Terry Wogan

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Sir Terry Wogan
Terry Wogan MBE Investiture cropped.jpg
Wogan at the Investiture for his KBE at Buckingham Palace in December 2005
Born Michael Terence Wogan
(1938-08-03)3 August 1938
Limerick City, Ireland
Died 31 January 2016(2016-01-31) (aged 77)
Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England
Cause of death Cancer
Nationality Irish
Citizenship Ireland and United Kingdom
Years active 1956–2015
Employer BBC
Known for Television presenting:
Radio presenting:
Spouse(s) Helen Joyce (1965-2016; his death)
Children 4
Website terrywogan.com

Sir Michael Terence Wogan, KBE, DL (/ˈwɡən/, 3 August 1938 – 31 January 2016), known popularly as Terry Wogan, or Sir Terry, was an Irish radio and television broadcaster who worked for the BBC in the UK for most of his career. Before he retired in 2009, his BBC Radio 2 weekday breakfast programme Wake Up to Wogan had eight million regular listeners, making him the most listened-to radio broadcaster in Europe.[1]

Wogan was a leading media personality in Britain and Ireland from the late 1960s and was often referred to as a "national treasure".[1] In addition to his weekday radio show, he was known for his work on television, including the BBC One chat show Wogan, presenting Children in Need, the game show Blankety Blank and Come Dancing. He was the BBC's commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest from 1971 to 2008 and its host in 1998.[2] From 2010 to 2015 he presented Weekend Wogan, a two-hour Sunday morning show on BBC Radio 2.[3][4]

In 2005, Wogan acquired British citizenship in addition to his Irish nationality and was thus entitled to use the title "Sir" in front of his name when he was awarded a knighthood in the same year.[5][6] He died from cancer at his home in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, on 31 January 2016, aged 77.

Early life[edit]

Wogan, the son of the manager of Leverett & Frye, a high class grocery store in Limerick, Ireland, was educated at Crescent College, a Jesuit school, from the age of eight. He experienced a strongly religious upbringing, later commenting that he had been brainwashed into believing by the threat of going to hell.[7] Despite this, he often expressed his fondness for the city of his birth, commenting on one occasion that "Limerick never left me, whatever it is, my identity is Limerick."[8]

At the age of 15, after his father was promoted to general manager, Wogan moved to Dublin with his family. While living there, 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, joining the Royal Bank of Ireland.[9] While in his twenties, he joined the national broadcaster of Ireland, RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) as a newsreader and announcer, after seeing a newspaper advertisement inviting applicants.[10]

Radio work[edit]

Early career[edit]

Wogan conducted interviews and presented documentary features during his first two years at Raidió Teilifís Éireann, before moving to the light entertainment department as a disc jockey and host of TV quiz and variety shows such as Jackpot, a top rated quiz show on RTÉ in the 1960s. When the show was dropped by RTÉ TV in 1967, Wogan approached the BBC for extra work. David Attenborough rebuffed Wogan's job application to be a BBC presenter as "to have two Irishmen presenting on BBC Two would have looked ridiculous".[11] He began working for BBC Radio, initially 'down the line' from Dublin, first broadcasting on the Light Programme on 27 September 1966. He presented the Tuesday edition of Late Night Extra for two years on BBC Radio 1, commuting weekly from Dublin to London. After standing-in for Jimmy Young's mid-morning show, whilst he took a holiday throughout July 1969, he was offered a weekday afternoon slot between 3pm and 5pm

In April 1972, he took over the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2, swapping places with John Dunn, who briefly hosted the afternoon show. Wogan achieved record audiences of up to 7.9 million.[12] His seemingly ubiquitous presence across the media meant that he frequently became the butt of jokes by comedians of the time, among them The Goodies and The Barron Knights. He released a parody vocal version of the song "The Floral Dance" in 1978, by popular request from listeners who enjoyed hearing him sing over the instrumental hit by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. His version reached number 21 in the UK Singles Chart.[12] In December 1984, Wogan left his breakfast show to pursue a full-time career in television and was replaced by Ken Bruce.[13] His first chat show Wogan's World, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from 6 June 1974 to 21 September 1975.[14]

Return to radio[edit]

