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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“How will you manage?

“I don’t know Alina; I have my food allowance but I have no money to pay the rent.

Wait until Joe gets back; he will sort something for you I’m sure.”

“Joe has been so kind to us over the years I feel horrible asking him for help but what can I do? My family do not have any money and the little that Peter left me is now gone. This bloody war has everyone at sixes and sevens Alina.

The kettle boiled and Alina got up and stirred the stew then poured the water into the pot and then covered it with a tea cosy that she had made and left it to brew. She ladled the stew into two bowls then gave Mary some bread to eat with it.

This is lovely; thank you so much.”

“You are welcome.”

Joe didn’t return until three o’clock and was surprised to see Mary sitting with Alina.

Hello Mary, where’s Peter?

Peter joined up Joe and he’s be captured by the German’s.




“Is he alright then?

“He was wounded Joe that is all they are telling me.”

“I told him to stay out of the war; he’s too old to fight you know that as well as I do Mary.”

“He lied about his age Joe so they would take him.”

“The bloody fool said Joe; sorry Mary but we talked about this and he told me about 1917 in the first war when he was only twenty one years old. “ You would have thought he would have learned a valuable lesson then.”

“I think there were people talking Joe saying he should be doing his bit not going round on a horse and cart.”

“That’s what made him do it Joe; he said he felt shamed into it.”

“How are you managing then asked Joe?

“I’m not Joe this why I came to see you.” The money that Peter did leave me has gone on rent Joe.”

“Look here is forty pounds use that and if you need any more come back and see me.”

“Peter will pay you back I’m sure Joe; thank you.”

“Anyway, I have kept you long enough I better be getting back Goliath will want feeding.” “I will have to go out tomorrow with the cart and collect stuff. Then sell it on to make a few bob.”

“Come I will run you along in the car.”

“I will pick the kids up from school on the way back Alina.

Joe took out to pieces of haddock then wrapped them up for Mary.

“Here for your tea tonight.”

“Thank you Joe how will I ever repay you.”

“Don’t think about it.”

Joe opened the door of the car; Mary got in then Joe drove away.

“I you hear anything will you let me know?

“Yes of course I will Joe.”

 Joe turned right and headed towards Tynemouth where Mary lived.”

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