attracted lobster and crabs to the pots so all he had to do was haul them on board take out the lobsters and crabs and throw another fish in the hole then drop the pot back over.


Whilst he waited for his nets Joe hand lined for cod using feathers and strips of mackerel. He was lucky today he had at least four boxes of codling from his hand line alone.

He pulled up the anchor then set about hauling the net. He was lucky today he caught five salmon in his net as well as and abundance of cod and plaice. Swinging his boat around, he put up the sails and then headed back in.

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