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 gone to school Alina washed the clothes then hung them out on the line. She looked for her friend Joyce but there was no sign of her today so she knocked on the door after she had hung out the washing. Edward came to the door and Alina asked if Joyce was alright.

“Joyce isn’t well pet; see took to her bed about three days ago.

“Have you had the doctor to see Joyce?

 “Yes, he says that she has been doing too much and that she needs to rest.

“I can help you get shopping if you need anything Edward?

“That would be good of you Alina. Well I go shopping this afternoon with Helen I will get whatever you need.

“Does she have washing as I will do that too before I go.

“No I’ve done that for her Alina. I will get the ration books for you give me a moment.





Alina stood in the queue waiting her turn in the shop and the different coloured ration books were used to buy things. The meat ration had to be got from the butcher. Then Alina went to the post office where she received five shillings for each child with that she bought more food. Then she went down to the market and picked George some trousers; he was growing fast and was already taller than Marina. For just six shillings she picked up enough material to make four dresses and one for herself. Then she bought herself some woman’s things that she would need once a month. They came in a brown paper bag. There was very little in the way of fresh fruit apart from apples and pears. Alina bought more dried fruit and peel so she could make cakes and fruit buns. She also made flap Jacks that the children liked with golden syrup for breakfast.

On the way home past the park Helen ever the enterprising woman noticed the fruit on the hedge rows. There were blackberries, red currants, rose hips, and damsons on a nearby tree. After school tonight they would go rambling and collect as much of this bounty as possible she thought. Alina already had a good supply of butter flour and sugar but bought more at the market.

Walking back from the shops she noticed Mary Thompson outside her house.

“Hallo Mary, what brings you here?

“I have bad news I’m afraid Alina immediately thought of Joe.

“It’s Peter, Alina he was badly wounded in Holland he’s been captured by the Germans and in a prisoner of war camp.

“Come in Mary I will make tea.”

“Thank you Alina you are so kind.”

Alina filled up the kettle then placed it on he stove.

“Have you eaten lunch today?

“No, I came straight over Alina I have some beef stew that I made last night and some bread I will share with you.”

That would be nice. Alina placed the pot of stew on the range then cut some bread whilst she waited for the water to boil.

“Have you been able to contact Peter since he was taken prisoner then?

“I have had one letter but it was from the home office to inform me of his capture.”

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