In January 1993, he returned to BBC Radio 2, replacing Brian Hayes to present the breakfast show, then called Wake Up to Wogan. His tendency to go off on rambling, esoteric tangents, often including banter with his then producer, Paul Walters, became popular with both younger and older listeners. Much of the entertainment came from letters and emails sent in by listeners, many of whom adopted punning pseudonyms. One occasion involved Wogan reading out an email from someone using the name "Tess Tickles", without realising what the name was referring to, prompting Paul Walters' standard reply in such situations – "I only print 'em!"[15]

Through his show Wogan was also widely credited with launching the career of singer Katie Melua, after he repeatedly played her début single, "The Closest Thing to Crazy", in late 2003. When she performed on Children in Need in 2005, Wogan joked that Melua owed her career to him. He gave credit for her discovery to Walters.[16] Walters also put music by Eva Cassidy, an American singer who had died in relative obscurity, on Wogan's playlist; Cassidy then, posthumously, became a sensation in the United Kingdom.[17]

As his radio show was considered to attract older listeners, Wogan jokingly referred to his fans as "TOGs", standing for "Terry's Old Geezers" or "Terry's Old Gals", whilst "TYGs" were "Terry's Young Geezers/Gals", who he joked were forced to listen to him because of their parents' choice of radio station. Wogan was referred to as "The Togmeister" on his own programme by himself and members of his production team, and he referred to the podcast of his show as a 'togcast'.[18]

There were also running jokes involving Wogan's newsreader colleagues Alan Dedicoat (nicknamed 'Deadly' after the spoonerism 'Deadly Alancoat'), Fran Godfrey, and John Marsh (nicknamed 'Boggy'). Marsh once told Wogan on air that his wife was called Janet, and a series of "Janet and John" stories followed, read by Wogan during the breakfast show. These were a pastiche of children's learn-to-read stories, with humorous sexual double-entendres, which often led to Wogan and Marsh breaking into laughter. Five CDs of the stories have been sold in aid of Children in Need, and have raised over £3 million.[citation needed] A long-running campaign by Wogan criticising the British government for levying VAT on these CDs eventually led to a government rebate of £200,000.[19] Another feature of the programme was Wogan's exchanges with "the Totty from Splotty" – Lynn Bowles, the Welsh traffic reporter from Splott, Cardiff – which often involved reading limericks from listeners cut short after one or two lines, as risqué innuendo in the later lines was telegraphed. In 2005, it was reported that his breakfast show Wake Up to Wogan attracted an audience of eight million.[citation needed]

According to figures leaked to British newspapers in April 2006, Wogan was the highest paid BBC radio presenter at that time, with an £800,000 a year salary.[20] In an interview with Britain's Hello magazine in its 30 May 2006 issue, Wogan confirmed this, saying that he represented good value. On 23 May 2005, Wogan crossed BBC strike picket lines to present his show.[21]

Wogan was forced off the air on 16 February 2007, when steam from a nearby gym set off fire alarms.[22] For 15 minutes an emergency tape played non-stop music. On returning, Wogan read out several light hearted comments from listeners, saying that they thought he had died with his sudden disappearance and the playing of such sentimental music. On 7 September 2009, Wogan confirmed to his listeners that he would be leaving the breakfast show at the end of the year with Chris Evans taking over.[23] The Times published an ode to Terry: "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone. Terry Wogan is abandoning his microphone", and novelist Allison Pearson commented: "Heard the one about the Irishman who reminded the British of what they could be at their best? His name was Terry Wogan."[1] Wogan presented his final Radio 2 breakfast show on 18 December 2009.[24]

It was announced that Wogan would return to Radio 2 from 14 February 2010 to host a live weekly two-hour Sunday show on the network, featuring live musical performance and guests, between 11.00 am and 1.00 pm.[25] The show, titled Weekend Wogan, was hosted in front of a live audience in the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House until the 4th series, where he returned to the studio.

