'We were prepared for the worst, and thank God Terry got out of his suffering' - lifelong friend on his final goodbye to legendary Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan
Published 31/01/2016 | 09:13
God is "way off" if self-declared atheist Sir Terry Wogan does not have a place in heaven, his friend Father Brian D'Arcy has said.
In an emotional tribute following the 77-year-old's death, Fr D'Arcy said he spent a "family day" with the broadcaster on Thursday and the pair, who worked together for decades, said their final goodbyes.
"He was quite ill at that stage and I knew it wasn't long," the priest said.
"We prepared for the worst, and thank God Terry got out of his suffering."
Fr D'Arcy, a regular contributor to Wake Up To Wogan for 20 years, was a friend for more than four decades and officiated at the weddings of Sir Terry's children.
Despite the late broadcaster's professed atheism, the priest said he was "certainly the most spiritual, faith-filled man in the world".
"He was filled with love, he was filled with charity, he helped so may people in a quiet way," he said.
"Honest to God, if there is not room for Terry Wogan in heaven, well then, the God I've been preaching is a way off.
"He put it into practice, whether he could agree with religious institutions or not is an entirely different thing. But he had certainly a great deal of faith."
Sir Terry spoke in recent years about not believing in God, saying that he had privately railed against faith after the death of his three-week-old firstborn daughter.
Fr D'Arcy said Sir Terry's family was the centre of his life.
"Lady Helen was the love of his life," he added.
"If you go into Terry Wogan's house you won't see a picture of any star - you'll see pictures of his children and grandchildren festooned around the walls.
RIP Sir Terry Wogan.— Olly Murs (@ollyofficial) January 31, 2016
To be on your show an Honour
To have met you a Pleasure
One of the greatest broadcasters ever! pic.twitter.com/5Lfg1BiYay
Waking up to the very sad news that Sir Terry Wogan has died. Such a very charming man & a great broadcaster. Sending love to his family— Phillip Schofield (@Schofe) January 31, 2016
"You'll also see a picture of the certificate he got for the Freedom of Limerick."
Fellow Irishman Fr D'Arcy regularly linked up with Sir Terry live on air from his monastery in Co Fermanagh as part of his breakfast radio show's Pause for Thought segment.
The presenter used to joke that Fr D'Arcy wouldn't get out of bed to join him.
"We used to have great banters," said the Passionist priest.
"I'm sure half the 10 million that were listening to us hadn't a clue what we were talking about, because he would break into Irish, break into Latin, he would break into all sorts of funny things along the way.
"It was just a joy to work with him."
Fr D'Arcy also spoke about death threats against Sir Terry during the Troubles.
"He had to work through a terrible time as an Irish voice when terrible things were happening in the name of Irish people," he said.
"He got threats from various organisations. He lived through it all, he kept quiet."
Sir Terry laughed off the death threats in interviews as being from discerning listeners.
Fr D'Arcy added that one of the keys to the widely-read broadcaster's success was his respect for his audience.
"That's the one thing I learned from him," he said. "He presumed his audience was as intelligent (as him)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny also paid tribute to Terry Wogan.
He said the Limerick-born broadcaster gave endless entertainment to Irish as well as British viewers and listeners.
"It is with great sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of legendary broadcaster Terry Wogan," he said.
"Terry's humour and wit were unparalleled and he graced the top of his broadcasting profession for decades as a reassuring voice on the BBC.
"As an Irishman, Terry Wogan occupied a special place in British listeners' hearts and he acted in no small way as a bridge between Ireland and Britain.
"His always entertaining, and often unforgiving, commentary of the Eurovision Song Contest provided viewers here and in Britain with endless entertainment.
"Our deepest condolences go to his family at this time."
The legendary broadcaster died following a short battle with cancer.
In a statement his family said, "Sir Terry Wogan died today after a short but brave battle with cancer.
"He passed away surrounded by his family. While we understand he will be missed by many, the family ask that their privacy is respected at this time."
BBC Director General Tony Hall described Sir Terry as a "national treasure".
He said: "Terry truly was a national treasure. Today we've lost a wonderful friend. He was a lovely, lovely man and our thoughts are with his wife and family.
"For 50 years Sir Terry graced our screens and airwaves. His warmth, wit and geniality meant that for millions he was a part of the family.
"Wake Up To Wogan was for millions of Radio 2 listeners the very best way to start the day. For decades he's been such a huge part of the BBC on television and radio and leaves so many wonderful memories.
"At the centre of Children In Need since its beginning he raised hundreds of millions of pounds and changed so many lives for the better. He leaves a remarkable legacy."
Noel Curran, Director General RTÉ, said, "Terry Wogan was a consummate broadcaster and an ambassador for Irish talent in the UK - particularly during some difficult times in Ireland's relationship with Britain.
"He is fondly remembered for his early years in RTE and still has many friends in the organisation. I knew him from meeting him at Eurovision and I found his on-air humour and warmth was always there in person.
"He has made a unique contribution to broadcasting in the UK and to the stature of Irish broadcasters internationally. Our thoughts are with his family."
The veteran star had pulled out of presenting Children In Need for the BBC in November as he had a procedure on his back and was advised by doctors to withdraw from the show.
Dermot O'Leary covered for Wogan on TV while Ryan Tubridy presented his BBC Radio 2 show while he recouperated.
The popular broadcaster had just celebrated 50 years in broadcasting this year.
Terry Wogan was born in Limerick but moved to Dublin in his mid-teens. He was educated by the Jesuits in Limerick and Dublin.
He left college in 1956 and kicked off his career in the 1960s as a newsreader and announcer at RTE before presenting documentaries before moving into light entertainment.
He made his debut on the BBC's Light Programme in the summer of 1967 followed by two years on Late Night Extra for BBC Radio 1 before his success there landed him his own regular afternoon slot.
In 1972 he took over the breakfast slot on BBC Radio 2 and in 1984 he made the move into television with Blankety Blank and his hugely popular thrice weekly chat show Wogan which ran until 1992 and featured interviews with many homegrown and Hollywood stars.
By 1993 he had returned to BBC Radio 2 with his hugely popular breakfast show, Wake Up to Wogan. By 2005 his audience had exceeded 8 million.
At the time, he joked: "Hang on, there's 60 million people in the country - what are the other 52 million listening to?"
The broadcaster hosted Children in Need annually from 1980 apart from last year when he had to pull out for health reasons.
He also provided the BBC's radio commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest in the early 70s and from 1980 until 2008 he provided the BBC's television commentary.
He was knighted in 2005.
In 2009 he left his breakfast slot which was then taken over by Chris Evans. However, he returned to radio the following year to host Weekend Wogan on Sundays on BBC Radio 2.
Terry is survived by his wife Helen and three children, Alan, Mark, and Katherine.
From the archive: Life lessons with Terry Wogan
Additonal reporting PA