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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“Ja I will do this Joo.”

“Would you mind if I took them some of your pasties to eat?

“No, you take Joo.”

“Thank you; I think there’s a cake tin under the sink cupboard.”





Alina found the tin and packed some of the pastries inside Joe placed them into his haversack. He found his bicycle clips then fastened them on to hi trousers before setting off. He kissed his children and told Alina that he would be back for eleven.

“I fill you a bath so you can bathe Ja?

Joe took a couple of bottles of beer with him as well as he took down his bicycle and placed the dynamo over the tyre then set off.

It took him fifteen minutes to get to Peters house where he knocked on the back door where it was answered by Mary.

Hello Joe, come in.”

“It’s getting colder I think it’s time for my top coat on the next time I come.”

“Where is the old bugger then Mary?

“He’s readin’ the papers as usual Joe you would think his bum was glued to that chair.” Here my Dutch housekeeper baked today too. I’ve brought you some down for your supper and a bottle of beer each.”

Thanks Joe; and thank your house keeper as well.” What’s her name anyway?

“You call her Alina; she’s very young Mary but she is marvellous with the kids.

If it makes you happy Joe I am too. “Go through into the living room and I will pour you a beer out.”


“Hello Joe; thought I heard your voice; how you bearing up lad?

“I’m okay mate; you know that I’m always going to miss Emily Rose being around but each day gets easier mate and I can talk about her without getting upset.”

Mary came through with the beers and asked Joe to sit down in the big chair which was bought specially for him from an old man who had died. Peter got the job of clearing out his house from his son who had no need of the furniture. His son had told him if there was anything that he wanted then he could have first pick. Once the furniture was sold then he split the proceeds with him. Peter kept the big chair and a table, all his kitchen wear and some bedding. Everything else was sold.

Have you managed to get out then since Emily Rose died?”

“Yes I went out on Sunday Peter, I did well; I made nearly three hundred pounds.

“I even gave the skipper of the Mermaid fish.”

I am going out tomorrow if the weather is alright I will drop you some haddock in tomorrow.

“Good lad; listen I have something for both the kids for Christmas. “ I emptied a house the other day from this really posh woman’s house in Jesmond Dene and there was a load of toys from when her children were young. There was a beautiful dolls house that Marina can have and there’s a tricycle with a bin on the back for Geordie.” They are practically brand new.

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