Terry Wogan 1938-2016: ‘An ambassador for Ireland in troubled times’




Terry Wogan was Britain’s favourite Irishman and Ireland’s greatest unpaid ambassador.

Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne said Mr Wogan never got a nasty letter throughout the Troubles. “I remember him saying that he never got any outburst of blame or contempt or nastiness from British listeners or viewers, which is quite extraordinary,” said Mr Byrne.

Throughout the Troubles — a difficult time for the Irish in Britain, Mr Wogan’s voice on the BBC was a comfort to his countrymen and many Irish people personally thanked him.

Mr Wogan started to work for the BBC at the end of the 1960s — he had started to work in Britain while was still an announcer on Irish radio. He was presenting the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show throughout the the years when the IRA’s bombing campaign was at its height.

Mr Wogan said he never denied his nationality or apologised for it because the atrocities were not being done in his name. But he was very conscious of the situation. He was sent a parcel bomb addressed to him at Broadcasting House in 1994 and when asked about it he said whoever sent it could not have been much of a fan — he was on holiday at the time.

Mr Byrne told RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan that Mr Wogan was born with a “monster” advantage over the rest of them — a permanently sunny disposition.

“He simply was optimistic and he was good-natured and he saw the fun in everything,” he said.

Mr Byrne said Mr Wogan was probably the most popular and the most listened to broadcaster in the world — his morning show had many listners across the rest of Europe, as well as his vast British listnership.

He said Mr Wogan’s charm started with his voice — people tended to dismiss the fact that he had a lovely voice and it produced a lovely round, mellow sound.

Broadcaster Ryan Tubridy recalled going on a school trip to London in the 1980s and being part of the audience when Mr Wogan was presenting his chat show. Mr Tubridy said he copied a few things from Mr Wogan and to this day used them on The Late Late Show.

He said Mr Wogan could be deceptive — as well as being funny and kind he was a thinker.“He reminded me of the Dean Martin of broadcasting — very laid back.”

Broadcaster Mike Murphy was shocked to hear that Mr Wogan had died because he had been so ebullient and so full of life and energy.

“I did not think he was going to slip away. I thought he would just trundle on forever,” he said.

Irish radio personality Brendan Balfe said Mr Wogan always had a sunny disposition. “It is the mark of a great broadcaster that they are pretty much the same on the air as they are off the air,” he said.

2FM presenter Larry Gogan said there was nothing “put on” about Mr Wogan, who had a beautiful voice. “He was very intelligent, full of fun and quick as lightning with quips.”

RTÉ director general Noel Curran said Mr Wogan was a consummate broadcaster and an ambassador for Irish talent in Britain .

President Michael D Higgins said Mr Wogan’s rise to the top of radio listenership in Britain was a tribute to his breadth of knowledge and, in particular, his unique, very personal sense of humour.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Wogan occupied a special place in British listeners’ hearts and had acted in no small way as a bridge between Ireland and Britain.

Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party, Joan Burton, said Mr Wogan was more than just a broadcaster — he showed Ireland and Britain had more in common than divided them.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Wogan was one of Ireland’s true ambassadors.

Wogan’s wordsHere are some examples of Terry Wogan’s wit and wisdom:

- “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”

- “Get on your toes, keep your wits about you, say goodnight politely when it’s over, go home and enjoy your dinner” — His golden rule of broadcasting.

- “Gratuitously hurtful folk declare that I am very popular in hospitals because the listeners abed there are too weak to reach out and switch me off.”

- “The price of fame? Who in their right mind would want to pay it?”

- “If the present Mrs Wogan has a fault — and I must tread carefully here — this gem in the diadem of womanhood is a hoarder. She never throws anything out. Which may explain the longevity of our marriage.”

- “Could it be that behind every great man there’s a woman working him with her foot?”

- “Go out and face the world secure in the knowledge that everybody else thinks they are better looking than they are as well.”

- “My opinion has the weight of a ton of feathers.”-n “The girls themselves resemble nothing so much as garden rakes, and bad-tempered, pouting garden rakes at that” — On thin models.

- “Why do men think they know how to cook outside when they haven’t the smallest idea how to go about it indoors?” — On barbecues.

- “The only physical adornments which grow bigger with passing years are the nose and ears. The rest, regrettably, diminishes.”

- “Retirement is coming to all of us, and as my accountant said to me lately, ‘You’d better think of taking your pension soon, otherwise it won’t be worth your while’.”

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