Obituary: Terry Wogan

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Photograph: Lorenzo Agius/BBC

Veteran radio and television presenter, Sir Terry Wogan has died after a short battle with cancer, aged 77.

Wogan’s career span five decades, hosting his radio show for 27 years and anchoring a thrice-weekly chat show in the 1980s, as well as the BBC’s Eurovision coverage and annual fundraiser Children in Need.

His whimsical manner, joviality, and warm heart made him a favourite of fans and colleagues alike.

Michael Terence “Terry” Wogan was the son of the manager of Leverett & Frye, a high-class grocery store in Limerick, was educated at Crescent College, a Jesuit school, from the age of eight. At the age of 15, after his father was promoted to general manager, Wogan moved to Dublin with his family. While living in Dublin, he attended Crescent College’s sister school, Belvedere College. He participated in amateur dramatics and discovered a love of rock and roll. After leaving Belvedere in 1956, Wogan had a brief career in the banking profession with the Royal Bank of Ireland.

Terry Wogan (1969) Photo: RTE Archives
Terry Wogan (1969) Photo: RTE Archives

While in his twenties, he joined the national broadcaster of Ireland, RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) as a newsreader and announcer, hosting TV quiz and variety shows such as Jackpot. When the show was dropped by RTÉ TV in 1967, Wogan approached the BBC for extra work. In April 1972, he took over the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. Wogan enjoyed unprecedented popularity, achieving audiences of up to 7.9 million. 

Wogan hosted the quiz show Blankety Blank, as well as anchoring the BBC’s charity appeal, Children in Need, which was first broadcast in 1980. This lead to him receiving ten TV Times awards in succession as most popular television personality; he  asked not to be entered again to give someone else a chance.

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Wogan for BBC Children in Need. Image: BBC

In January 1993, he returned to BBC Radio 2 to present the breakfast show, Wake Up to WoganWogan announced his retirement from his breakfast show in September 2009, but he was back in February 2010 to host a regular live show on Radio 2 on Sunday mornings.

Wogan provided commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest from 1980 until 2008 gaining many plaudits for his tongue in cheek cynicism. He quit claiming claiming Eurovision was “predictable” and “no longer a music contest”.

“Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually, I do. I’ve seen the rehearsals.” – Wogan on Eurovision 2007

Wogan did not host the Children in Need live show last year, due to poor health and upon doctors orders – this was the first sign of ill health and he has kept his short illness private since. Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, led the tributes from the corporation, calling Wogan “a national treasure”.

Irish broadcasters and entertainers hailed Wogan as a pioneer for British-Irish relations during the darkest days of the Troubles, and his illustrious career made him rightly a British national treasure.

He is survived by Helen, whom he married in 1965, two sons and a daughter.