Wogan continued to host the show until 8 November 2015 when, due to ill health, he was replaced by Richard Madeley.[26]

Television work[edit]

Eurovision Song Contest[edit]

In 1971, and from 1974 until 1977, Wogan provided the BBC's radio commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest. He became known for his television commentary, which he handled first in 1973, again in 1978, then every year from 1980 until 2008. He co-hosted the 1998 contest with Ulrika Jonsson, in Birmingham's National Indoor Arena on 9 May. From 1977 until 1996, Wogan hosted the UK selection show each year, returning to the job in 1998, and again from 2003 until 2008. In 1973, 1975, every year from 1977 until 1984, and again in 1994, Wogan also presented the UK Eurovision Song Contest Previews on BBC 1.

Wogan's commentating style, which often involved humour at the expense of others, caused controversy: for example, when he referred to the hosts of the 2001 contest in Denmark, Søren Pilmark and Natasja Crone Back, as "Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy".[27]

During the presentation of the Dutch televote in the Eurovision Song Contest 2006, Wogan called the Dutch televote presenter, Paul de Leeuw, an "eejit", as de Leeuw started to make ad lib comments, gave his mobile phone number and lengthened the Dutch results. Chris Tarrant later praised Wogan's acerbity.[28]

During the 2007 BBC show Making Your Mind Up, in which the British public voted to decide their Eurovision entry, Wogan announced, wrongly, that the runner-up Cyndi was the winner. The winner was the group Scooch; according to the BBC, Wogan was provided with the correct result during the live show.[29]

In the 2008 contest, the UK's entry, Andy Abraham, came last, much to Wogan's disappointment. Wogan argued that Abraham gave a better performance than the entries from Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina.[30]

At the 2008 contest he was acknowledged by both hosts, along with France's Jean-Paul Gaultier and Finland's 2007 Contest host Jaana Pelkonen.[31]

On 11 August 2008, Wogan said in an interview with the Radio Times magazine that he was doubtful about presenting the Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom again.[32] On 5 December 2008, Wogan stepped down from the role after 35 years. Graham Norton succeeded Wogan as BBC commentator for the 2009 contest.[33]

In November 2014, Wogan reviewed Norton's autobiography for The Irish Times.[34] Describing his attitude towards the contest, he wrote that he saw it as a "sometimes foolish farce". He hinted that the 2014 winner, Austrian drag act Conchita Wurst, was a "freakshow".[35] After Wogan's death, his presentation of the contest was criticised for its mocking tone.[36]

Chat shows[edit]

Wogan's first foray into TV interviewing, and indeed to British television, was in 1972 on Lunchtime with Wogan on ITV. Later, What's On, Wogan? ran for one series in 1980 on BBC1, primarily on early Saturday evenings. In 1981 he had a chance to host a one-off chat show, Saturday Live. Among his guests on this show were Larry Hagman, promoting SOB, and Frank Hall. Hagman was at the height of his fame, which gave the show a high-profile.

Soon after Wogan was given his own chat show, Wogan, which after a trial run on a midweek evening, was recommissioned for broadcast on Saturday nights from 1982 to 1984. Between 1985 and 1992, the show aired on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7pm. The series included interviews with George Best, Chevy Chase, Anne Bancroft, Ronnie Barker announcing his retirement on the show, and David Icke claiming to be the "Son of God", to whom Wogan stated: "They're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you."[37]

The BBC stopped an interview in 1989 with Simon Hayward, a former captain in the Life Guards, hours before he was due to appear on the Wogan show. Hayward insisted that he was innocent of drug smuggling offences. The decision was taken by the then Controller of BBC 1, Jonathan Powell, after protests from several MPs. The BBC was accused of censorship and a Conservative MP, John Gorst, described the decision to ban Hayward from Wogan as "outrageous".[38]

Wogan was released from his talk-show contract in 1992, after pressure from the BBC.[37] He said that the BBC also wanted his scheduling slot for the ill-fated soap Eldorado. After Eldorado took over the 7 pm slot, Wogan briefly hosted a new weekly chat strand Terry Wogan's Friday Night in 1993, but this series was not recommissioned.

Wogan presented Wogan Now and Then (2006), a show where he interviewed guests from his old chat show, as well as new guests. BBC Two launched a new compilation series, Wogan: the Best Of in 2015, featuring selected interview segments and music performances from Wogan's past chat series, linked by new introductions from Wogan.[39]

Children in Need[edit]

Main article: Children in Need

In 1980, the BBC's charity appeal for children was first broadcast as a telethon called Children in Need, with Wogan presenting alongside Sue Lawley and Esther Rantzen.[40] He campaigned extensively for the charity, and often involved himself via auctions on his radio show, or more directly by taking part in well-publicised sponsored activities.

