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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“That would be twelve shillings and six pence per week from eight in the morning until five o’clock.




“I am a fisherman and I would need someone who can work from six in the morning until seven at night.”

“Can I take your name and address please.”

“Yes its Joe Donnelly; I’m twenty nine and my address is number six Bank Top Cullercoats.

“Thank you Mr Donnelly we will send some clients for you to interview this afternoon.

“Thank you.”

Joe came out of the booth then took the break off the pram and headed back home.

He came in the back way so he could see if the washing was dry.

He checked it and it was not quite dry so he left them out a while longer.

Joyce returned half an hour later with his shopping and the poor woman was sweating with carrying so many bags.

“Here Joyce sit down; I have just made some tea.

“Lovely I’m gagging.”

Joe poured the tea as Joyce unpacked the shopping.

She had bought flour, butter, eggs, sausage, bacon, and fresh milk.

It the other bag was a pack of nappies, Vasoline, gripe water, a teething ring and I little teddy bear.

“I bought the bairn the teddy.”

 That lot came to four pounds and ten pence Joe, here’s your change.”

Joe gave her a pound and said that was for looking after the children and helping out.

“Give me ten bob Joe; that is more than enough.”

Joyce gave Joe the pound note back and Joe replaced it with a ten shillings note.

“I need to get you the number of the labour exchange.”

“No need Joyce I rang them a half hour ago and they are sending me people to interview.

“Joe, please don’t settle for the first one that comes because there are some right battle axes I can tell you.”

Ask them how long they were in their last job. If the were only employed for a month then they are not for you, they must have been sacked because of something.”

Joyce sipped on her tea as she thought about what other question’s to ask.

“Ask how far away she lives because you may need her urgently and if she lives too far away then it will take her an hour or more to get here. You need someone who lives in close proximity to you.” If they can live in then that would be better. “You have a spare room which you can fix up.”

If you come back from work and she’s sitting down, she’s not the one for you either Joe. You need someone who can cook, clean, and look after your kids and treat them with kindness.

How much did the job shop tell you the going rate was?

“Twelve shillings and six pence Joyce.”

“Pay her over the going rate and she will work harder for you.”

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