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


17. 17

Once Joe came ashore he dragged the boat further up the beach then tied it with a chain to a rock and locked it. The net was then packed into a large sack and placed in the shed on the beach. He then took out the fish boxes that he’d picked up from the quayside and began to fill them up the crabs and lobsters were placed in a sack then tied up. He then pushed the barrow to the market. Joe came home with over one hundred pounds.

Joe went out every day because the weather was good and he made nearly seven hundred pounds. This was a fortune; this money would go into the bank and help to see him through the winter when it was too dangerous to go out.


On the Saturday he met up with Emily Rose again they went to the picture house called the Boro’ to the locals where they watched “The Secret of Shame” a racial based movie starring Harry Henderson and Lucia Lynn Moses and then a romantic movie called “Love “ starring John Gilbert and Greta Garbo.

They sat at the back of the cinema where other courting couples were.

Joe kissed Emily Rose during the Pathe News commercials’ but watched the films.

They held hands during the film Emily Rose’s hand was swallowed up in Joe’s big hand.

He took a bus to see Emily home then returned on bus that would take him to where he lived. Joe could drive; his brother had taught him but he never considered buying his own until now.


Over the months that passed Emily and Joe would be seen more and more together then one afternoon Joe pulled up in a car. He knocked on the door and Jane answered.

“Hello Joe please come in Emily Rose is just getting ready.

“I see you have bought yourself a motor car?

“Yes Mrs Higgins is Mr Higgins about?

“Yes do you wish to speak with him?

“Yes please.”

“Tom Higgins sat in the arm chair as Joe walked into the living room.”

“Hello Joe what can I do for you?

“I’ve come to ask you for permission to marry your daughter Sir.”

“Please sit down Joe.”

“Thank you Joe swallowed up the chair with his huge frame.

“Tell me Joe how do you propose to keep my daughter; you know that she has just turned twenty last month and you are both very young.

“I love Emily Rose Mr Higgins and she loves me. We want to be together.

“Where would you both live?

“In my cottage of course.”

It is big enough; it was my late fathers and now it is mine. My mother brought me and my two brothers up in it.

 “What about you’re other brothers Joe?

“What about them they have enough money to buy their own houses.

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