Barnsley classic book Kes author Barry's career in pictures

The sad news that South Yorkshire author Barry Hines had died has prompted this look back at his career in photographs.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 8:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2016, 8:17 pm
A young Barry Hines in front of an iconic film poster of Kes

Hoyland Common-born Barry, of course, will always be most famous for his second novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, published in 1968.

That was adapted by film director Ken Loach into the classic film Kes, set around Barnsley.

Barry Hines, left, and film director Ken Loach with Sheffield actor Tony Pitts, star of Looks and Smiles

Kes made a star of local lad David ‘Dai’ Bradley, who played young Billy Casper, who escapes his troubled school and home life by training a kestrel.

The book was inspired by the childhood experiences with kestrels of his younger brother, Richard.

When he memorably visited the South Yorkshire branch of the National Union of Journalists several years ago to do a talk and some readings, Barry said that Kes was far from his favourite book, though.

He preferred Elvis Over England at the time and read some hilarious extracts from it to an enthralled audience. He wrote nine novels in total in a career that spanned more than 50 years.

Barry Hines with fans and his book, The Price of Coal

Barry, who died aged 76, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease almost a decade ago.

Tragically, the disease had robbed him of his ability to write or even read books.

Ken Loach again worked closely with Barry on other films including The Price Of Coal, in two parts, 1970 and 1984, The Gamekeeper (1980), and Looks And Smiles (1981).

Sheffield actor Tony Pitts got his first break in that last film and local comedy stars Duggie Brown and Bobby Knutt were in The Price of Coal, filmed partly in Thorpe Hesley.

Barry Hines, left, and film director Ken Loach with Sheffield actor Tony Pitts, star of Looks and Smiles

Explaining why he and producer Tony Garnett had been drawn to work so closely with Hines over the years, Ken Loach said: “His writing, the way he wrote, was very much the way we wanted to make films.

“It was very simple, direct, clear, economical. Funny, sometimes. And with a great warmth, a great humanity.”

He added: “He’s describing a culture that existed at a certain period in time, that no one else has matched.

“If you want to know what it’s like to live in that part of the world in those years, read Barry Hines and you’ve got it absolutely.

Barry Hines with fans and his book, The Price of Coal

“I think also, his political commitment is very important. He was absolutely aware of the conflict at the heart of society between employers and workers, and he knew which side he was on, and he was a socialist all his life.”

Barry went to Ecclesfield Grammar School in Sheffield where he made the England Grammar Schools team.

He left without qualifications and joined the National Coal Board as an apprentice mining surveyor.

His last book, the anthology This Artistic Life, described a life-changing moment.

Barry went briefly down the pit in his grammar school blazer, as a mark of solidarity with the men. Neighbour Bill Hawksworth saw him and shook his head.

“‘Couldn’t you find a better job than this?’ he said, disgusted that a boy with a grammar school education should end up down the pit.”

It made such an impression that Barry went back to school.

He reflected: “What would have happened if I hadn’t encountered Bill on the coal face that fateful morning. Who knows? But one thing for sure, it’s odds on I wouldn’t have become a writer.”

He trained as a teacher at Loughborough College, teaching PE in London and South Yorkshire, reportedly writing novels in a school library after the pupils had gone home.

Barry also wrote the screenplay for the 1984 TV drama Threads, which imagined the chilling effect of a nuclear attack in Sheffield.

The programme, filmed in the city, sent shockwaves around the country at a time when people feared an attack, more evidence of the power of his writing.