|Tom McGrath. Editor, explorer, poet, musician and playwright: 23 October 1940 – 29 April 2009|
Tom McGrath edited the first 12 issues of IT. He was persuaded back to London in the autumn of 1966 by IT founders John Hopkins and Jim Haynes following a period of retreat at poet Adrian Mitchell’s cottage in North Wales. After a spell as feature editor of Peace News, where he covered the seminal Poetry Olympics event at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965 and read himself (a published poet since 1962), he had left the capital for personal peace despite having been increasingly drawn to the nascent underground scene.
An offer from IT of £25 per week saw him return, taking a role as editor with no antecedent in the UK; one that would be epicentral to the ideas, fervour and expressions of that embryonic counterculture…What was IT to be?
His editorials were passionate, humorous and significant bridges between the differences and commonality that swirled around the various waves of celebration and experimentation gushing into 1967. New ways to live; new ways to create and publish. He quickly saw the vital role IT had - both as satellite and catalyst; reflector and refractor. He wrote on the one typewriter the office had, donated by Barry Miles, until another machine was bestowed via Sonia Orwell – apparently used by her husband George to write 1984.
Tom McGrath left IT suddenly after IT#12 – ‘the 14–hour technicolour read issue’, with its split fountain, full colour cover. The recent first police raid on Indica and IT; drug problems and general disillusionment saw him vanish, back to Glasgow, taking the paper’s only typewriter with him.
The odd missive to IT about the Glasgow scene occasionally appeared while McGrath carved out a stridently creative career as playwright and arts activist in Scotland. He set up the experimental Third Eye Centre, now CCA, plus The Tron Theatre, and had success with several plays including The Android Circuit; Laurel and Hardy; and The Hard Man co-written with Jimmy Boyle. He led the idea and formation of the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland in 2004.