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


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Joe’s arms were getting tired now as thunder and forked lightening threatened to strike at any moment but he knew if he gave up now the tide would take him inexorably onto the Middens where the chances of his survival would be reduced dramatically. His body would be sent crashing into the rocks below him with the undertow. Joe prayed to God to strengthen his arms so that he could reach the shore.

He still was about a mile off he could see the Priory Castle so he knew that he wasn’t far away now. That seemed to give Joe the impetus to drive on, his thighs burned with the effort of pushing against the wooden board with his feet in order to get more leverage in his rowing. A large wave came toward him now and that would push him closer to the shore. It looked as if his luck had changed the rowing became easier as each wave took him nearer and nearer the beach.

Joe allowed the waves to take him in and when he reached the beach he let out a sigh of relief. He said a silent prayer and crossed himself. He was alive; he had made it.

Jumping out of the vessel he pulled on the rope until the boat was finally on the beach.

He had no time to lose so he ran up the beach then along to his friend’s house.

Joe was panting for breath as he banged on the door and waited.

Peter’s wife answered the door.

“Hello Mary is Peter in?

“Come in lad you look like a drowned rat.”

“Thank you Mary.”

Peter was sitting in the scullery at the table when Joe walked in.

“What the hell happened to you?

I got caught in the storm Peter my boat is on the beach at King Edwards Bay can you give me a hand to get her back to Cullercoats.”

“Whey aye man; but sit yourself down and have a hot cup of tea first you look froze to the bone.”

My clothes are wet Peter.”

“Never mind that Mary; get Joe a towel so he can sit down on it.”

Mary brought him two towels, one to dry himself down, and another to sit on.

“Here lad there’s a mug of tea and a bowl of soup for you. There some fresh baked bread as well.”

“You’re too kind; thank you Mary.”

“So how far out were you when the storm broke Joe?

“I was seven miles out; I had a hell of a job to get my nets in but I managed.

“It’s a good job you’re a big man Joe because a weaker man might have drowned out there. “ I saw how choppy it was when I came in at tea time. I’m glad I got back with the rags and woollens before that rain his us.”

“Speakin” of which Mary; is there anything that I brought in that would fit Joe?

I’m sure there is pet, I will go and have a look”

“Take off that big Gansey you’ve got on and I will go and fetch you some dry clothes.


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