Andy M Stewart, the singer and songwriter whose deep understanding of the Scottish tradition played a huge part in the success of trail-blazing folk group Silly Wizard, has died after a long illness.

Born in Alyth, near Blairgowrie in Perthshire, Stewart emerged as a passionate singer and upholder of traditional songs as a teenager when he formed the group Puddock’s Well with singer, songwriter and fiddle Dougie Maclean and bassist Martin Hadden. 

Invited in the mid-1970s to join Silly Wizard, who needed a Scottish singer to lend weight to their fiery instrumental sound, Stewart became known across Europe and particularly in the US with the band as an authoritative singer and an entertaining raconteur.

His original songs including The Queen of Argyll and the Valley of Strathmore became staples of the band’s live concerts and he toured with them until they broke up in 1988. 

Stewart then formed successful, internationally acclaimed duos with guitarist-bouzouki player Manus Lunny, of Capercaillie, recording the classic At It Again album, and with guitarist Gerry O'Beirne before ill-health forced him to retire from music-making.

Following failed spinal surgery, earlier this year he was left paralysed from the chest down and a fund-raising campaign was launched to provide wheelchair-friendly accommodation and daily nursing care.

He was inducted into the Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame with Silly Wizard in 2012.