TOM Watson had a distinguished career as an actor on stage, television, and film, although he used to claim that he was first attracted by the ''talent'' (female) that he saw going into a building.

One day he decided to follow them and found himself in Rutherglen Rep. A few months later he had joined A B Paterson's company at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews. From these beginnings he built a career that led to parts in some of the most popular television dramas of four decades. These included Dixon of Dock Green, Taggart, and City Lights. He scored a major success in BBC's Cardiac Arrest, starring alongside Helen Baxendale.

Tom, who was 68, had been ill for more than a year. Even after he was diagnosed with cancer

he continued to work while receiving treatment. He had a three-month stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in London in a new play, Victoria. Last year he appeared in an episode of Peak Practice and also featured in several episodes of Brotherly Love with Gregor Fisher. Among his last work for television was an appearance in the new Inspector Rebus detective series, based on the Ian Rankin novels. That will be transmitted later this year.

Tom's success was all the more remarkable given that his career stalled about 20 years ago when he had to admit his alcoholism. He spent months in

hospital as his body and mind recovered from years of abuse. At one point he had been declared clinically dead. He credited his recovery to the support of doctors and his family, who stood by him.

It was while working with Perth Repertory Theatre that he met and married his wife, actress Joyce Bain. By 1960 he and Joyce had moved to London, where his two daughters, Cindy and Holly, were born. That year he also joined the BBC Radio Rep, at a time when it was brimming with fine - and infamous - writers and actors such as Louis McNeice, Reggie Smith, Marjorie Westbury, and the celebrated Dublin brothers, Dominic and Brendan Behan.

In 1970 he decided to return to Scotland to live in the East Neuk of Fife. He and Joyce chose the village of Elie on the shores of the Firth of Forth.

He worked with theatre companies throughout the UK, enjoying successful runs at London's Royal Court, Royal National Theatre, Soho Poly, the Gate, and the Almeida in Islington. In Scotland, he was involved with the Scottish Theatre Company, Glasgow Citizens' Theatre, the 7:84 Company, the Ship Company, Musselburgh Theatre, the Traverse Theatre, and the Royal Lyceum.

Many of his performances were critically acclaimed, and he was awarded the New York Radio Critics' Gold Medal for his radio performance in Potestad, by Eduardo Pavlovsky. Tom was also presented with the Scotland on Sunday 1989 Mayfest Award for his powerful performance in the stage adaptation of Potestad.

There were film roles in The Duna Bull, The Big Man, Silent Scream, Alan Rickman's The Winter Guest - much of which was filmed near his Fife home - and Another Time, Another Place.

Throughout his career, and during any breaks from acting, he became absorbed with his writing, and in 1997 Akros published a collection of his poems entitled Dark Whistle. A selection of his recent poems has been included in the new issue of the ZED2O magazine.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce, and his daughters Cindy and Holly.