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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She came up to Joe and kissed his cheek. Thank you again Joe you will always be my hero.

 Alan came forward and shook his brother by the hand. How did you do it man he asked?

I couldn’t have done what you did Joe; never. George said even I was armed you were not.

“I didn’t have time to think I just did it.”

 A pressman wrote that in his book then moved away.

Tom, Jane, Mary Jane, and Catherine came over to congratulate Joe.

“You are some man said Tom; I’m very proud of you son.

There were free drinks for the guests and the dignitaries.

Joe was finding this too much to take in so he got his children together with Alina and quietly left them to it.

Alina gave him two blue velvet boxes to put his medals into. He got into his car then drove the three miles back home.


Over the coming months Joe was invited to give talks all over the country; he met King George V1 and The Prime Minister Winston Churchill who used Joe as a tool to inspire his troops. He was paid Joe more to give talks than he would be if he had been fishing.

He continued to tour the country until after the war where the country bought him a great big house in Jesmond as a thank you.

 Joe set up his own business with the money he had made during the war where he ran his own wet fish shop. Joe only went out in his coble with his son George who took over the cottage and his boat from his father when he left school. Marina went on to become a school teacher and moved to Holland where she taught English as a second language. Helen became a celebrated writer. Joe married Alina in 1947 she has a shop next door to Joe which Joe bought for her. She makes and sells Dutch Pastries.

Peter Thompson and his Mary are very happy together after Joe secured his release from the German prisoner of war camp. Joe bought their house for them they still remain good friends.

Both of his brothers went into politics George stood as MP for Tynemouth and Alan for North Shields. They have two children both boys and they are called Joseph.


Joe still visits Emily Roses grave every week with Alina and the children they bring fresh roses.

Joe Donnelly the fisherman never forgot his roots; he is invited to give talks to school children down on the Black Midden’s and tells them how it was growing up; and what it was like during the war years.

His daughter Helen wrote “On Stormy Seas” a best seller which told all about her father and her Dutch step mother and the mother she never knew.






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