Broadcasting legend Sir Terry Wogan has died aged 77, following a short battle with cancer, the BBC confirmed this morning. Originally from Limerick, the skilled and enduring presenter was one of the best-loved TV and radio personalities in the UK and Ireland – best known for helming Wake Up To Wogan on BBC Radio 2 and the TV chat show, Wogan. The popular presenter had almost 50 years experience in the broadcasting industry.
Tributes are pouring in for the beloved broadcaster in Ireland and around the world, led by President Michael D Higgins, who described him as “one of the great figures of broadcasting.” Also speaking fondly of him on Irish radio this morning, veteran broadcasters Gay Byrne, Brendan Balfe and Mike Murphy spoke admiringly of the man who was a mentor and friend to all who met him. Byrne was first to mention Wogan’s distinctive, now instantly recognisable velvet voice, which he said was “so lovely and attractive to listen to.”
“Terry was born with a monstrous advantage over the rest of us. He was born with a permanently sunny disposition. He simply was optimistic and good natured, and this was a huge advantage to have. He saw fun in everything,” Byrne said. “He probably was the most popular, most listened to broadcaster in the world. He had more listeners than the rest of us combined.”
Balfe added that Wogan had been a dear friend as well as his boss as he began his own career on radio, and showed him the ropes. “He was a pal, comrade and also responsible for training me,” Balfe said, noting that his charming personality, humour and intelligence never went unnoticed. “He had a ‘real’ quality to him that was so evident and listeners really responded to him. He was just a wonderful, charming man.”
“You got the sense that he always respected his listeners.”
Following a brief stint in banking, a young, intrepid Wogan initially joined RTÉ as a presenter of documentaries and later quiz shows, where he earned a reputation as a consummate professional with a gift for ad-libbing. Gay Byrne added that he was one of the few people he knew that “could sit in front of nothing but a microphone with no script and know that something would come out.” And of course, many will forever associate him with the Eurovision Song Contest, for which he provided memorable, often stinging and witty commentary for many years. He was also a DJ, fronting numerous variety shows.
“He probably was the most popular, most listened to broadcaster in the world. He had more listeners than the rest of us combined.”
He also clocked up TV work, and fronted the long-running humorous panel show Blankety Blank, complete with his famous ‘wand’ microphone and his Auntie’s Bloomers series.
He made it seem effortless and for a young boy in Ireland he made it seem possible. RIP Sir Terry Wogan. I’ll raise a glass during song 9.
— graham norton (@grahnort) January 31, 2016
This is for you Terry. ‘May the road ride up to meet you’ https://t.co/ca7vWs4oAz
— Dermot O’Leary (@radioleary) January 31, 2016
RIP Sir Terry Wogan.
One of the greatest broadcasters who ever lived.
Such sad news.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 31, 2016
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.”
He was known for his “light, personal touch” and ability to have chatty banter with everyone from comedians to political leaders, which then helped sustain a five decade long career at the BBC. He helmed the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show most recently between 1993 and 2009, quitting while the show was still at the height of its popularity. His appeal, it seemed never waned; in 2005, he had a reported audience of 8 million.
Terry is survived by his wife Helen and three children, Alan, Mark, and Katherine.
Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time.
More to follow.