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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Yes Marina I’m alright love; I will be right down with Mrs Cowie.”

Joe looked around and found a pair of skipping ropes.

Now Mrs Cowie I’m going to ask you to be brave; do you hear me?


“I am going to lift you on my back then I’m going to tie you hands around my neck then I’m going to lower us down. It is going to hurt like hell but at least you will be alive. “Are you ready?

“Yes Mr Donnelly.”

“Right here we go Joe picked her up as gently as he could then she screamed but Joe had to ignore it and got her onto his back. He used the skipping ropes and tied them around his massive neck then tied her wrists to the ends. “Now you cannot fall Mrs Cowie trust me. He threw the sheet over them then made his way out of the burning room.






Hurry Daddy the staircase is going to give way any minute shouted Marina.”

Joe was using instinct to find his way as visibility was virtually nil.

He turned the corner then found the way out. He could see Marina twenty feet below

He edged his way along then placed his foot on the burning stair it came away and crashed below. There wasn’t a lot of time left before he would be trapped. He carried on descending luckily for him that the old building had been made out of sand stone and there were places where he could get a foothold onto.

He lowered him self down slowly. His hands stung like hell but he held on until he reached the bottom.

“Come on Marina lets get out of here they had only walked four paces when the burning staircase came crashing down. They carried on walking through the smoke filled wreckage until they saw some light. “This way Marina they walked on and the light got bigger until they found themselves outside.

The press began taking photos; Joe got angry for the first time in his life he pushed them away as he carried the teacher to the waiting ambulance.

The fireman who had asked for his help congratulated him.

“The vast majority of the children were in the gymnasium so they were saved.

“How many are dead?

“Twelve but it could have been worse; a lot worse if you had not been here.”

“Three teachers died, the rest were children.”

Joe found his son then was about to get into his car. The fireman told him to get his hands seen to. They were blistered from the fire.”

“Here I will drive you home in your car. “ Where do you live?

The cottages at bank top.

The nurse bandaged his burnt hands then he was allowed to leave.

When Joe got back Alina asked what had happened.

“The German’s bombed the school.

“I heard the air raid warning but we didn’t go to the shelter I was cooking and it would have burnt if I had left it.

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