Monday 23 April 2018

'Terry Wogan and his wife Helen Joyce were the Posh and Becks of early 60s Dublin' - and 6 other things we learned from Wogan: A Legacy

Larger than life: Terry Wogan, one of life's icons who left us recently
Larger than life: Terry Wogan, one of life's icons who left us recently
Ed Power

Ed Power

The late Terry Wogan was remembered in the first of a two-part RTE tribute tonight. Terry Wogan: A Legacy reflected on Wogan as chummy entertainer and intensely private family man. Here are seven things we learned.

1: He only moved to the BBC because his arm was twisted

Wogan was more or less happily employed as radio announcer and presenter at RTE when he began freelancing on the side for the British public broadcaster. Eventually push came to shove and his bosses at RTE demanded he decide where lay his loyalties.That was a catalyst for Wogan to quit Ireland and try his luck in the UK. Broadcasting history was created.

2: Gay Byrne's success convinced him his future lay abroad

"Gay was the man," Wogan recounted in an archive interview. "RTE is a small television station. There's only room for one big TV personality. and so it should be. He was the one with the experience. He did it better than everyone else."

3: He was genuinely making it up as he went

Fellow broadcasters marvelled at Wogan's improvisational skills. Mike Murphy recalled Wogan chatting casually about rugby in the studio while a song played. The instant the music stopped he bent low over the mic and plunged into a fully realised, typically surreal anecdote.

4: Early RTE seemed pretty chaotic

A chuckling Wogan remembered Mike Murphy setting fire to his friend's notes while he was mid monologue. "Broadcasters tend to be a bit loony," Wogan explained. "All the people I worked with at RTE were not the full schilling."

5: Wogan and his wife Helen Joyce were the Posh and Becks of early Sixties Dublin

Wogan and his model wife were the closest the sleepy capital had to a celebrity couple, their wedding in Rathmines attracting a scrum of reporters and well-wishers.

"It was front page in the newspapers," recalled Father Brian D'Arcy. "It was the greatest celebrity wedding I had seen until that point."

6: His Irish accent made him bullet-proof at the BBC

In class-obsessed Britain, Wogan's plummy Limerick burr was impossible to pin down. Thus he side-stepped the cliches and prejudices that attach to background in the UK - invaluable as he scaled the slippery broadcasting slope.

7: He never got over the death of his first daughter

Wogan's daughter Vanessa died of a heart ailment when she was only a few weeks old.

He got on with his life but the hurt was plain as he broached the topic in an interview with Gerry Ryan. "I don't remember a single thing about the infancy of my children. I do remember my first child's face as a baby."

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