Sir Terry Wogan, the veteran BBC television and radio broadcaster, has sadly lost his battle with cancer aged 77. In a statement from his family, they 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.” The Children in Need and Radio 2 legend had a career spanning over fifty years, most loved for his witty commentary and playful character.
Son of a grocery shop manager, the Limerick-born media personality began his career on Irish radio in the 1960s, before making his BBC debut in 1969. A few years later in 1971, Sir Terry provided the radio commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest. He became renowned for his television commentary for the show, which he first handled in 1973 and 1978, and from 1980 until 2008 he was the voice of the contest for millions of viewers. Known for his sarcastic humour on the absurdities of the show, contestants and hosts, he appealed to British audiences who welcomed him into their homes. One of his most notable wry comments was in 2001, when he named the two Danish hosts “Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy.” In 2007 Sir Terry accidentally announced the wrong winner for the British entry on Eurovision’s sister show Making Your Mind Up, before being corrected by co-host Fearne Cotton. The loveable personality easily escaped uproar, by stopping audiences taking the show too seriously with “Nobody died, it’s a TV programme”.
An admirable aspect of Sir Terry’s long-standing television career was his dedication to charity and Children in Need. In 1980, he presented the first charity appeal broadcast on the BBC alongside Sue Lawley and Esther Rantzen, and he remained the leading presenter of Children in Need for more than thirty years. In 2015, Sir Terry was unable to participate in the televised appeal due to poor health, and Dermot O’Leary instead stood in; before his death, Sir Terry expressed that he hoped to return to the role in 2016.
He also played host for his chat shows What’s on Wogan? And Wogan, not always without controversy. In 1990, footballer George Best made for memorable viewing after a drunk and dishevelled appearance on the show, which Sir Terry handled with the composure of a true professional. In 1997 Sir Terry was appointed an OBE, and he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2005.
After twenty-seven years in two shifts on BBC Radio 2, Sir Terry revealed his retirement from the breakfast show in 2009, to be succeeded by Chris Evans. Making his announcement on air, he told listeners “I wanted to be the first to tell you. It’s the least I owe you, for endless years, countless hours of morning companionship, friendship, good humour and laughter. Your loyalty and support has been a beacon of love in my life.”
Sir Terry enjoyed a quiet family life, with his wife Helen and their three children, and led a career unmarked by scandal despite his high profile.
Tributes have been pouring in for the broadcaster, with BBC director Tony Hall amongst them saying “Terry truly was a national treasure”. Sir Terry was a star of radio and television who touched the hearts of many, and will be truly missed.