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


8. 8

Joe looked at his children and said we are going to have to give the baby a name; what do you think we should call her?

“I like Helen said Marina.”

“I like Emily Rose after my mother said George.”

“Alright then we will call her Helen, Emily, Rose Donnelly.”

“Now, I want you both to look after your new Sister, you are going to have to help out here until I find someone who will take care of you.”

“Please don’t ask Aunt Sylvia daddy; she is wicked, and we do not like her.”

“There’s your Aunt Annie Kirkbride.

“No dad; she smokes all the time and she smells of urine.”

“Well who else can I get there’s no one else?

“I would rather look after Helen myself dad than have them come here.”

Look there’s a few things I need to do I will ask Mrs Junghan’s next door if she will come and look after you and the baby until I get back.

I won’t be long alright.

Joe left then went and knocked on the door Joyce Junghan’s came to the door and he explained what had happened.

“I’m sorry Joe; you poor man; listen if there’s anything I can do.”

“Well actually there is Joyce; do you think you could look after the kids until I register Emily’s death and make funeral arrangements?

“Yes Joe not a problem; give me a minute and I will be with you.”

She went back inside then told her husband where she was going.

“Joyce reappeared then told him to get himself away and take as long as he wanted.”

“Thanks Joyce; just keep the kids off today, I don’t think they should go to school today.”

“Yes I think you are right under the circumstances.

“I’ll be back as soon as possible Joyce, bye for now.”

Joe got onto his bicycle then rode off.


Riding along the coast Joe remembered how he first met Emily Rose, he was walking up the beach with his brother George. There was this girl; with a straw hat tied with a blue coloured ribbon riding her bicycle. She was chatting away to her friends as they rode along when a dog ran out in front of her.

She tried to avoid the dog but went straight into Joe and fell off onto the grassy bank.

Joe ran to her to see if she was alright. The girl couldn’t apologise enough.

Joe said it was alright and asked if she was hurt.

“No but I think that I will have a bruised behind tomorrow.” Joe introduced himself to the girl who in turn told him her name.

Joe was never one to miss an opportunity; asked the other girl if she would like to go to the Plaza Ballroom with him later.

She was unsure at first until one of the girls came over and said that George had asked her to go to the dance at the plaza.

“Alright then said the girl I will meet you here at seven o’clock. They walked along with three girls to Ena Taylors Winkle Stall where they bought some Willicks.


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