He was reported to be the only celebrity paid for his participation in Children in Need, having received a fee every year since 1980 (£9,065 in 2005). Wogan stated that he would have done it for nothing and that he "never asked for a fee". Wogan donated his BBC fees to the charity.[41][42] The BBC stated that the fee had "never been negotiated".

He appeared on the panel comedy show QI in the 2008 episode for Children in Need, 'Families'.

In 2008, Wogan and singer Aled Jones released a single "Little Drummer Boy"/"Peace on Earth", which got to number three in the UK music charts. The money raised went to BBC Children in Need. The two recorded a second Christmas single "Silver Bells" in 2009, which was also in aid of BBC Children in Need.[43]

Wogan was the main regular presenter of Children in Need for more than thirty years, his last such appearance being in 2014. In November 2015, Wogan was unable to participate in the televised Children in Need appeal for the first time in its 35-year history, due to poor health after a surgical procedure on his back.[44] He was replaced by Dermot O'Leary.[45] Prior to his death, Wogan hoped to return to Children in Need in 2016, carrying on as main presenter.

Other television work[edit]

Wogan on MasterChef Live in November 2009

In 1981, Wogan set the world record for the longest successful golf putt ever televised, of 33 yards, at the Gleneagles golf course, in a pro-celebrity match broadcast by the BBC.[46] Wogan narrated the BBC television series Stoppit and Tidyup, which was broadcast in 1987.[47]

Wogan appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross four times, between 2004 and 2009. In an appearance on the BBC programme Top Gear, Wogan became the second-slowest guest to go around the test track as the "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car", a Suzuki Liana. Only Richard Whiteley was slower.[48]

In 2010, Wogan made a cameo appearance in the second series of Being Human,[49] and also guest-hosted the fourth episode of the 24th series of Never Mind the Buzzcocks.[50] The following year, Wogan hosted Wogan on Wodehouse for BBC Two.[51] In 2011 he appeared as a panelist on Would I Lie To You.

On 21 September 2013, Wogan appeared as a panellist on ITV game show Through the Keyhole.[52] In November 2013, he participated in a celebrity edition of the BBC One game show Pointless, with celebrities including Bobby Ball and Esther Rantzen, in aid of Children in Need.[53]

On 31 March 2014, Wogan was a guest reporter on Bang Goes the Theory, on which he discussed old-age dementia.[54] From 12 to 16 May 2014, Wogan appeared on the Channel 4 game show Draw It!.[55] On 10 November 2014, in the run up to that year's Children in Need telethon, Wogan guest hosted an episode of The One Show with Alex Jones.[56]

Honours and awards[edit]

Wogan was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997, and later became an Honorary Knight Commander of the same order (KBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2005. After asserting his right to British citizenship and retaining his Irish citizenship that year, Wogan was officially knighted on 11 October 2005, allowing him to use the style "Sir".[57] On 29 May 2007, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire.[58]

On 15 June 2007, Wogan's home city of Limerick honoured him with the Freedom of the City at a ceremony in Limerick's Civic Hall. Because of his long absence from the city and unflattering remarks about the city in a 1980 interview, the local press carried out a vox pop, which resulted in support for the award.[59] He was made an honorary freeman of the City of London in 2009, and invited to raise the bascules of Tower Bridge.[60]

In 2004, he received an Honorary D.Litt. degree from the University of Limerick,[61] as well as a special lifetime achievement award from his native city. He received an Honorary LL.D. degree from Leicester University in 2010.[62][63]

Wogan was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1978, when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Broadcasting House.

