Chris Evans led the tributes to the late Terry Wogan at a packed service at Westminster Abbey yesterday saying: “He will always be the best.”
The unforgettable Irish brogue of the broadcaster — who died in January following a battle with cancer — could be heard at the service, which opened with recordings from Wogan’s archive.
Evans, who inherited millions of Terry’s listeners when he took over the Radio 2 breakfast show, told the congregation: “He is the best and he will always be the best.”
Katie Melua, who made her name with the help of Wogan, and Peter Gabriel sang at the moving event, which was attended by Wogan’s three children and his wife, who he famously described as “the present Lady Wogan”.
The biggest names in broadcasting turned out for the event, A Service Of Thanksgiving For The Life And Work Of Sir Terry.
They included Dermot O’Leary, Claudia Winkleman, Fearne Cotton, Tess Daly, Joanna Lumley, Gloria Hunniford, Jimmy Carr, Eamonn Holmes, Ruth Langsford, Matt Baker, and Jo Whiley. Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy was also there.
Strictly Come Dancing co-host Winkleman said afterwards: “I thought the service was beautiful.”
The event included tributes from Terry’s children and a poem especially co-written for the occasion by actress Lumley, in which she compared Terry’s voice to “an aural, newly ripened peach”.
It ended with The Floral Dance, which was a hit for Terry in 1978.
The BBC Concert Orchestra performed at the event, where Wogan was described as “a legend in his own lifetime”.
The congregation was asked to donate to one of Wogan’s most beloved causes — Children In Need.
BBC director general Tony Hall paid tribute, saying that Wogan was most proud of his work for Children In Need — he fronted the main appeal show from its inception in 1980 to 2014.
He also spoke of the broadcaster’s “numerous” and “memorable” Eurovision quips, adding: “My own favourite comes from 2007, when he announced as the coverage began: ‘Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually I do, I’ve seen the rehearsals!’”
He called Wogan a “national treasure” and thanked him “for giving us so much sheer unalloyed joy”.
Evans told how Wogan invited him for lunch when the younger broadcaster landed the job hosting the Radio 1 breakfast show, going head to head with the veteran Radio 2 star.
Evans said that he had been “gifted... the single most useful piece of advice” about broadcasting “from the great man himself”.
After a marathon lunch, rounds of golf, dinner and plenty of alcohol, Evans suggested, close to midnight, that the pair get the bill.
“‘Well’, said Sir Terry, ‘I never had you down as a quitter’.”
When Evans asked whether “even you” have to prepare just “a little bit” for the following day’s breakfast show, “[Terry] looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.
“He looked at me and said ‘it’s very simple. They either like you or they don’t’,” Evans recounted.
“Of course, he was exactly right.”
Wogan’s children, Alan Wogan, Mark Wogan and Katherine Cripps, paid tribute to their father’s “love of our mother, his children and grandchildren”, “his true understanding of charity”, his “empathy and selfless wisdom”, his gentleness and “his love of people”.
Melua, who shot to fame after being championed on Terry’s long-running breakfast show, performed an acoustic version of her hit track ‘The Closest Thing To Crazy’.
Radio 2 broadcaster Ken Bruce read WB Yeats’ The Song Of Wandering Aengus at the service, which marked the 50th anniversary of Terry’s first radio broadcast for the BBC.
Gabriel sang a moving rendition of ‘That’ll Do’, one of the tracks Terry picked as a castaway on Desert Island Discs and played before signing off after 27 years on his breakfast show.
Lumley’s poem, co-written with songwriter Sir Richard Stilgoe, was entitled For The Former Greatest Living Irishman.
“I think he was the tops, the cat’s miaow,” she said.
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