Terry Wogan is dead.

by Harry on January 31, 2016

Gruaniad here.

Here’s what I said when he retired in 2009:

His was the first music show I was aware of on the radio, because once in a while our neighbour, Charles Lossock, would drive me to school listening to Radio 2. (Lossock was a “carpet salesman” who seemed to make regular trips behind the Iron Curtain, and was, I think, the first passionate anti-anti-semite I was aware of. A spy, I always figured when I was older). Later, I would pass Wogan’s house on the way to and from school, and every couple of weeks we’d meet, me on my bike, he in his Rolls that didn’t really fit the one-lane road, and I would be pushed into the hedge. It never bothered me. I never thought he suited TV, myself – Blankety Blank was, of course, great, but I always thought Wogan was not very good (though reading the wiki entry makes me wonder if I watched it enough)—talented as he is, it was impossible to find the dull-witted celebrities he interviewed half as interesting or amusing as he was (one of the most uncomfortable bits of TV I’ve ever seen was watching Wogan try to interview a monosyllabic (though wonderful!) James Bolam, who just had nothing at all to say, and nothing Wogan could do would get him to open up). During our stay in the UK early this decade I wrote most of a whole book while listening to Wogan on the X90 to London. And since he’s been available on listen again (I’m not about to wake up at 1 am to listen to him being streamed), I’ve listened twice a week or so, delighting in his flights of fancy. I suspect him of voting Tory his whole life; and surely the TOGs who correspond with him must be almost entirely Tories and UKIPers. Still, he’s brought me a lot of fun. My daughter, last night, became the only person in the history of the world to utter the following: “I hope that Terry Wogan’s retirement isn’t like Brett Favre’s retirement. Dad, we were made to watch Brett Favre’s retirement on TV at school. And it wasn’t even real. Oh, well, I suppose that means it would be good if Terry Wogan’s retirement is like Brett Favre’s”

Well, we’ll all miss him. But I, myself, wouldn’t have missed him for the world.



Metatone 01.31.16 at 3:34 pm

Growing up I loathed Wogan’s chat show. Of course, this was a time when there weren’t many channels, so often it was the least worst pick at 7pm (?) when it was on. I always tend to recall him interviewing Bill Gates, very much mutual incomprehension.

Bill Bailey (in his recent live show) compared UKIP with the cartoonishly self-important (and heavy drinking) committee members of an English local golf club. There definitely tended to be overtones of that in Wogan’s commentary on Eurovision over the years.

All that said, later on, I really warmed to his radio presence, which had that touch of whimsy and surreal humour – and a decent, if not very adventurous, appreciation of pop music.


Alan Morgan 01.31.16 at 4:38 pm

It was an awful long time ago, but I am pretty sure I heard Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” for the first time on his morning show just before I left for school one morning in 1981…

He was on BBC radio 2 in the morning in the prime of his radio life. It’s no surprise he was less adventurous than John Peel, but his choices were sharper than anything else on the channel.


EWI 01.31.16 at 5:16 pm

I suspect him of voting Tory his whole life; and surely the TOGs who correspond with him must be almost entirely Tories and UKIPers.

He would have been on the conservative right, Anglophile, Tory-admiring wing of FG voter if he had stayed here instead of emigrating for the bright lights of the U.K.


EWI 01.31.16 at 5:17 pm

(You do realise that he was born and raised in Ireland, right?)


harry b 01.31.16 at 5:36 pm

Nonsense, he was born and raised in Buckinghamshire. The lilt was obviously put on for show. (You should have heard him when he used to tell me off for hogging the road).


Alan Morgan 01.31.16 at 5:38 pm

I think as a citizen of the republic of Ireland he would have been able to vote for any UK party he wished to for much of his life whilst living in the UK. I think the OP was aware of that fact.


EWI 01.31.16 at 6:08 pm

I was his cousin’s heir, as a matter of fact, so I’m more than a little familiar with the family. I try not to speak ill of the dead, so I’ll just say that there were many more distinguished Wogans down through the centuries, some of whom actually had loyalty to this country.


