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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“I go now; Vaarwell.”


“Gutbye, I learning all the time.”

“Alina came back inside and shouted for the children.

“You dinna ready ya.”

“YOUR DINNER IS READY explained Marina




“Your dinna is ready ja. I learning.”

Alina was about to get the plates and Joe stopped her.

No; Marina and George do this Alina and they clear up after; they both must learn how to keep house in case anything should happen to me. Would you teach them how to cook?

Ya I teach, if they teach me English speak.


Alina copied the words then smiled at Joe

“Gud ja?”

“G O O D.”


“That’s it.

“I make brood.

“B R E A D.

“Bred she said.

Joe nodded as Marina and George had set the table with four bowls and spoons.

Alina placed the large pot of fish stew on a mat in the middle of the table. She served the stew and cut the fresh bread she had baked earlier.

Marina tasted the stew and looked at her father and told him it was nice.

They all sat at the table and ate the meal together.

Joe had two big bowls full of the stew which he had never had before.

He sat contented as George cleared the table. He placed the bowls in the sink so that hot water could be heated to wash them up.

Helen woke and began to cry and Alina stopped what she was doing and went to the baby; she picked her up and felt the nappy to see it was wet then smelled.

“Helen changing now.”

“Helen needs changing said Marina.”

“Yes; said Alina as she hurried to get a clean nappy and a flannel, and warm water and soap.

“Marina you come with Alina.”

“Marina followed Alina into her room where she showed her how to change her sister. She allowed Marina to put some cream on her bottom to stop nappy rash and some talcum powder. Then she folded the nappy into a triangle and sat Helen in it then folded the corners in then took a large safety pin she opened it. She showed marina how to put her hand inside so when the pin was placed onto the nappy it wouldn’t pierce the baby’s skin.

All the while she sang away so Helen was listening to the sounds and didn’t cry. Then she was placed into some baby night wear.

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