Tom McGrath, the Scottish playwright, poet and jazz pianist has died at the age of 68. He was diagnosed with cancer of the liver in 2007 and was still writing and listening to experimental jazz music at home until his peaceful death on Wednesday.

Born in Rutherglen, Glasgow in 1940, McGrath lived in London in the 1960s and was strongly associated with the UK’s underground ‘counterculture’ as founding editor of the hippy bible International Times. He returned to Scotland in 1969 and studied for a degree in English and drama. In 1972 McGrath worked with Billy Connolly as musical director of The Great Northern Welly Boot Show. He also managed the Third Eye Centre (now Centre for Contemporary Arts) for three years from 1974.

He is most famous for writing the popular play Laurel and Hardy. McGrath’s later work included The Hardman in collaboration with gangster-turned-sculptor Jimmy Boyle and an adaptation of Tankred Dorst’s Merlin. More recently, he was Scottish Arts Council’s associate literary director: a post crucial to the development of many younger playwrights which McGrath held for over a decade.

- Joseph Pike