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


27. 27

It was six o’clock when the funeral people came, Joe let them in and they brought the coffin that he had chosen and went into the bedroom then one of them came out and asked if Joe wanted to let them take his wife to the chapel of rest.

Joe nodded and they walked slowly out of the house and placed the coffin in the back of the hearse. Joe watched as they drove away.


It was nine o’clock when both of his brothers arrived; they both embraced their brother when they saw him.”

“How has Mary Jane taken the news?

“Very badly I’m afraid.”

“Catherine sends her condolences.”

“I have to go and tell her mother and father; with all of this I haven’t had the time.

“It’s alright Joe; Mary Jane has told them and they are coming over shortly.”

There was another knock at the door and George was going to answer it but Joe asked if he could go.”

Joe walked down the short passageway to open the door when he opened it Tom and Jane were at the door.”

Come in said Joe; I’m sorry I couldn’t have told you sooner but I had to cycle to North Shields to register you know; and then set the date for the funeral which is on Monday at ten o’clock. They have been and taken her away to the chapel of rest. Give me a moment and we can all go up if you wish.

“Joe you stay here Alan and I will take them said George.”

“This is your new Grand daughter.”

“What is she called?

“Marina and little George have named her Helen Emily Rose Donnelly.”

“Isn’t she beautiful they both said she looks like our Emily too?

Jane wiped the tears from her eyes and asked where Marina and George were?

“They went to their room about an hour ago I think they are asleep.”

“Let them rest Joe said Jane.

“Now the children can stay at my house for a while if you wish Joe the funeral maybe too upsetting for them.

Mary Jane is coming over tomorrow and so is Catherine.”

“Alright Jane until after the funeral then I will have to look for a nanny as you cannot be expected to look after the children indefinitely.”

George had made a pot of tea for everyone and Alan had made sandwiches with ham and peas pudding.

Joe actually ate a sandwich he hadn’t eaten all day and hunger got the better of him. He drank his tea and then put some coal on the fire.

The noise of the coal bucket woke Helen up and Jane picked her up.

“I think someone needs her nappy changing.

“Come here Joe you need to see how this is done.”

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