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 gave her ten pounds he told her that it was for shopping and to buy herself something nice from the market.”

“You go fishing tomorrow?

“If it if fine yes I must because I must make money to see us through the winter; do you understand? When the weather is bad I cannot fish and we have no money.

“Yes I understand Joo but ik maak me zorgen wanneer u naar zee.”

Pardon what did you say?

“I say I worry when you go to sea.”

“Don’t worry Alina; I have been going to sea since I was a boy with my father.”






“Who will look after the children’s if anything should happen to you Joo.”

I cannot live here then, they would send me away.

“No they wouldn’t I have already told my brothers that if anything should happen to me then they are to let you stay and bring up the children.” But please do not talk like that Alina, nothing is going to happen to me.”

“You don’t understand Joo; I have no one; no family apart from this. You all mean so much to me.”

Now go fetch Marina and George then we eten ja?

Alina smiled then went outside to fetch the children; while she was gone Joe set the table and put on the kettle. He washed his hands and face in the sink then dried him self then sat down.

Dag Vader, said Marina and George as they came in.

“What does that mean then?

“It means Hello father in Dutch; Alina is teaching us.”

“Good I am learning Dutch too; eten is klaar?

“Goede Vader; we hebben honger.

“You learn very fast; you will be fluent in two languages before long.”

“Ja we zullen.”

“Yes we all will; said their father, thanks to Alina.”


Alina brought a beef stew to the table and some freshly baked bread.

“I have told Alina that we will all go to the cinema to see a film on Saturday morning is that alright?

“Yes, will we be going with Alina?

“Only if you want her to go.”

“We do, don’t we George?

“Ja Vader.”

“Right then the cinema it is; if Joyce will look after your sister.”

“How do you say this beef stew is lovely in Dutch Alina?

“Dit Stoverij is mooi?

“The children repeated the statement. Then added wat voor pudding Alina?

“We have some doughnuts; did I say right?

“Yes Alina said the children.”

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