Famous Paisley playwright and artist John Byrne dies at 83

The Paisley playwright and artist passed peacefully in his sleep at the age of 83 earlier this week
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Paisley playwright and artist John Byrne was announced dead today at the age of 83.

The prolific artist died peacefully in his sleep with his wife by his side, reports the Fine Art Society in Edinburgh.

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John Patrick Byrne was born into a family of Irish Catholic descent on January 6, 1940 in Paisley, growing up in the Ferguslie Park housing scheme. In his early years he was educated at St Mirin's Academy before going on to study at the Glasgow School of Art from 1958 to 1963.

Byrne was born in tragedy, conceived from an incestuous relationship between his mother and grandfather - a fact he did not know until he was informed by a cousin in 2002 when he was 62 years old, a fact he had to reconcile with his identity.

John was an incredibly talented playwright, rising to fame from his trilogy of plays, The Slab Boys, which explored working class life in Paisley in the 50's. It was turned into a film in the late 90's starring Julie Wilson Nimmo. He also wrote the 80's TV dramas, Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin' Heart.

Scots artist and playwright John Byrne has died at the age of 83Scots artist and playwright John Byrne has died at the age of 83
Scots artist and playwright John Byrne has died at the age of 83

In a statement, the Fine Art Society in Edinburgh said Byrne died "peacefully" on Thursday with his wife Jeanine by his side. They wrote:“John was one of the most inventive and versatile of all Scotland’s modern artists. As well as being a technically masterful painter, he was a designer of theatre sets and album covers and one of the most notable playwrights of his generation.

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"The Slab Boys (1978) and Tutti Frutti (1981) were landmarks of theatre and TV. He designed record covers for Donovan, The Beatles, Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly. His work is held in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

“Born in Paisley and trained at the Glasgow School of Art, his own image was a signature of Scotland. He recreated it over and over in the self-portraits which made his finely cultivated appearance instantly recognisable, wreathed in cigarette smoke, his hooded, often sleep-deprived eyes twinkling with self-aware amusement.

"‘Paisley Buddies’ are, to a man and a woman, total oddballs. I should know, I’m one of them,” John said once. But it was an oddity seen through a prism of the fantastic and John made magic out of himself.

“The family are grateful for your understanding of their need for privacy at this time.”

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Playwrighting was not Byrne's only talent he was also skilled as a  painter, printmaker and theatre designer. To this day the John Byrne Awards he set up supports young Scottish artists with a massive financial reward of £7,500.

Just last year the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum held a huge retrospective exhibition on the life and works of John Byrne

Friend of Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty, the multi-talented artist designed several prolific album covers - the best known of which were for The Hmblebums and Stealers Wheel, where he created the covers for City to City and Night Owl.

Rafferty was so close with Byrne in fact that an early solo song by the Scottish songwriter 'Partick' was written about the Paisley playwright, named after a pseudonym he painted under.

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