Last Sunday morning while sitting down in front of the Sunday papers I received a really unexpected text alert. Now in recent times these BBC News, Sky News, Guardian, Sun Text updates fill me with dread due to the now almost weekly occurrence of some unfortunate BREAKING NEWS somewhere in the world. On the morning of 31st January, the last day of what had been an abysmal month for celebrity deaths at the end of last year, ACDC’s Lemmy , David Bowie (10th), Alan Rickman (14th) so thankfully I thought this latest alert couldn’t have been another breaking news story about another celebrity death?? Think again, sleepily looking down at my phone and seeing the words: “Veteran BBC Broadcaster…” In that split second you delve into your thoughts and wonder who must they be talking about, but your eyes read on instantaneously….”Sir Terry Wogan has died aged 77, after a short illness, his family confirms”, I got the same sinking feeling as I did last August when news of Cilla Black’s death electronically flashed up and nothing prepares you for feeling so sad, so quickly.
Sir Terry’s death is so palpably sad because the word ‘legend’ is bandied around to anyone from Olympic Gold gymnasts to members of TOWIE. So you become quite immune to the word, I’m a legend, you’re a legend. Sir Terry, like Bowie, was an actual legend. Somebody who my dad has always recalled remembering on RTE when he was a junior Doctor on placement in Ireland in the 1960s to watching the chat show Wogan as a kid with my brother throughout the 80s and 90s on BBC1 on weekday evenings three times a week, to each and every May watching the 5 hour annual marathon of musical nonsense that is Eurovision, annually, making dad and I howl with laughter with his dry warm wit and commentary. Then, of course there was Children in Need the charity marathon that at some stage either at school or at work we all find ourselves in some way fundraising for in a similar way to Red Nose Day.
Almost 10 years ago, back in November 2006, I had the pleasure of looking after Sir Terry, Fearne Cotton, Girls Aloud and All Saints and two BBC Newsreaders. When working at The BBC in production they pooled together all members of production teams on different shows to help out on the rehearsal day and the Charity night for this very worth charity. You know, it was all well and good spending the day, watching the rehearsals and finding yourself in a BBC corridor with Amy Winehouse and Liam Gallagher walking in front of you, but the one person who I was most in awe of and and who left me with the biggest impression was Sir Terry. I cannot get across to you just how genuinely affable, warm and funny and appreciative he was of help from everyone, from the Floor Manager to the Lighting team to the Sound Crew to Producers to little old me a Runner on loan from another TV Programme for this Charity extravaganza. Sir Terry said to me in the morning sighing quietly “I dislike these all day rehearsals, you know, always have done”, however, the consummate professional that he just got on with it, when you consider that as a man in his mid 60’s, as he was then, it’s a huge juggernaut of show to be in charge of that would require him to be there straight from finishing his Radio 2 Breakfast show at 9am to staying the studios to be there all day until at least midnight. What a huge thing to be responsible for! Remember, this is a show he had done every year from before I was on this earth back in 1980!! Watching him, listening to him is one of the reason why I myself had gone into broadcasting. Loving the medium of TV and Radio but also having the ability to use it effectively talking to one person not millions and making the millions feel like your talking to them as individuals with as much warmth as if you were actually with them having breakfast.
I notice that with all the many tributes that poured in they all run along these same wonderful lines, from all his friends and colleagues from the Broadcasting world and from fans and listeners alike. I wish i could find something negative to say about him, but there truly is nothing. Through all the pressures and demands on the industry on individuals and having been in it for so long he never had to be cut-throat or ruthless or rude to get to the top and stay there. Which is what I’ve always believed in my 12 years in the industry in various forms. I have always believed that this is the way to be and Sir Terry is proof that after almost six decades of being a TV Personality, forget ‘celebrity’, that’s now becoming a dirty word. He’s an actual LEGEND that will now remain as such. My heart goes out to his beloved wife and children, who must have been so honoured to have him in their lives as a father and husband. We have all been lucky to have experienced the warmth and wit and character of Wogan, I was lucky enough to have met the man himself. He’s my TV idol and I simply aspire to be just a fraction as good as him as a broadcaster and as a man. The one memory that I’ll always remember of Sir Terry is being stood on the side of the stage behind the curtain and watching him make the audience laugh while a VT was playing, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but i too was laughing, the camera cut back to him quite quickly and everyone was still laughing and you could feel this happiness and love just ooze from the studio audience, the viewers to Sir Terry and vice versa….this was Magic, even Fearne Cotton seemed in awe of him.
What a chat show he’s hosting up in Heaven! I hear his special guests are Lemmy, Alan Rickman and David Bowie, I’ll be sure to watch!
RIP Sir Terry.