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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“Well that’s all my advice I can give you and if you get stuck give me a knock.”

“Thanks again Joyce.”

“You’re welcome Joe.” Now I would check that bairn; I think she is due a feed.”

“See you later.”

“Bye Joyce.”

“Joe put the food away in the pantry he made up another feed.

He tipped the bottle onto the outside of his thumb and index finger to check whether or not it was too hot; it was just right. Joe propped up Helen on his arm then began to feed her. Once he had done that he changed her again and put on a fresh nappy. Then he gently rocked her and she went off to sleep.

“Joe put her back into the crib then put more coal on the fire.

“He reminded himself that the coal men would be coming and that he would have to set money aside.

He eased himself back into the chair and closed his eyes. He was asleep within ten minutes.


He awoke with a jolt as he heard the door knocker he got up to answer it and standing at the door was a woman in her late fifties with a black coal bucket type hat and greying hair. She wore a black dress and grey shawl.

“Mr Donnelly?

“Yes; I’m Mr Donnelly.

“Miss Jacobs; I have been sent by the labour exchange.

“Please come in Miss Jacobs.

The woman walked through into the scullery.

“Please sit Miss Jacobs.”

The woman sat at the table as Joe began to ask her the questions that Joyce had suggested.

“I will tell you my terms Mr Donnelly.” I start at six prompt and finish at four o’clock on the dot I do not cook or clean but I will look after your children. I was brought up with the bible and your children will learn all about how Jesus saved the world.

I believe in discipline and good manners at all times.

“Can I ask you a question Miss Jacobs?

“Yes if you wish.”

“How long were you in your last employ?

Well I was there only three days because the children were insolent.”

And before that did you work for anyone else?

“Yes I worked for a priest for over ten years.”

“Did he have any children?”

 “Certainly not.”

“Why did you leave?

“Well there was gossip from the parish council.”

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