John Byrne

John Patrick Byrne (born 6 January 1940) is a Scottish playwright and artist. He wrote The Slab Boys Trilogy, plays which explore working-class life in Scotland, and the TV dramas Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin’ Heart. Byrne is also a painter, printmaker and theatre designer.

John Byrne Life

John Byrne was born into a family of Irish Catholic descent in Paisley, Renfrewshire, where he grew up in the Ferguslie Park housing scheme and was educated at the town’s St Mirin’s Academy before attending Glasgow School of Art (1958–63).

Byrne has received several Honorary Doctorates: In 1997, from the University of Paisley; in 2006, from the Robert Gordon University Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen; in 2011, from the University of Dundee; and in 2015, from the University of Stirling. In 2004, he was made an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy.

Byrne married firstly to Alice Simpson on 1 April 1964, with whom he has two children in the late 1980s before separating. They officially divorced in 2014. He and the actress Tilda Swinton were in a relationship from around 1989 to 2003. They have two children, twins Honor and Xavier, born in 1997. Byrne married theatrical lighting specialist Jeanine Davies in 2014. They live in Edinburgh.

Scottish Artist John Byrne Painting
Scottish Artist John Byrne Painting

View John Byrne Paintings

John Byrne is perhaps best known as the writer of The Slab Boys Trilogy. He has also been regarded as one of Scotland’s foremost television writers. He had also designed for the Traverse, 7:84, Hampstead Theatre, Bush Theatre, Scottish Opera and the Citizens Theatre. For the original 7:84 production of The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil he designed a seven-foot-high pop-up book of stage designs, which is now on display at the V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Galleries.

As an artist, Byrne’s first London one-man show was held at the Portal Galley in 1967, while he was working as a carpet designer with A.F Stoddart in Elderslie. His work is held in collections in Scotland and abroad.