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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“When the children had both eaten their meal they got ready for bed and their father came in and read them a story before turning out the light and closing the door.

The children are really taking to you Alina.

“You think so; this is good ja?

“Yes this is good.












When the Saturday arrived the children were all excited; it was the first time they had ever been to a cinema; it was also Alina’s too.

Joyce Junghan came to look after Helen whilst the all went out.

“Ever the conservative; Alina made up some bottles of home made juice and put them in a bag she also made some peanut brittle for the children to eat.

They walked to the Coliseum which didn’t take them long.

They all sat in the cheaper seats because Alina refused to allow Joe to spend more money on seats in the stalls when they could see perfectly well from the cheaper ones.

The first film starred Shirley Temple in Heidi about a little girl who goes to live in the Alps with her grandfather after she gets sick. The second feature was in Technicolor and was the first to be shown. The children and everyone in the cinema were captivated by this new conception as Walt Disney created a masterpiece in “Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. It would change how people viewed cinema forever.

The children loved it and clapped and cheered at the end. What intrigued Joe was the Pathe News Reel which none of the children paid much attention to but both Alina and Joe did after it showed Adolf Hitler parading the might of the German Army in Berlin. Hitler now leader of the Nazi Party was saying how the Jews were responsible for unemployment. After being imprisoned for treason Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” outlining his political ideas. He gained more and more popularity and became leader. His speeches attracted many thousands. He placed the unemployed on a rearmament programme. He also used propaganda to drum up support using the Jews as the reason for the injustices to Germany and its people by the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1936 Adolf Hitler marched his army into Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

Hitler’s anti Semitic propaganda machine seemed invincible.


As Alina and Joe watched they knew that another World War was brewing.

They came out of the cinema afraid of what the future might hold for them and the children. If Joe was called up how would they live; who would take care of his children then?

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