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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“A fanfare played as the three men walked towards Joe. Then they stopped. The general saluted his men then got up onto a podium.

“Good afternoon my lord’s ladies and gentlemen we are gathered here this afternoon to honour an extremely brave man not only once but twice. Never before in the history of this award has one man received the highest civilian honour for bravery on two occasions; so this is a first.

The first award is the George Cross; Joseph Donnelly went to Dunkirk in a little boat from his home town in Cullercoat’s after he heard the call on the radio in his home.

When he got there he witnessed the carnage that was taking place as seven divisions of the German Army including three armoured divisions bombed the beaches where over 380 .000 men were hopelessly stranded, Joseph not only went in under heavy gunfire to rescue men but he got out of his boat and ran unarmed past heavy machine gun fire no less than seven times to rescue wounded men which he carried on his back.





All told Joseph Donnelly rescued over one hundred men and some of them are here today to pay respect to the man who saved their lives.

A round of applause went up. Then the Brigadier stepped down and smartly marched back to his place. Then the Lord Chancellor got up on the podium.

The second award which is to be presented to Mr Joseph Donnelly is the George Medal.

On The 4th of May this year this young man was going to pick up his two children from school. When he arrived the building had practically been demolished by a German bomb. With no equipment Mr Donnelly entered the building without thought for his own safety. There was a fire raging and the building was collapsing all around him but he carried on he not only did he rescue his own two children but several others too.

Then he lifted a girder weighing over a ton to free a young lady teacher whose legs were broken. He then carried this lady on his back; since the floor had all disappeared and the staircase was on fire he lowered himself and this lady to the ground by using the brick work. He then carried this lady through the burning fire along with his daughter in thick black smoke until they reached the safety of the outside. Mr Donnelly suffered severe burns to his hands but made sure this lady teacher was placed in an ambulance. Again there was a massive cheer.

“The word hero is not used lightly to describe this man today; I applaud you and your courage.”

The Lord Chancellor walked back to his place then the cushion was brought forward. The two medals were pinned to his chest and the photographers took photos.

Mr Joseph Donnelly would make the front pages of all the newspapers tomorrow.

There was a civic reception afterwards and Joe and his children were all invited to a lavish meal held in Joe’s honour. The men who Joe had saved all came and shook his hand and then the parents of the children from the school.

Then the crowd dispersed to allow Mrs Juliet Cowie to come and thank Joe.

She was on crutches but she was walking.

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