The term ‘National Treasure’ isn’t bandied around much, and quite rightly. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I call Sir Terry Wogan such. Whether it’s remembering his dry and irreverent commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest, his legendary stint as the voice of breakfast on Radio 2, or his long-running chat show Wogan, there should be something for everyone to attach themselves to with ol’ Tel.
In a month where we’ve lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey, it’s tragic that January still had one more legend to snatch. Wogan had been mostly out of the public eye since his retirement from his Radio 2 breakfast show 2009, but his death is still incredibly hard to take.
Most of those mourning his loss will be of a similar generation to Wogan, which makes it a little difficult for students to associate with him. I’m sure many have seen certain legendary appearances on Wogan, like George Best’s infamous interview, but I can’t claim at all to have any affinity with the show. After all, it ended three years before I was born.
And similarly, most people my age didn’t actively tune in to Radio 2 every weekday morning to listen to Wogan’s dulcet tones. But many can claim to have been his ‘friend’ (as he put it) whilst being driven to school on a rainy day by their parents. Although most of the time I had no idea what was really going on, I could appreciate how much joy he brought to his listeners.
For a morning Radio 2 show, Wake Up To Wogan was surprisingly smutty at times. But this was all harmless, juvenile fun. Take a listen to some Janet & John stories, read in a serious manner by Wogan, but adapted and filled to the brim with innuendos. All too often would Terry and his team be in uncontrollable laughter, but this crude joking was never explicitly revealed. After all, it’d spoil the innocence of them. This segment was so popular, it was instantly trending on Twitter following the news of his passing, and no doubt sales of compilations assembled to raise money for Children In Need – which he hosted for years – will spike.
His status as a radio legend was consolidated with his emotional departure from his breakfast show in 2009, where he turned down the mics for the final time. No doubt many of Terry’s Old Geezers (TOGs) were close to tears as he read out messages from listeners. When Tel said “I wish I knew all of you personally”, it was truly genuine. He’d spent 27 years on Radio 2 getting to know his listeners, and you can tell that he was clearly upset about the prospect of never receiving a message from Phil in Rochdale, or Anne in Wrexham again.
In addition to his radio work, Wogan was also the character who made the Eurovision Song Contest tolerable for 30 years, with his cynical yet witty comments. Who can forget his description of the Danish hosts in 2001, calling them “Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy”? Although it was the UK who got to sample his commentary annually, his status was known amongst the European broadcasters, proving how much of a legacy Tel had.
To paraphrase Wogan himself, thank you, thank you for being our friend.