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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When the films finished Joe helped his wife to his feet. The little bald man saw the size of Joe and quickly vacated his seat and left with his wife.

Emily giggled as she saw the bald man hide behind his wife as they went out of the cinema. Joe Walked across the road with his wife as they saw the bus pull in at the stop.

A man moved to allow his wife to sit down as Joe had to bend both head and shoulders to get in. “No matter how many times he got on a bus he still got stared at. He stood because he would have taken up three seats not two. Normally he would have sat Emily on his knee but in her condition he thought better of it.

When the conductor came around he took Joes fare then joked that he could never get a job as a bus conductor; to which Joe replied; I wouldn’t want to be one.

When it came to letting people off it was a bit of an ordeal trying to get around the big man to get off. Joe was pleased when the bus came to their stop and they could get off.

Joe’s neck was killing him with bending down; he circled his head to relieve the stiffness. Then took Emily’s hand and escorted her across the road to their cottage.

Over the coming months Emily Rose became too big to go out; she had to waddle around the cottage. Marina was helping with the washing and George would run to the shops for his mother whilst Joe went out fishing in order to bring in money.

The night he came in from sea Emily wasn’t well at all and he asked her to go and have I lie down but she ironed him a clean shirt and put out the children’s clothes for school the next morning.


Joe stopped the bicycle where he broke down into tears his wife was dead; his love; his life. He walked the bike down to Howard Street then parked the bike outside the registry office.

He went inside to the desk where a woman took the death certificate from him and filled in the register.

“I am sorry for your loss said the elderly lady; can I recommend the Co-op funeral directors as they will take care of everything for you.

“Thank you.”

Joe left then pushed his bike up the street until he came to the Co-op he spent over half an hour choosing coffin for his wife and the flowers; then there were the costs.

He was surprised at how much that it cost for a funeral but paid it anyway. He wanted the best for his wife. When everything was arranged he found a phone box. He dialled the number and waited for an answer he was put through to captain George Donnelly’s office.

“Hello Captain Donnelly speaking.”

“Hi George it’s me Joe I have bad news; Emily Rose died this morning.”

“Oh no; I’m sorry Joe; Listen I will see if I can get away tonight.

“Will you tell our Alan for me?

“Yes Joe; leave it to me.

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