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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“Joe carried the crib and placed it along side Alina’s bed.






“I will be fishing tomorrow in my boat and I will be back at six o’clock. He pointed at the clock.

“You bring fish for dinner tomorrow; I make.”

“Okay; I’m going to bed now alright; I will see you tomorrow. Goodnight Alina.”

“Sleep good Joo.”

Alina took Helen into her room then closed the door.

Joe smiled as he went to his room then undressed and got into bed.”


Joe didn’t usually go out fishing on a Sunday but given this was the first time he had had the opportunity he was taking it. Maybe he could make some money if there weren’t many boats going out. He pulled the boat out to the beach and into the shallows then hopped on board he raised the sail and the boat was carried out to sea.

The sea was relatively calm today it was as if Emily wanted him to have a relaxing day. He got to his pots and began to haul them in one at a time with leaving them out so long some of the pots had two and four of them had three lobsters in them. This was going to be a good day he thought. The crab pots were even better and he took on board over sixty crabs they were almost to the top of his large basket that he put them into. If he could make £200 pounds today then that would pay for the funeral tomorrow and then he could start a fresh.

Joe tried to put Emily from his mind but she kept returning and he would see her face on the water as he cast his nets smiling back at him.

“Why did you leave me like this Emily.” he said out loud expecting a reply that never came. The tears streamed down his face again. He thought about the times they had spent together with the children and how they all went to Blackpool to the pleasure beach and the sands. The children went on the donkey rides with their mother and building sand castles together. These were memories that he would treasure.

He opened his sandwich box and ate the last of the ham and pea’s pudding then poured himself out some tea from his flask. He could see another boat about two miles off; it looked like the Mermaid, They were salmon fishing. There was a two man crew on board. They would be lucky to catch salmon at this time of year he thought.

By late august they would have finish spawning and would be heading back to the Atlantic Ocean. The salmon didn’t taste as good after the fish had spawned and the flesh was more a light pink colour instead of red. He watched as the Mermaid pulled in her nets and she only produced four fish. They would be lucky to make £30 pounds. The diesel would have cost the skipper about seven pounds. So that was only £23 pounds for six hours fishing. Hardly enough to feed two families on he thought.

 He rounded up on his own net then began to haul it in. He hoped that his luck was better than theirs.

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