Thursday 22 March 2018

Legend of the airwaves, Wogan signs off aged 77

Terry Wogan, left, behind the microphone where he was at his most comfortable. Photo: PA
Terry Wogan, left, behind the microphone where he was at his most comfortable. Photo: PA
Terry Wogan in 1972 with his wife Helen and their baby daughter Katherine at three weeks old, and their sons Alan (5), right, and Mark (2). Photo: PA
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Presidents, politicians and pop stars from both sides of the Irish Sea have paid homage to broadcasting legend Terry Wogan.

The 77-year-old passed away at home in London yesterday morning following a "short but brave battle with cancer".

Leading the tributes to his fellow Limerick man, President Michael D Higgins said: "His was a distinguished contribution to television and in particular to the medium of radio.

"People in Ireland will remember his early career in Irish broadcasting. On his move to Britain his voice became one of the most often quoted, favourite radio voices.

"Always proud of his origins in Limerick, he made many returns to his native country for television and radio projects."

President Higgins added: "His rise to the top of radio listenership in the United Kingdom was a great tribute to his breadth of knowledge and in particular his unique, very personal sense of humour."

Born in Limerick in 1938, the former bank worker got his big break on RTÉ before moving to the BBC in the 1960s, where his wit and warmth soon turned him into a household name.

Paying tribute to the father-of-four, who was knighted in 2005, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told how the radio and television icon had acted as a "bridge between Ireland and Britain".

The Fine Gael leader added: "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."

Best known for his buttery brogue and acerbic humour, Wogan first stood in for Jimmy Young on BBC Radio 2 in 1969.

By 2005, the 'Wake Up to Wogan' presenter had amassed a loyal following of more than eight million 'TOGs' - Terry's Old Geezers and Gals.

Speaking on 'Sunday with Miriam' on RTÉ Radio 1, broadcaster Gay Byrne hailed his lifelong pal's "sunny disposition".

He said: "He had a lovely voice and it produced a lovely round, mellow sound. It started there because people found it attractive to listen to.

"He probably was the most popular and most listened to broadcaster in the world - he had more listeners than all the rest of us combined."

Meanwhile, Ryan Tubridy told listeners on 'The Dave Fanning Show' on 2fm how he had looked up to the 'Blankety Blank' host as a boy: "He would have been incredibly important to me as a kid."

Tweeting his sadness at the news, chat king Graham Norton - who replaced Wogan at the helm of the BBC's Eurovision coverage in 2009 - agreed: "He made it seem effortless and, for a young boy in Ireland, he made it seem possible."

Alongside mascot Pudsey Bear, over the past 35 years, big-hearted 'Tel' helped raise more than £400m for children's charities in the UK as the face of 'Children in Need'.

Last November however, the long-standing compère was replaced by Dermot O'Leary on the telethon at the last moment as he battled the disease that took his life over the weekend.

Posting a poignant black and white photo of his hero yesterday, the former 'X Factor' frontman tweeted: "Just the most warm-hearted, generous, funny, clever, life-affirming man."

Drawing inspiration from an old Irish blessing, he continued: "May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. Thank you Terry. For everything."

The beloved star is survived by his wife of 50 years, Helen, and their three children, Alan, Katherine and Mark, as well as five grandchildren.

In 1966, the couple lost their eldest daughter, Vanessa, when she was just three weeks old.

Breaking the sad news in a statement yesterday, his Buckinghamshire-based family confirmed: "Sir Terry Wogan died today after a short but brave battle with cancer.

"He passed away surrounded by his family."

As tributes flooded in, BBC director general Tony Hall described him as "truly a national treasure".

Praising his ability to shine on both television and radio, former CNN talk show host Piers Morgan argued Wogan was simply a "legend of all airwaves".

Adding his condolences yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with Terry Wogan's family. Britain has lost a huge talent - someone millions came to feel was their own special friend. I grew up listening to him on the radio and watching him on TV. His charm and wit always made me smile," he added.

Presenters Ant and Dec, actors Roger Moore and Joan Collins were just some of the other luminaries to pay homage to the veteran broadcaster on social media.

Irish Independent

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