Born: April 28, 1935; Died: May 25, 2013.

JIMMY Wray, who has died aged 78, was a Labour MP from 1987 to 2005, representing the Glasgow constituencies of Provan and Ballieston, and regarded as a man who "battled hard to improve the lives of those he represented".

It is fair to say the flamboyant politician's political and personal life was as colourful as the 50-odd multi-coloured suits he once stored in his many wardrobes.

He was a Gorbals boy who grew up in a fiercely Catholic family as one of eight children in a tiny room and kitchen.

He would later claim he lived in Glasgow's first sauna because he had to shared a bed with several brothers. But the experience no doubt formed his character. A successful amateur boxer, he fought hard to break free from the poverty trap.

He became a rag and bone man, a coalman for a time and then a lorry driver, eventually owning his own fleet of lorries and a coal business.

But he also had a willingness to fight for the underdog. He joined the Labour Party in 1959 and in the early 1960s became a tenants' leader in the Gorbals before winning election first to the Glasgow Town Council and, 10 years later, to Strathclyde Regional Council.

His chance to become an MP came in 1985 when he was selected to stand for the safe Glasgow Provan seat yet his profound socialist beliefs did not, it seemed, deny him the opportunity to march in the direction of wealth pursuit.

From coal delivery he became a property developer. Later the gravel-voiced man saw no clash of ideals in looking across at his loyal east end voters from his £1 million home in Glasgow's wealthy suburb, Newton Mearns; it gave him "a panoramic view over his constituency", he claimed.

He would later read his son Karl Marx's Das Kapital to protect him from the influence of New Labour, but it mattered not if he had plucked the book from the library of his five-bedroom, all en-suite, opulent home.

Controversy and Mr Wray were almost inseperable. He piloted the Knives Act in the mid-1990s, yet he had no compunction in carrying the coffin of a gangster friend.

In 2000 he branded MSPs "a bunch of cackling geese" for their opposition to Mike Tyson's visit to Scotland and the same year he won support from Scottish Sun readers and offended gay constituents after outlining his concerns over the repeal of Section 28.

In 2002 he denounced the Scottish Parliament as a place for "odds and sods" and claimed MSPs did not work as hard as MPs. Yet he was attacked on the BBC's Watchdog for his limited appearance in the Commons. The pro-Irish nationalist was once tagged "I R Wray" by Private Eye magazine.

His personal life was to supply him with the most column inches. Divorced amicably from his first wife.

His second marriage ended in acrimony after 13 years and led to a court case in which he was accused of being a wife beater.

The one-time chimney sweep left court without a black mark on his character and £60,000 in damages against a newspaper for libel.

Meanwhile, the Old Labour MP already had a new partner in lawyer Laura Walker who was 26 years his junior. They married in 1999 in a glittering ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, with a baby on the way.

The life of the happy couple was featured in magazines talking about their second home in the south of France, but their son, Frankie, was born with dispraxia. Mr Wray said: "I'm a happy man, but not a nappy man." But he did become a nappy man, devoting time to his son.

That was not the only trauma in his life. An earlier diet of Irn-Brn and packets of Raspberry Ruffles may have contributed to him developing diabetes, then the MP suffered a stroke in December, 2003, forcing him to retire from politics in 2005.

Then his marriage broke up, with his wife citing his mood changes as a reason.

There is no doubt the illness had affected the father-of-four's personality. Mr Wray, whose friend included former Rangers boss Alex McLeish and boxing promoters Frank Warren and Don King, struggled to cope with the containment the illness demanded.

He once said he would never retire: "I expected one day to be found dead in a train." His mind-set had been forever young.

How old was he? His entry in Who's Who in 1999 listed his date of birth as April 28, 1938. However, Scotland's People records that a James Wray was born in 1935 – with no record of a James Wray born in 1938.

But what is undeniable is that Jimmy Wray, who died on Saturday morning at a Renfrewshire nursing home, was a battler, a larger-than-life character who brightened up the Scottish political scene immeasurably.

He is survived by his four children.