Wogan was inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame at a gala dinner held in his honour on 10 December 2009.[64] Wogan was announced as the Ultimate Icon of Radio 2, commemorating the station's 40th birthday. The shortlist of sixteen candidates had been published on the BBC Radio 2 website, and the winner was announced live on Radio 2 during a one-off special edition of Family Favourites by host Michael Aspel on 30 September 2007. He praised his fellow nominees, the Beatles, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Nelson Mandela during his acceptance speech, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, and he chose Nat King Cole's recording of "Stardust" as his iconic song of the last 40 years.[65] Wogan had chosen the song twice before as his favourite record on Desert Island Discs, and said he wanted to be buried with it.[66]

Personal life[edit]

On 25 April 1965, Wogan married Helen Joyce, and they remained so until his death. They lived in Taplow, Buckinghamshire,[67] with another home in Gascony, southwestern France. Sir Terry and Lady Wogan had four children (one of whom, a daughter Vanessa, died when only a few weeks old) and five grandchildren. In 2010, Wogan described the anguish he felt on the loss of his baby daughter.[68][69]

In April 2013, Wogan attended the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after being invited by her family.[70]

Wogan was brought up and educated as a Catholic, but was an atheist from the age of 17.[7][71][72][73] In an interview with Gay Byrne on RTÉ, he said that he respected those who had "the gift of faith".[72][74]


Wogan's health declined following Christmas 2015. He did not present Children in Need, complaining of back pain as the reason of his absence from the long-running annual show. His friend, Father Brian D’Arcy, visited him during January, and noticed he was seriously ill.[75] He died of cancer, aged 77, on 31 January 2016, at his home in Buckinghamshire.[76] British Prime Minister David Cameron said that "Britain has lost a huge talent"[77] and Irish President Michael D. Higgins praised Wogan's career and his frequent visits to his homeland.[78] Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Irish Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton remembered Wogan for his role in helping Anglo-Irish relations during the Troubles.[79] D'Arcy speculated that a public funeral would be logistically difficult, as there would be too many people wanting to pay their respects.[75]


Year Title Role Note(s)
1964–1965 Jackpot Presenter
1971, 1974–1977 Eurovision Song Contest Presenter Radio coverage
1972–1973 Lunchtime with Wogan Presenter
1973–1979 Come Dancing Presenter
1973, 1978, 1980–2008 Eurovision Song Contest Presenter UK television commentary for the final
1973, 1975, 1977–1984, 1994 Eurovision Song Contest Previews Presenter
1974 Castlebar Song Contest Presenter
1977–1995, 2003 A Song for Europe Presenter
1977 Ask a silly Answer [80] Presenter For Southern Television, 14 April – 19 May 1977; Six episodes. Panel includes Graeme Garden, Alfred Marks, Willie Rushton, and Spike Milligan.
1979–1983 Blankety Blank Presenter
1980—2015 Children in Need Main presenter Telethon presenter, with various co-presenters until 2014.
With a short voiceover and a small appearance in 2015.
1981 You Must Be Joking! Presenter [81] Gameshow, where two contrasting teams of 25 are pitted against each other; 10 episodes
1982–1992 Wogan Presenter British television chat show
1982 Wogan's Guide to the BBC [82] Presenter Behind the scenes at the BBC.
1991–2001 Auntie's Bloomers Presenter
1996, 1998 The Great British Song Contest Presenter
1998 Eurovision Song Contest 1998 Presenter With Ulrika Jonsson
1999–2008 Points of View Presenter
2003–2004 The Terry and Gaby Show Presenter With Gaby Roslin
2004–2007 Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up Presenter With various co-presenters
2006 Blankety Blank DVD Game Presenter Returned to Blankety Blank for a special DVD edition
2008 Eurovision: Your Decision Presenter With Claudia Winkleman
2008–2010 Wogan's Perfect Recall Presenter
2014 Secrets of the Body Clock[83]
2014 The One Show Guest presenter 1 episode
2015 Terry and Mason's Great Food Trip Presenter Documentary series




General non-fiction[edit]


See also[edit]


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  80. ^ BOOK: The Fully Authorised History of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: The Clue Bible By Jem Roberts P318
  81. ^ http://www.ukgameshows.com/ukgs/You_Must_be_Joking
  82. ^ Wogan's Guide to the BBC genome.ch.bbc.co.uk
  83. ^ Julia Raeside. "The soothing pleasure of Secrets of the Body Clock with Terry Wogan". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 January 2016. 

External links[edit]

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