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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Alina fed the baby who took six ounces of feed every four hours before being replaced in her crib and rocked to sleep.

Joe had the radio on where “The Man in Black” was telling a story both Marina and George sat on each side of the leather armchair next to their father as the story was being told. When it was over; Joe kissed both his children and then put them to bed.






Joe asked Alina if she would like a glass of beer as he was having one.

“Okay said Alina; we drink beer in Holland also.”

Joe took a bottle of beer then using a bottle opener removed the top and poured out two glasses. He handed one to Alina who said Slainte as she clinked her glass against Joe’s. Joe replied Cheers.”

“Ik vanaag genoten.”


“I say I enjoy today Joo.”

“I know that we never discussed your wages Alina and the going rate for a housekeeper is 12/- 6d (72p) per week but I am going to pay you £1.00 pound a week;  

because you are looking after the children too.

“You are kind man Joo” I shall like it here.”

“We must see about getting you some new clothes; we cannot have you walking around in those rags.

“I make clothes in Holland for myself.

“Alright we can have a look in the market tomorrow after the funeral.”

“I don’t want to be in the house tomorrow until later do you understand Alina.

“Ja, het splijt me voor uw verlies”

“I say I am sorry for your loss Joo.

“Je moet haar gehouden hebben veel.”

Joe looked at Alina who said I say you must have loved her very much.”

“Yes I did.” Have you ever loved anyone like that?

Ja. me moeder en vader.”

“Your mother and father; have you never known the love of a man?

“Neit, no.”

Don’t worry you will one day Alina; and when that happens nothing in this world will mean more to you in the whole world.

Joe topped her beer up then refilled his own.”

“You love again another woman?

“Me I don’t think so; Emily Rose was special she blew me away the first time she crashed her bicycle into me.

“She very beautiful your wife; I look at photos.

“Yes she was.

“You have good memories ja.”

Joe smiled drank his beer then said good night to Alina.

“Goede nacht Joo.”

Joe went to his room and closed the door.

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