SIR Alex Ferguson’s pained remark to Glasgow entrepreneur James Mortimer this week said it all: “There’s another great Govan man away, James”.

He was referring to the death, at the age of 81, of his old schoolmate Bill Martin, a songwriter, record producer and music publisher, whose remarkable career was studded with firsts.

His songwriting partnership with Phil Coulter yielded many hit songs, notably including Congratulations, and Puppet On A String.

As Martin’s website recalls, he was the first British songwriter to write a Eurovision Song Contest winner for the UK with Puppet On A String, sung by Sandi Shaw in 1967. The following year, Martin and Coulter almost repeated the feat with Congratulations, sung by Cliff Richard. The two hits sold a combined total in excess of 10 million copies.

In 1970, Martin’s music publishing company won the contest, with All Kinds Of Everything, sung by the Irish vocalist, Dana. The song was a No 1hit in the UK and across Europe.

Martin was the first British songwriter to pen a UK chart-topping football song, Back Home, sung by the England World Cup squad in 1970.

He was the only Scottish songwriter to write four UK No 1 hits for four different acts – Shaw, the England squad, Congratulations, and Forever And Ever, by Slik.

The prolific Martin-Coulter partnership also yielded several hits for the Bay City Rollers in the 1970s, including Shang-A-Lang, Saturday Night, Remember (Sha-La-La) and Summerlove Sensation.

Martin’s own accolades included an MBE and five Ivor Novello awards.

Phl Coulter tweeted this tribute: “Heard this morning of the passing of Bill Martin. He was my songwriting partner for almost 20 years and an important part of my life and career.

I remember with most affection our early struggles in Denmark Street [in London]. End of an era”.

Bill Martin was born William Wylie MacPherson in a Govan tenement, hard by the Fairfield’s shipyards. He left Govan High School at 15 – his schoolmates had included Alex Ferguson – to begin an apprenticeship in marine engineering at the local Alexander shipyards.

From the same age he played junior football with Blantyre Celtic and other teams, and had trials with Partick Thistle. At 21 he went out to South Africa.

Martin had harboured dreams of being a songwriter since the age of 10, but when he was 21, deciding his name was “too Scottish”, he changed it to Bill Martin – a decision he later regretted. In 1960 he had his first song accepted by a London music publisher, and though it was never recorded, it gave him the confidence to return from South Africa two years later.

In 1964 he began a songwriting partnership with Tommy Scott, and they had success with artists such as Van Morrison.

Interviewed by The Herald in 2015, Martin recalled his early years with Coulter. “Phil was great in the studio with the songs,” he said. “I liked coming up with things and moving on. I have a butterfly brain that moves from subject to subject so I needed someone to complete the process.

That was Phil.”

In their modest office “we had two chairs, a piano and a wash hand basin. But we were good. We’d write six songs a day and I sold lots of them.”

The partnership had songs with everyone from George Harrison to Elvis Presley and Ken Dodd.

Mr Mortimer, owner of the Glasgow restaurant, Rogano, told The Herald that one of Martin’s many gold discs is on display there.

“He was full of life, right up to the end. There are so many great stories online about Bill - writing Congratulations for Cliff Richard, getting his MBE from the Queen.

“Any time Bill came up to Glasgow from London, where he lived, the Rogano was his first port of call. He always sat at our Table Sixteen, which has been used by so many celebrities, including Sir Rod Stewart, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Jackie Stewart”.

Mr Mortimer said he first met Martin when they were both in London, while Rogano was their regular meeting-place whenever Martin flew to Glasgow on business and added: He was part of a group of Scots boys who worked in London and would meet up regularly. “He was a lovely man, a gentleman, he was great company, but very humble, even with all that he achieved. He will be badly missed”.

Martin is survived by his wife Jan, four children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, who was born last week .