They remained firm friends despite the end of their marriage and now the estranged wife of late Labour MP Jimmy Wray has told how she regularly visited her husband as the end of his life drew near.

Mr Wray, a formidable political figure in Scotland, passed away on Saturday aged 78 after a long battle with bowel cancer.

His former wife Laura Wray, praised his charitable, loveable spirit, saying he was a "lion of a man".

Mrs Wray, 51, who was married to the former MP for Glasgow Provan and Baillieston for more than 10 years, said she had remained on good terms with him after their separation in 2009. They did not divorce and she spent time with him every few days throughout his illness.

"He was a very loveable, flamboyant character with a great sense of humour," she said. "When the Labour Party were in opposition and he thought the then Speaker was ignoring him when he wanted to speak, he bought a bright pink suit so that he could not be missed.

"He was also very kind and I remember on one occasion on a freezing cold snowy night in Glasgow city centre he took off his coat and gave it to a tramp who he saw lying shivering on the ground."

A former barrow boy, Mr Wray was born and brought up in the Gorbals and was one of a family of eight. He took on many different professions before entering politics, including a boxer, a chimney sweep and a lorry driver, graduating to owning his own fleet of lorries. He also became a property developer.

He became a councillor in 1964 and was elected as MP for Glasgow Provan in 1987. He suffered a stroke in December 2004 and retired as an MP the following year.

Jim Murphy MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, described his friend Mr Wray as a proud, generous, funny, authentic and underrated working-class Glaswegian with Margaret Curran, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, recalling him as a formidable Labour figure.

A lifelong boxing fan, he supported the controversial fight by Mike Tyson in Glasgow in 2000 and counted among his friends promoters Don King and Frank Warren, who was best man at his 1999 wedding and godfather to his 14-year-old son Frankie.

Advocate Mrs Wray, who lives in Port of Menteith, paid tribute to her former husband's charitable efforts, which included community pop concerts for the Gorbals with singer Alex Harvey, and establishing a drug centre to help young people conquer their addictions.

She praised his friends and family who rallied around him during the final years of his illness, as well as the staff at the Glasgow Victoria Infirmary and Mearnskirk Hospital in East Renfrewshire, where has was an in-patient.

She said: "Jimmy's loyal friends supported him to the end. There are so many that I will not go into detail, but the staff at the hospitals where he spent the last few months of his life said they had never had anyone with so many visitors.

"Suffice to say that Jimmy's eldest son James and his closest friend Alex Morrison were always there for him and I know this gave him great comfort. Jimmy was a lion of a man who packed so much into his life that it was as if he lived the lives of 10 men.

"He faced his final battle with cancer with his customary courage and good humour. He will be sadly missed by all of us who were privileged to be his friends."

Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour earlier paid tribute to his kindness, generosity and love for the Labour Party.

First Minister Alex Salmond earlier said he had always admired the forthright way Mr Wray spoke out for his constituents.

Mr Wray is survived by his four children.