TRIBUTES have poured in for Greenock theatre director Bill Bryden CBE who has passed away at the age of 79.

Mr Bryden enjoyed a long and successful career, which included producing the award-winning drama Tutti Frutti.

He was head of drama at BBC Scotland from 1984-93 and associate director at the National Theatre in London from 1975-85.

The accomplished playwright's theatre work included a production in 1990 called The Ship for Glasgow's year as European City of Culture.

Former head teacher Isabel Lind OBE, a former president of Greenock Burns Club, today recalled meeting Bill at a Burns Supper in 1995.

She said: "I knew him through his half-brother George Bryden.

"I spoke to George beforehand and said whatever the seating plan is, I want to sit next to Bill.

"I replied to Bill, after he toasted the club.

"He was very nervous and I asked him why as he was world famous.

"He said 'firstly I never ever speak, I write and I direct, and the other reason is because my mother is here!'."

The gifted stage and film director said during his address that two women shaped his life - radical theatre director Joan Littlewood, who developed the theatre workshop, and his former English teacher Mabel Irving.

Mrs Lind said: "Mabel was sitting at the end of the table and I felt a tear in my eye when he was speaking.

"She was so proud.

"She taught him at Greenock High School, he was her prize pupil.

"He was very, very bright and Mabel recognised that.

"When she saw his production of Oh What A Lovely War, she knew he was a genius - he was only 18 at the time.

"When she died, he sent a tribute.

"He was also great friends with writer Peter McDougall.

"When I saw The Ship, it was one the best productions I had ever seen.

"Bill was very unassuming but I knew I was in the presence of genius."

Mr Bryden learned his craft as a director at the Belgrade, Coventry, and then at London’s Royal Court from 1967-71.

He first came to prominence at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum and was inspired by his upbringing in Greenock.

One of his early plays, Willie Rough, about about a shop-steward involved in socialist battles in the Clydeside shipyards.

During Bill's time at the National Theatre he directed the world premiere of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan said:"We can all draw inspiration from the theatrical achievements of Bill Bryden.

"His career covered writing films and theatre directing.

"I always find it heartening when Greenockians achieve great things in industry, sport, commerce or in this case, the arts.

"It's an example to us all.

"Who can forget his production of John Byrne's Tutti Frutti on TV?

"And he received many plaudits for the theatre productions of the Mysteries, Larkrise, Candelford and the world premiere of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross.

"His west end productions included A Month in the Country, starring Dame Helen Mirren and Sir John Hurt.

"As they sang in Bill's production of the Big Picnic: 'Only remembered for what we have done'.

"Bill Bryden will be remembered for achieving a great deal in the world of theatre and the arts."