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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27th of May 1940 Joe was going to join many hundreds of boats going in to rescue wounded men at Dunkirk. He took off his nets to make as much room as possible for the men.

He kissed each one of his children then said goodbye to Alina.

“Doe voorzichtig; Ik hou van jou Joo.”

“What was that?

“I say take care, I love you.”

Joe went to her and kissed her on the mouth, then jumped into the boat and started the engine.

Alina stayed waving until the boat was just a speck then turned and took the children back home.






Three hours later Joe checked his compass; he was on the right course then he saw two other small boats and he waved. They waved back and he checked his oil and diesel. Joe had brought plenty with him to get there and back. He had filled both tanks up before he left so he wasn’t worried about fuel.

After eight hours at sea it was two o’clock in the afternoon he was now joined by many small craft; all going to Dunkirk. Joe felt a sense of pride that these men were willing to risk their own lives to save others. Joe now felt he was part of the war.

Joe could see hundreds of larger ships and boats ahead of him.

Joe took a sip of water and ate a pasty that Alina had made for him in the hamper she had baked bread and made sandwiches, pies, buns, tea cakes, and buttered scones. There was enough food for at least thirty men.

Many of the larger ships were signalling with Morse code.

Up a head Joe head an explosion as a ship hit a mine and was blown to pieces.

Joe kept his eyes peeled for floating mines; he’d fashioned a pole long enough to push them away if he saw any.

The day wore on and Joe wanted to stop and sleep but he knew he couldn’t; men’s lives were reliant upon him and the others.

He swilled his face with sea water to save on the fresh water that the men would need.

That woke him up and his concentration returned.

As the boats got nearer to Dunkirk Joe saw the enormity of the task ahead. The German guns bore down on the beach. It was illuminated with the shells and star shells that looked like the worst bonfire night he’d ever witnessed.

When all the boats got there they waited for the order to go in. Wave after wave of boats went in and risked their lives as machine gun fire rained down upon them Joe got nine men on board then went back to the hospital ship then he went back again and again.

On the first day some 7.667 men were rescued. By the eight day 338.226 men came home. Joe had twelve men in his boat six on either side packed like sardines but not one of them complained. They were just happy to be going home. The men kept watch for German U boats and aircraft. Joe fed the men and passed them water to drink. They couldn’t thank Joe enough. He had to take the lads to Dover where they 

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