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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They pulled large pieces of timber and bricks finding bodies everywhere they looked. A teacher had saved a young boy by throwing herself on top of the boy as the ceiling fell on top of her killing her instantly. There were others with horrific injuries the fire raged as the fire crew spray jets to damp down the flames. The thick black smoke made Joe and the fireman cough as the climbed onto a ledge on the second floor where the ceiling had completely gone they had to edge their way along until they found a classroom the children were crying as they waited to be rescued. Joe got all the children to safety before he caught sight of little George who came to him.

“Daddy he screamed.”

“Where’s Marina; have you seen her?

 “She’s back there daddy in the fire.” you follow the fireman understand he will get you out I’m going to find your sister.”

“Can I not come with you dad?

“No; do as I have told you.” 





Joe walked through the burning wood he saw what was left of a staircase he climbed up then found a painted sheet it was soaked with water so he put it over his head then walked through the flames. Once inside he looked around.

Marina! Where are you? There was crying and Joe found two girls and carried them out to safety then went back again; he went from room to room. Joe tried to breathe through the intense heat and his lungs burned with the smoke but he knew he had to go on.

Marina Where are you please answer; it’s your dad.

“I’m here dad quick the floor is cracking and is going to give way any minute.”

“I coming sweetheart; hold on.” “Get low the air is better there. Are you on your own?

“No Mrs Cowie is here she is trapped.

Joe edged his way along until he found his daughter. She held him and would not let go. Here get under the sheet it will protect you from the flames. Where’s little George?

“We got him he’s fine; now climb on my back and hang on until I lower you down. The flames were increasing as the wood took hold. Joe held on with all his strength until he found a foot hold then managed to lower him self to the ground.

“Now wait here I’ve got to go back and get Mrs Cowie.”

Again Joe climbed up the shattered staircase then threw the sheet over his head; he walked threw the flames until he reached the teacher who was barely alive. Mrs Cowie! he shouted at her don’t you go dying on me do you hear me? The kids need you.” He took hold of the iron girder that had fallen on the teacher’s legs which were clearly broken. She was bleeding from a gash at the back of her head so he took out a handkerchief from his pocket and told her to hold it over the cut whilst he lifted the girder from her leg. The muscles in his arms strained as he lifted the girder a few inches the teacher survival instinct kicked in and she managed to pull her legs free. He dropped the girder. He was coughing as the smoke got worse.

“Marina shouted up to ask him if he was alright.”

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