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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would be met by Army personnel. It took six hours to reach Dover. He shook hands with each of the men on board as the disembarked.

Then Joe headed for home; he was dirty, sweaty, and completely exhausted.

As the night fell he checked the fuel and refilled the tanks again. Then he checked the oil he used the dip stick and discovered that it needed a little too so he filled that up as well. At four in the morning he could see land and he checked his compass. He wasn’t far off now he thought; Joe shook the tiredness out of his body and used his sailing instinct to guide him home.

By seven o’clock the boat was tied up the Life Boat Mirabelle coxswain Ralph Mason Greeted him as he stepped off the boat.

 “Were you in Dunkirk Joe?

“Joe nodded.”




Joe walked up the bank to his house then silently entered the house by the back door

He slipped off his coat and left it over the chair then went to his bedroom he undressed; lay on top of the bed and was asleep in five minutes.


It was some eighteen hours later when Joe woke up he felt a lot better now that he’d managed to sleep. It was twelve o’clock he looked outside his window and it was dark. Had he really slept that long he thought?

 He went into the scullery and Alina had left him a note.

“Dear Joe; we are so glad that you are back safe with us. We have all missed you very much. I made you some stew in the pan if you are hungry.”

“Helen is in bed with me as the crib is too small for her now; I filled the pans with water in case you needed a bath. See you in the morning. Alina.

Joe felt the water in the pans on the stove and the water was perfect he filled up the tub then got in with his legs resting on the floor beside the fireside he took the flannel and soap and washed the smoke and oil from his hair and skin on his body. The water felt soothing to him as he played back the events of the last eight days.

He felt sorry for those who had lost their lives and those who he had rescued that would be going back to war after a few days leave. War was bloody hell he thought to himself. Joe stepped out onto the wooden floor and dried himself then shaved and brushed his teeth. Joe found a clean pair of under wear then stirred the pan of stew. He cut some bread then poured some of the stew into a bowl and began to eat. Just then the door opened and Alina stood at the door.

“Joo I’m sorry I didn’t hear you get up until a moment ago.”

“I see you found the stew I made you.”

“Thanks Alina; I was hungry.”

“Would you like tea?

“Yes please;

Alina walked past him in her night dress and he could see her body through the flimsy material.

She made him the drink then came and held it out for him. He stood up and took hold of the tea then placed it on the table he drew Alina to him and held her in his arms he kissed her softly in her lips and she trembled in his arms.

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