IT was the 19th-century American writer Mark Twain who coined the saying: “Behind every successful man, there is a woman.”

In the world of Glasgow’s criminal underworld, Margaret McGraw fitted that phrase perfectly.

For more than 40 years, she was the wife and confidant of one of Scotland’s most feared gangsters.

Tam McGraw was said to have amassed a personal fortune of £30 million through his criminal activities over a 40-year period.

However, his wife’s shrewd business brain had allowed him to turn the proceeds into lucrative assets through legitimate ventures such as taxi firms, security companies and property investments in Glasgow, Ireland and Spain.

It meant he was always one step ahead of the police and the authorities.

Tam had been born in Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire, in 1952 before moving to Glasgow’s tough Barlanark.

It was there he met a young, fresh-faced Margaret and the two 15-year-olds immediately clicked.

Three years later, the couple wed at a Glasgow registry office in 1971.

They then moved down to London to escape the growing police attention and both found work on the buses and in factories.

It was while in London that McGraw was said to have learned how to break past security alarms and into safes.

McGraw then returned to Glasgow – where he set up the notorious Barlanark team, who carried out a series of post office robberies across Scotland using McGraw’s new-found skills.

All the members lived or came from that one Glasgow housing estate, including a male member of Margaret’s family.

There were also break-ins to off-sales, warehouses and shops with high-value thefts of anything from sweets to whisky.

Margaret would always make sure McGraw had taken off his clothes before he entered the house so they could be washed or destroyed to remove any traces of evidence.

In the early 1980s, McGraw, on the advice of Margaret, began to focus on other interests including ice cream vans, which were an increasingly lucrative business in Glasgow’s sprawling housing estates.

The vans could legitimately make £200 profit a week (£700 now) selling food, soft drinks, sweets and cigarettes on top of the traditional cones and wafers.

However, for criminals, they also provided a means for selling stolen goods, drugs and laundering money.

In the early 1980s, the couple became embroiled in the city’s notorious Ice Cream Wars.

The conflict between traders had resulted in a series of assaults, shootings and vehicles being vandalised.

It culminated in the murder of six members of the Doyle family in Ruchazie in 1984 when their home was deliberately set on fire.

The blaze was started after 18-year-old van driver Andrew Doyle refused to give in to intimidation.

Former Barlanark team members Thomas 'TC' Campbell and Joe Steele were convicted of starting the fire and jailed for life. Both men spent almost 20 years in prison until they were freed by the appeal courts in 2002.

It’s been claimed over the years that McGraw was responsible for ordering the hit on the Doyle flat.

Though questioned about the murders by police, he never stood trial.

In the mid-1980s, the McGraws opened the Caravel bar in Hallhill Road in Barlanark

It was put in Margaret’s name and she ran it on a day-to-day basis, turning it into a successful money-spinning venture.

During this period, the McGraws moved from their council flat in Burnett Road in Barlanark to a luxury bungalow in Mount Vernon.

By now, McGraw had entered the city’s growing drugs trade, alongside other criminals such as Arthur Thompson Jr, son of crime godfather Arthur Thompson Sr.

In 1985, young Arthur was charged with dealing heroin and sentenced to 11 years – which left the field clear for McGraw and others.

Six years later, in August 1991, Arthur Jr, then 31, was shot dead outside his home in Provanmill Road while on a weekend “training for freedom” leave from prison.

A month later, two suspects for his murder – Joe Hanlon, 23, and Bobby Glover, 31 – were found dead in Hanlon’s car outside the Cottage Bar in Shettleston. It was the same day as the funeral of young Arthur and seen as revenge by his father for his son’s murder.

Tam was blamed by some for their deaths – even though Hanlon had worked for Margaret in the Caravel. It was even claimed that the dead bodies of Hanlon and Glover were stored there before being returned to the car.

The following year, Arthur Thompson Sr died from a heart attack at his home – leaving the way open for McGraw to become the main man.

It was around this time that he earned the nickname The Licensee. To some, that was a reference to the Caravel bar that Margaret ran on his behalf.

To others, it meant he had a licence to commit crime by the police in return for information on other lawbreakers.

In his criminal career, McGraw rarely stood trial – and when he did, he was usually cleared or the charges dropped. The police have always denied there was a deal but McGraw did seem to lead a charmed life.

Many also put it down to Margaret’s brains and her ability to keep him one step ahead of the law.

She also had her own nickname, “The Jeweller”, because of her love of bling – though no-one would ever dare say that to her face.

In 1996, the Caravel had ceased trading and was bulldozed to the ground.

It was claimed that the demolition was to hide any forensic evidence of Bobby and Joe five years earlier. However, Margaret maintained that the decision to close the doors was a simple business transaction.

The couple sold the land to a development company to make way for 22 homes.

By the early 2000s, cracks, however, began to appear in McGraw’s criminal empire and marriage to Margaret.

In a six-month period between September 2002 and March 2003, two of his most trusted associates, Gordon Ross, 37, and Billy McPhee, 38, were murdered.

Around this time McGraw and his wife split separated – said to be over his drinking.

He decided to take measures to improve his looks and had botox sessions and his teeth fixed and the pair were reunited.

McGraw even agreed with a suggestion by Margaret that a book could be written about him to counter the claims about him by gangland rivals in their biographies.

The gangster died aged 55 in Glasgow Royal Infirmary in July 2007 after collapsing at his home in Mount Vernon from a heart attack.

In 2009, Margaret married a friend of her husband – ironically, the son of a former police officer – at Bothwell Bridge Hotel in Lanarkshire. They honeymooned in the Caribbean but the marriage ended in 2012.

In a rare interview in 2012 to promote a book about her life, she spoke about Tam for the first time and how she became aware of his impending death and that of Ross and McPhee through her love of tarot card readings.

She added: “I knew Tam was going to have a heart attack which would kill him. It was only a matter of time and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

“I feel Tam here with me now.

“He is probably listening to us and saying to himself, ‘That’s Margaret talking about me’.”

The book also gave a humorous insight into the relationship the McGraws enjoyed with the police in the early days.

It told of how one police officer asked Margaret, who was working in an ice cream van, if she would go to a local off-sales to buy him some drink for a leaving party they were planning later that evening.

Because he was in uniform, he was unable to enter the premises to buy alcohol.

Margaret told of how she was driven by another cop in an unmarked police car to the off-sales to make the purchase.

A further tragedy was to follow in 2013 when the McGraws’ son William died from drug and alcohol intoxication.

Four years later, it was revealed that Margaret had sold off the McGraws’ taxi firm interests for £1.4 million.

She passed away at the age of 66 in 2018 from cancer more than 10 years after the death of her gangster husband.

Margaret left behind a multi-million-pound family fortune and to this day it remains a mystery where it all ended up.

One underworld source said at the time: “Tam McGraw never did anything in his criminal career without consulting Margaret.

“While he may have been a king of crime in Glasgow, she was definitely the power behind the throne.”