Figures from across the worlds of showbusiness and politics have united in tribute to Sir Terry Wogan, one of Britain’s most loved broadcasters, who has died at 77.
The veteran radio host and television presenter had been suffering from cancer. He was described by Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, as a “national treasure,” while Prime Minister David Cameron said millions felt he was “their own special friend”.
Sir Terry’s death was confirmed in a statement from his family which was read out on BBC Radio 2, the station which had been the Limerick-born star’s home for more than four decades. The silver-tongued star was last on air almost three months ago, on 8 November. Just days later, he was forced to pull out of presenting Children In Need due to health issues.
His family 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.”
Over more than half a century, Sir Terry became a fixture on British TV and radio. As well as his work on Radio 2 and presenting his chat show on BBC1, he became a cherished figure for his wry take on the Eurovision Song Contest.
Lord Hall said the BBC had lost a “wonderful friend,” adding: “He was a lovely, lovely man and our thoughts are with his wife and family. For 50 years Sir Terry graced our screens and airwaves. His warmth, wit and geniality meant that for millions he was a part of the family.”
Mr Cameron said: “My thoughts are with Terry Wogan’s family. Britain has lost a huge talent – someone millions came to feel was their own special friend. I grew up listening to him on the radio and watching him on TV. His charm and wit always made me smile.”
Irish president Michael D Higgins said: “His rise to the top of radio listenership in the United Kingdom was a great tribute to his breadth of knowledge and in particular his unique, very personal sense of humour.”
One of Sir Terry’s close friends, Father Brian D’Arcy, said the two men said their final goodbyes on Thursday.
“He was quite ill at that stage and I knew it wasn’t long,” the priest said. “We prepared for the worst, and thank God Terry got out of his suffering.”
There were also glowing tributes to Sir Terry from those who worked alongside him in his long career at the BBC.
They described a man who was warm, friendly and always at the top of his game.
Radio 2 broadcaster Jeremy Vine recalled a conversation between Sir Terry and the Queen, during which she asked him how long he had worked at the BBC. Sir Terry replied: “Your Majesty, I’ve never worked here.”
Veteran DJ Tony Blackburn thanked Sir Terry for “being a friend”, while presenter Dermot O’Leary described him as “just the most warm-hearted, generous, funny, clever, life-affirming man”.
Chris Evans, who has the breakfast slot Sir Terry long occupied, added: “I can’t put into words how the whole Radio 2 family is feeling.”
Radio 2 DJ Simon Mayo said Sir Terry was a giant in the medium, adding: “The staple of all great radio is the friend behind the microphone and he was the ultimate friend behind the microphone.”