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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“Now make sure that you pay your rent in advance so you don’t have to worry about it alright.”

Forty pounds will cover you for thirteen weeks. You will then have made enough on you round to see yourself alright and if not come and see me.”

“I will pay it tomorrow Joe and thanks love.” Peter should be honoured to have you as a friend.

Joe pulled up outside her house and then got out to open the door for Mary.

“I will see you soon the Mary. Tell Peter not to worry if you write to him.”

I will Joe; bye for now.”

“Bye Mary.”








On the way back Joe was stopped the home guard.” Can’t you hear lad; the air raid warning has gone off.” “Get yourself in the shelter over there sharpish.”

Joe locked the car then ran across the road and down into the underground shelter where others were sitting. A man played a moth organ to calm the young children.

Joe thought about his own kids and Alina; he hoped they were all right.

 “This is the fourth air raid this week bloody Gerry’s are trying to hit the docks and the ship yards along the coast.”

“Are you in the forces then asked another man?”

“No I’m a fisherman; I did go to Dunkirk to rescue our lads though.”

“Good on ya lad.”

Another woman wasn’t so sympathetic.

“Our Paul is out there fighting for king and country and you are fishing; should feel a bloody shamed of your selves.

“Listen woman; I not only put food on the table at high risk from German fighter aircraft; not only that we fishermen clear the mines so that the Navy can do their jobs.”

The woman put her nose up in the air; she never uttered another word.


Thirty minutes later the all clear was sounded. Joe helped women with prams outside then walked to his car. He looked around and could see and smell smoke in the air.

He drove up the road then he saw the fire engines outside the school. “A bomb hit the school said someone. The kids were inside when it happened.”

Joe ran to the where the school entrance was. It was now just a pile of rubble. Joe caught up with a fireman and asked if anyone had got out.

“Sorry sir the children were all inside we are searching for survivors now.”

“Can I help?

“We need all the help we can get; follow me.”

Joe took off his coat then threw it in the car then ran back to the fireman who led him into the building or what was left of it.”

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