Constance Barstow

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CONSTANCE Mary Barstow, who has died aged 84, was a gifted woman in many fields including being a talented artist and expert charity fund raiser, and a major influence behind the writing of her novelist husband Stan Barstow.

It was she who encouraged him to make writing a career as he dabbled with it in the early years of their marriage, keeping their then toddler children quiet and running the home as he wrote in his free time while working by day as an engineering draughtsman.

The result was A Kind of Loving, published in 1960, which established him as a full-time writer and went on to be turned into a film, and became a set book in British schools.

Constance Barstow was a clever woman who, had she been born in a different generation, could have run her own business or been a teacher. But in the 1950s women gave up work when they married to run the home, look after the children and support their husbands. Which is precisely what she did.

As her daughter Gillian put it: “Her light really was hidden under a bushel.”

She was born in Ossett, near Wakefield, the younger daughter of Arnold Kershaw, who ran a butcher’s shop, and his wife Dora. She was educated at Ossett Grammar School where she gained her School Certificate, but then had to leave and find a job, her father having died when she was eight. She went to work as a draughtswoman for Charles Roberts, an engineering firm at Horbury.

Stan Barstow also worked there and, although they had both been pupils at the grammar school, they got together again, marrying in 1951 and had a son and daughter. They eventually separated 20 years ago when he moved first to Harrogate, and then to Wales where he died last August, but they never divorced.

In later years she made up for her education being cut short by studying through the Open University, and gaining firsts in all she did.

She was interested in the arts and poetry and after her death hundreds of notebooks and diaries were found filled with her work. Among them was a diary she kept when she accompanied her husband on a literary tour of Russia, in which she recorded everything they did. She had even learned some Russian.

She did eventually make use of her own gifts, including raising thousands of pounds over the years for the local branch of the Save the Children Fund by organising an annual Christmas concert.

She was a talented artist in watercolours, and very good at craft work especially with children. She ran craft work sessions at Christ Church, South Ossett, and eventually worked in schools where she was noted for being able to work with some of the most difficult children.

By the end of a day, through crafts and reading stories, they would have produced work which no-one expected of them.

Later in life she lived in a cul-de-sac where all the local children would gather in her home to do craft work. She was a very popular person, generous and kind, with an interest in people that spanned the generations.

She had lived in residential care for three years and died in Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, after a long illness.

Mrs Barstow is survived by her son Neil, daughter Gillian and grandson Elliot. Her sister Vera predeceased her. A funeral service will be held at Christ Church, Ossett, on Wednesday at 1pm.