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 children woke it was six thirty in the morning. Joe had gone to bed around four o’clock after feeding and changing Helen. He put the crib next to the bed so he would here her cry. She was a good baby she lay with her eyes open looking around the room and playing with the end of the blanket that covered her over.

The bed felt empty without his wife there and he could still smell her in the room with him.

Joe got up and carried Helen out into the scullery in her crib with him; he checked her nappy and it was wet and she had also soiled it too.

Marina helped get a clean one and the soiled one was rinsed then put into a bucket of water with a little bleach along with the rest.

Joe showed Helen how to change the nappy then set about making breakfast.

Once Helen was fed the children kept her amused until Joe did the washing and hung it out to dry.

Joyce knocked on the door and let herself in.

“Hello Joe; I thought you may need some help;

Hello you lot how’s your baby sister doing.”

“She fine Mrs Junghans.”

“Now if there is any shopping you need I’m going out later and I can pick them up for you.

“That’s good Joyce; I am going to have to sort a nanny out at some point as I cannot keep asking you to do things here.”

“I mean I can do a couple of hours each day until you find someone Joe.”

You need to go to the labour exchange in North Shields they will send you a nanny.

“Better still you can ring them; “I will have the number somewhere.”

“When I am out I will get you the creams and talc you will need and some gripe water in case she gets colic. “ Now you are going to need nappies because a dozen won’t be enough.”

 “Here is ten pounds Joyce just get what we need would you.”

“Alright Joe and I will get you a bit of shopping as well as there won’t be enough here.”

“Thank you Joyce.”

“No bother Joe, I will be back shortly.”

At eight o’clock Joe took the children to school and asked Marina to pick up her brother he pushed the pram with Helen up Mast Lane to the school; he gave them both money so they could get a school meal in case their mother had forgot to pay it. He gave them a penny each for biscuits in the break then kissed them goodbye.

Joe then walked to the corner of Mast Lane and looked in phone book and found the labour exchange.

“Hello labour exchange how can I help.”

Hello. My wife died recently and I was wondering if you could send me some people to interview for the post of housekeeper / nanny; to look after a baby, a four year old boy and a six year old girl.

How much is the going rate for housekeeper/ nanny’s these day’s

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