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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“Who did you stay with in England?

“Families all around; no one family.” In Akmaar I live in Holland.

“You come from Akmaar in Holland; I see.”

Joe went to pour the tea and Alina stopped him.

“I make please.”

“I make food; you eat?

“No I’ve already eaten out.”


“Have you eaten anything? Joe point to her stomach and asked if she was hungry.”

“Hungry yes; I ate brod.”

“You like bread yes?

“Brod good yes;

“Joe got up and went to the larder and brought out the bread; some butter, ham and cheese.

“I make yes.”

“Alright go ahead.”

Alina cut four slices and made a sandwich for them both she looked around then found two plates.

Then she handed the sandwich to Joe.

“You eat yes?

“Okay; I will eat it.”

“Good yes?

“Yes it is very nice.”

Alina smiled; her teeth were perfect; her hair was tied in braids and she wore a red ribbon in her hair. The dress that she wore had a tear at the back. If this was her best dress what other clothing did she have?”

“Can you read English Alina?

“Little bit.”

“I will make a list of things to do so you will know.

“Baby feed now yes?


“I feed then change.”

Alina made up a bottle expertly then ran it under a cold tap and then stood it in a jug of water. She tested it on her arm then nodded.

“Then she lifted Helen out of he crib and began to feed her. She sang a Dutch folk song to the child as Helen drank greedily from the bottle.

Then she winded the child before changing her.

Joe had got everything that she would need and then showed Alina where it was all kept.

“I keep baby in my room yes?

“She is called Helen.

“Helen is nice name.”

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