Terry Wogan 1938-2016: Star of airwaves and small screen put smiles on faces of millions

Terry Wogan was one of the most skilled, popular and enduring broadcasters of his generation, with more than 40 years at the top of his profession.

His velvet voice and his wry, rambling thoughts on life, achieved one of the world’s biggest and most loyal audience.

Millions of early-morning listeners tuned in to hear his gentle and witty commentary on the affairs of the day, both trivial and momentous. It was all delivered in a soft Irish brogue, sometimes cutting but never malicious. He put a smile on the faces of countless people at their breakfast tables.

He announced in September 2009 that he would be quitting his BBC breakfast show the following new year after 27 years. There was an immediate outcry from his hordes of fans, but that merely proved how right he was to stop when his listeners were asking for more.

That decision did not mark the end of his days as a broadcaster.

Wogan was no less popular on television and had hosted a hugely successful chat show. There was real bitterness when that talk show was axed in favour of the ill-fated soap Eldorado.

And he was famous, too, for his ironic and sometimes blistering — but always amusing — commentary at the Eurovision Song Contest, a role he gave up in 2008.

Wogan was born in Limerick and grew up in Elm Park off the Ennis Road. He was educated by the Jesuits at the Crescent College.

His father ran a butchers shop on O’Connell Street and despite spending most of his adult life in England Terry Wogan was slow to forget his roots having once said: “Limerick never left me. Whatever it is, my identity is Limerick.”

He first headed into the world of banking after leaving college in 1956 but, after answering an advertisement, joined RTÉ where he worked as a newsreader and announcer.

He moved on to become a DJ and hosted quiz and variety shows. Moving to the BBC he hosted a mid-’60s programme called Midday Spin and then began working on the new Late Night Extra slot on Radio 1, for which he commuted from Dublin. In April 1972, he was given the Radio 2 morning show.

Terry Wogan began his long association with TV the early 1970s and he fronted the long-running humorous panel show Blankety Blank.

He left his breakfast show at the end of 1984 in anticipation of the launch of his thrice-weekly BBC1 chat show Wogan which ran until 1992 and saw him interview everyone from royalty to Hollywood A-listers, with a drunken appearance by George Best providing one of many memorable moments.

He returned to Radio 2 in 1993, and his popularity and worth to the BBC was accompanied by one of the corporation’s biggest presenter salaries, said to be around £800,000 (€1,050,000). His influence helped to make stars of Katie Melua and posthumously Eva Cassidy among others.

In 1997 he was awarded an honorary OBE, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick in 2004, he was knighted in 2005, and was honoured with the Freedom of Limerick in 2007.

He was married with two sons and a daughter.

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