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


65. 65

Hello said the operator how can I connect you?

“Captain George Donnelly’s office please.

“Hold the line putting you through now said the operator.

Hello George how’s it going?

“I can’t really say a lot over the phone Joe but I will tell you that we are slowly winning this war.”

That is good news; why I have called you is to tell you is the powers that be have decided to stick a couple of medals on my chest.

“You old boy; what did you do to deserve them.

Well I went to Dunkirk and rescued a few men; then a few months ago I rescued some children and a teacher from my daughters school.

“What are they giving you bro’?

“The George Cross and the George Medal.

“That is two of the highest awards that a civilian can get Joe; Well done I’m absolutely thrilled.” When is it taking place?

In two weeks this Friday at Wallsend’s Town Hall.




“I will ask if Alan and I can attend, I cannot see a problem though being it’s such a big family show. I will ring Tom and Jane as I’m sure they will want to be there; I’m so proud of you Brother, I really am.”

“Right then look forward to seeing you both in two weeks.”

“Bye Joe.”

Joe closed the booth after he had hung up then walked back home.

“Joe told Alina what George had said.”

“I told you he would be so proud didn’t I and so will Alan too when he finds out.”

Joe went out and bought himself a new suit which was fifty guineas. He bought all the children new outfits as well as Alina. Joe even bought Alina a gold necklace to go with the dress.


When the day finally arrived Joe was so nervous; he made sure that everyone was looking their absolute best. He checked everyone’s shoes to see if they all shined

before setting off in the car. When they arrived he parked the car on the corner beside The Coach and Horses then walked up to the main entrance.

“Hello Mr Donnelly, I’m Mr David Turner MP; if you and your family would like to come with me I will take you through to the hall where the ceremony will take place.

The Lord Commissioner Jeremy Stephens and Brigadier General Albert Somme’s and the Lord Mayor will be present.

There were two very smartly dressed soldiers on the door both had weapons and sloped arms as Joe and the MP approached. They opened the door to the hall where the place was full of people soldiers from the Army, Navy, and Air force stood to attention.

Joe’s party were led to their seats and Joe was then walked to a place where he was told to wait on a red carpet. Then a door opened; out came the Mayor, the Lord Commissioner, and the Brigadier carrying a purple cushion with a gold trim on the top of it were two shining medals.

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