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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Where is Helen?

“She’s playing with Marina’s dolls house in the bedroom.”

“You put the life of my daughter at risk Alina.”

“Helen was screaming Joo; so I hid her under the bed in your mothers room; we lay there until the all clear.”

“Please; Alina don’t ever do that again; do you here me?”

“Yes Joo, I’m sorry.”

Joe went to the bedroom where Helen sat playing.

She called out daddy when she saw him and ran to him. Joe picked her up even though his hands were stinging with the burns. He held her then kissed her over and over.

“Have you missed your daddy then?

“Yes daddy where have you been. I missed my stories.”

“I will read you one tonight alright?

“I want two stories please.”





It was over a week before Joe was able to take the bandages off his hands. He wasn’t able to get out in the boat but Joe did attend the funeral with all the children for all those killed in the bomb blast. There were hundreds of people there.”

Joe had even went to the RVI Hospital where Mrs Cowie was in two plasters and had severe burns to her hands and left arm.

She thanked Joe for coming and for saving her life.

Joe told her that they had buried the nine children and three teachers who had lost their lives.

“I was extremely lucky.”

“Will you be able to walk once the plaster castes come off?

“I am going to need physiotherapy Mr Donnelly which will take up to six months but “I should make a full recovery.”

“Well I’m glad to see that you’re on the mend.”

Just then a man appeared and the teacher introduced him to her husband John.

“I saw you in the news papers, Joe isn’t it.”

“You did a courageous thing and I will be eternally grateful.”

“Joe nodded then said goodbye.”


It was a few months later that the postman brought a letter which had to be signed for.

Alina placed the letter on the sideboard and waited for Joe to come back from fishing.”

Joe’s hands were fully healed now and he could haul in his pots and nets; the salt water hardened the skin on his palms and fingers.

Joe was still making a lot of money from his fish and shellfish.

It was four fifteen when Joe returned.

“Have you had a good day Joo?”

“Yes very good. “I made nearly nine hundred pounds today.”

“That is a lot of money Joo.”

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