Tom McGrath

1940-2009

The poet, playwright, theatre director and jazz musician, Tom McGrath was born on 23 October 1940 in Rutherglen, now part of Glasgow. He was a leading light in Scotland's theatrical scene and the founding editor of one of the famous 'underground' magazines, the International Times, which was launched at a Pink Floyd concert at the Roundhouse.

 

He was influenced by music hall and by the American Beat generation. In 1965 he appeared with Adrian Mitchell, Michael Horovitz, Allen Ginsberg and Germaine Greer at the International Poetry Incarnation held at the Albert Hall – the first British 'happening' of that decade – filmed by Peter Whitehead and entitled Wholly Communion.

 

In 1969 his poems featured in a 1960s anthology Children of Albion, and he enrolled at Glasgow University to study English and drama. Here he came across a new wave of poets and joined a performance art troupe – the Other People. After this he immersed himself in the theatre, first of all as a musician in Tell Charlie Thanks For The Truss at the Traverse and then as musical director on The Great Northern Welly Boot Show, where he learnt a good deal about comic delivery from the young Billy Connolly.


He was artistic director of Glasgow’s Third Eye Centre (1974-77) and co-founded the Glasgow Theatre Club (1978), later the Tron. His first success as a playwright was LAUREL AND HARDY (1976) and his association with Glasgow former gangster Jimmy Boyle produced another successful play, THE HARDMAN (1977) – both for Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre. Other plays include ANIMAL (1979), BUCHANAN (1993), and THE DREAM

TRAIN (1999).

 

He also wrote for television and radio and, through his position as a literary director of the Scottish Arts Council, mentored new playwrights. In 2004 he became Emeritus Director of Playwrights’ Studio Scotland, an organisation designed to carry on the support of other writers.

 

He died on 29 April 2009, aged 68.

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