A Life in Pictures: Sir Terry Wogan

4 min read

A Life in Pictures: Sir Terry Wogan
BBC broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan leaves an indelible mark on British TV and radio. We're paying tribute to a broadcasting legend with a look back at his life in pictures

There was a young lad from Limerick…

A bronze statue of Terry Wogan, where he is sat casually on a stool
Terry Wogan grew up in Limerick, Ireland, son of a highly religious grocery store manager. 
Though he expressed regrets at the rigidity of his upbringing, often claiming that he and his peers were "brainwashed into believing", Terry was a proud Limerick lad. "Limerick never left me, whatever it is, my identity is Limerick."

A rock 'n' roll teen

Wogan's father was promoted and the family relocated to Dublin shortly after his 15th birthday. Here Terry began to find himself, becoming involved in amateur dramatics and falling head over heels for rock and roll music. 
A short and unsuccessful stint as a banker was followed by his first job in radio. Wogan joined Raidió Teilifís Éireann (the national broadcaster of Ireland) as a newsreader and announcer after seeing an advert in the newspaper. To his amazement, he was selected from over 10,000 applicants. 

A radio star is born

Terry Wogan RTE
It didn't take Wogan long to garner a reputation as the office joker. Looking back on his time at the Irish station in his autobiographical BBC series, Wogan's Ireland, he remembered working hard but also causing a healthy dose of mayhem.
"I set fire to a fellow announcer’s script—from the bottom up—and I recall slowly pouring a carafe of water over another person’s head as he read the news. And I have to admit it was me who sought to unbutton a lady announcer’s blouse as she was giving it all to the cattle report."
The stakes were as high as the nerves at RTÉ, and Wogan remembered one particularly trying day when he developed an uncontrollable nosebleed while reading the news. 
"So there I was, blood splattered over my script, stuffing tissues up my nose, bleeding to death while reading the news. So when people say, 'How do you do seven hours of live TV for Children In Need?' I say nothing comes close to Irish radio, where we lived on our nerves."

The love of his life

The year before his London breakthrough, Terry Wogan married the love of his life, model Helen Joyce, in a ceremony in Dublin. The happy couple would remain together until his death. As the news of Wogan's passing spread, Joyce released a statement, saying she was, “awfully, awfully sad but relieved that his suffering is over.”
In one of his classic witticisms, Wogan once quipped; “If the present Mrs Wogan has a fault—and I must tread carefully here—this gem in the diadem of womanhood is a hoarder. She never throws anything out. Which may explain the longevity of our marriage.” Speaking to The Guardian in 2004 he called his wife; "the best person I've ever met."

BBC Radio 1

Black and white photo of Terry Wogan wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone, with Paul Walter watching him
Wogan's first BBC gig came through in 1966 when he began broadcasting on The Light Programme, the entertainment and music show that would eventually grow into BBC Radio 2. During this time Wogan was commuting from Dublin to London every day and regularly presented on Radio 1 for the next 10 years. 
In April 1972, he replaced John Dunn as the host of Radio 2's Breakfast Show. His unprecedented popularity saw him pull in audiences of up to 7.9 million. Wogan would return to BBC radio throughout his life, but in December 1984, he left Radio 2 to pursue a full-time career in television.

Children in Need

1980 marked the BBC's first outing of the much-loved charity telethon Children in Need. From his first involvement, Wogan worked tirelessly for the appeal, donating his fee to the cause every year and getting involved in several stunts and auctions along the way. 
Wogan was the face of the charity for over 30 years and prior to his death, he had planned to return to host the show in 2016. Since its launch in 1980, Children in Need has raised a staggering £790 million for disadvantaged young people across the UK. 

A family man

Terry Wogan Shutterstock
With his wife Helen, Terry had four children. His daughter Vanessa sadly died when she was just a few weeks old, a tragedy that would shape Wogan's life. 
Speaking about her death years later, he said, "We just prayed that she would be saved. These days she could be. But she didn’t last long. I remember it all so vividly. I remember punching the wall… I can still see her face. It was a very short time we had with her and I miss her every day."
Whenever he was asked about what really mattered in his life, Wogan's answer was always the same. “Family is all that really counts. Family, and being kind”.

The Eurovision 'Song' Contest 

Many people remember and love Wogan best for his hilarious annual commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest. His cynical, tongue in cheek comments were famous but weren't without controversy. In 2001, for example, he found himself in hot water after referring to Denmark's hosts, Søren Pilmark and Natasja Crone Back, as "Doctor Death and the tooth fairy". 
In 2008, Wogan stepped down from hosting because he felt the contest had become too political and "no longer a music contest". Despite this, he did admit a long-standing affection for the job, calling it "a plum role. Actually, every presenter and stand-up comedian in the country would have killed for the gig."

A broadcasting legend

Terry is wearing a suit and tips his top hat while holding his KBE medal
An indisputable national treasure, Wogan's 60-year career made an indelible mark on British television and radio. In 1997, he was awarded an OBE and was elevated to an Honorary Knight Commander of the same order (KBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2005, officially making him Sir Terry Wogan.
The broadcasting legend died after a battle with cancer on 31 January 2016, aged 77. On the news of Wogan's death, BBC radio host Simon Mayo said, "there was no-one better at being a friend behind the microphone than Sir Terry". His Children in Need cohost Dermot O'Leary called him, "just the most warm-hearted, generous, funny, clever, life-affirming man."
An BBC Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine reminded us how "he lived for the red light and the sense that there was a listener at the end of the microphone. He only ever spoke to one person, because the greatest radio is intimate."
 Banner photo: Terry Wogan's life in pictures (credit: archiveatthebbc (Flickr))
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