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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Father Michael from St Georges Church, the man who had married them ten years before was now responsible for burying his wife. During the service Father Michael talked about Emily Rose’s life. How now in death she still lived in spirit with everyone who knew her. The coffin was lowered into the ground and Joe walked away to hide his tears in front of everyone.

He didn’t go back to the club where there was a wake his brothers Alan and George and their wives. Catherine and sister Mary Jane had come from Ireland for the funeral.

They took care of things in the club as Joe went home and then held his daughter Helen in his arms and kissed her forehead she looked upon her father as he laid her in the pram and Alina walked along side him as he proudly pushed the baby into town to the market where he was going to buy material for clothing for Alina but she stopped him and pointed to a table where there was some second hand clothes.

“This is goede, we buy this at less price. “ I make good clothes from this ja.

Joe paid pennies for the six dresses instead of shillings for the new material.

He did buy her some new shoes size eight.”

She picked out a coat from another second hand stall which she said she could adapt and make it into modern style. Joe gave her wages and she went and bought Helen a rattle and some new baby clothes she bartered with the men on the stalls until she got the prices that she’d asked for.

Joe smiled knowing that they couldn’t fool the Dutch girl. They walked along the promenade to St Mary’s light house where he gave her a history lesson about the North East.

“I should like to see this castle you talk so much about Joo.”

“Next time I think we ought to be getting back.”

“They walked back to the cottage and George and Alan was the house.”

Joe went inside and Alina followed him in. Both Catherine and Mary Jane stared at Alina.

This is my housekeeper Alina Claasen she is Dutch and a very good worker.

“She’s very young to be a housekeeper isn’t she said Mary Jane. “ I mean people are going to talk aren’t they”

They will say that you have brought a young woman into your home to replace my sister Joe.”

“I don’t care what people say Mary Jane; Alina is staying; she does an excellent job and is good with the children.

“People will ask what else she is good at too.”

“Well let them; I know different.”

“Mother and father are not going to be happy either.”

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