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


7. 7

Both George and Marina heard the baby cry and then they knew that they had either another brother or sister. Joe paced the floor waiting for news. The midwife eventually came out and told Joe that his wife had given birth to a ten pounds baby girl.

“How’s Emily?

“Your wife is very weak Mr Donnelly; she has lost a lot of blood and we will need clean sheets.

“Marina, please go into the chest in your room and get some clean sheets.”

“Yes daddy; Marina hurried into her room and searched inside the large trunk then brought out the sheets and gave them to the midwife. Now Mr Donnelly, fill up the tin bath with boiling water and lots of salt. We will need to get the blood out of those sheets.

“Once again the midwife disappeared into the bedroom and then closed the door.

She returned with a bundle and put them straight into the tin bath. Joe poured two cups of salt onto the sheets then lifted the huge pan off the stove and poured the boiling water on top.

He took hold of the posser; a wooden tool used for removing stubborn stains and began to poss the washing with rhythmic strokes until the blood came out of sheets.

He took out one of the sheets then rung it out by hand then did the same with the other.

He then filled up the stone sink and placed the sheets inside and again used the posser to purge them until they were clean. He then put them through the mangle which squeezed the water from them then they were put into a wash basket and taken out into the yard and hung on the line.

It was over an hour later when both the mid wife and the doctor came out. Dot Parker held the baby whilst the doctor informed Joe that his wife had not survived.

“Emily, Emily, he cried as he went into the bedroom and saw her lying there.

He touched her face it was still warm; he held her in his arms.

“Don’t leave us Emily; please don’t leave us.”

The tears were streaming down his cheeks as he wept unashamedly.

The doctor came back into the room with the midwife and told him to go and see his children who were also crying.

Joe stood up and went outside the room into the scullery he put his arms around his children and held them for what seemed an eternity. They were the only link with his wife.

The doctor filled out a death certificate and he signed it.

“Once again Mr Donnelly we are sorry for your loss.”

The baby will need milk every four hours so I have left you a tin that you can make up. I’m sure your late wife showed you how to do it?

“Yes Doctor, I know. The doctor patted him on the shoulder; then he and the midwife left.


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