Kes author a shell of former self, reveals devastated wife

Barry Hines
Barry Hines
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THE wife of one of South Yorkshire’s best-loved writers has spoken out about the devastating effect of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease robbed her of the husband she once knew.

Eleanor Hines, wife of Barry who wrote the critically-acclaimed A Kestrel for a Knave and the follow-up hit film Kes, told The Star of her heartbreak over his battle with the condition, following his diagnosis four years ago.

Barry, formerly of Broomhill, Sheffield, is now an in-patient at The Woodlands older person’s unit at Rotherham Hospital after a spell at a nursing home ended because staff were unable to cope with his challenging behaviour.

Eleanor, who lives in Hoyland Common - the setting for Barry’s most successful work - struggled for more than three years to keep him at home, but eventually the pressure became too much to cope with as the disease turned the gentle and intelligent man she had known into a monster.

She said the violence and aggression he is prone to display had been the hardest things to cope with, as he regularly hit and kicked her - on one occasion even breaking all the fingers in her hand.

But his wife of eight years, who has been in a relationship with him since 1980, admitted she struggled with feelings of guilt at having admitted him to a home or hospital unit.

Although his condition has stabilised at the Woodlands unit - a new purpose-built facility which cost £14m and opened to patients in March - Eleanor said it was still heartbreaking to visit him and see him as a shell of his former self, although on occasions elements of his old personality do shine through.

Eleanor, speaking out about their experiences at the start of Dementia Awareness Week, said: “It’s this wicked disease that makes him like this - he was such a gentle and funny man before, he was always making people laugh.

“It’s a such a strange mix of emotions seeing someone you love go through this. In some ways he has died, because that person you met, you fell in love with, you married, is not there any more.

“But of course they are, and then sometimes little flashes of the person he was come through. Obviously that is wonderful to see, but it can also be a real killer because you are reminded of what you have lost.”