Dipper 01.31.16 at 8:46 pm

@5 I have no knowledge of Wogan, and those interviewed today who knew him have spoken of his decent and warm personality, but the public perception of other celebrities often seems at odds with the occasional glimpsed reality of the individual in private. A number of posters on other forums have commented what a nice man Wogan was, and I’m left wondering how they knew, given that their only contact was with a man doing a job which required him to appear to be nice.

Wogan was one of a number of Irish citizens who make their living in UK media, and I often wonder what the Irish perception of such individuals is. I think the regions of the UK understand that people from their area will have to leave for London or abroad to make it in their relevant discipline and generally wish them well. Is the perception from Ireland the same?


harry b 01.31.16 at 8:49 pm

I’m glad there were more distinguished Wogans, and I’d like to know about them.

Whatever his faults, if he had them, this one was a brilliant broadcaster, one of the greatest. He has a light touch, a brilliant sense of the absurd, an ability to communicate with millions of quite different kinds of people (spies, factory workers, future academics, you name it). He was very, very funny. He was not challenging, but there’s a place for that. I’m grateful that he moved a few miles to another country for a larger audience and a larger canvas; he enriched my country greatly. He never ran me over, and I’m grateful for that, too.

I know only too well that people sometimes leave the country they love, for numerous reasons, and eventually their life is somewhere else, and they acknowledge it; and that does not mean they are disloyal. If everyone stayed where they grew up the world would be poorer. Though, in this case, for sure, Ireland would have been richer if he’d stayed. (And I hope my kids never leave — but if they do, I’d be happy if it were only the distance between Limerick and Taplow).


EWI 01.31.16 at 9:04 pm

Harry @7

I think there would be mixed feelings about ‘Sir’ Terry (and very thankfully, the Republic has no honours system). ‘I’m an effete, urban Irishman […] I was a West Brit from the start’:


There’s a well-trodden path to success in the U.K. for Irish media personalities willing to pander to comforting notions of the Mainland being an innocent bystander in the course of Irish history.


EWI 01.31.16 at 9:11 pm

The Wogans were/are an Old English family (which is to say, Catholic and assimilated). So a mixture down through the centuries of high office in the colony and rebellion against the Crown. In the 20th Century, causes of Wogans becoming slightly known in the public eye included IRA membership and becoming the first lady inspector in the ISPCC.


EWI 01.31.16 at 9:34 pm

I do have a typed manuscript, from the early 20th century, with Wogan family history. It would require a search longer than the expiry dates of CT threads to dig up, but I seem to recall that this gentleman was claimed:



Garrulous 01.31.16 at 10:44 pm

Thanks for the interview link @8, EWI. Surprisingly sharp piece for something from an in-flight magazine. I must say I found him quite impressive, especially for: “The craic,” he says, “is a word that fills me with horror.”


harry b 01.31.16 at 11:26 pm

EWI — yes, thanks for the link to the interview (and the family history which I’ll follow up — its long!). One thing the interview captures perfectly is his understanding (Brian Johnston had this too) of the just how much of his success was down to luck — the luck of being who he was, where he was, when he was. And that infused his manner in the mornings.


EWI 02.01.16 at 12:51 am


You’re welcome. Though I’m finding it strange to recall things which I haven’t thought about in decades.


‘In-flight magazine’ just about sums up the quality of the modern Irish Times, I’m afraid.


P O'Neill 02.01.16 at 1:14 am

The trail that Terry Wogan energized, if not started, remains alive and well. Any long standing weekend soccer listening habit now involves the mellifluous tones of Conor McNamara (BBC R5) and Sarah Mulkerrins (World Service). McNamara can make the most mediocre mid-table clash sound like the greatest match of all time. Wogan also deserves additional points simply for keeping his name out of the scandals that afflicted so much of that cohort in the last few years. One semi-serious point: if David Cameron was looking for a forum to sell whatever deal he cooks up in Brussels this week to avoid Brexit, he probably would have wanted an interview with Terry Wogan to sell it. Brexit just became a tad more likely.


Ronan(rf) 02.01.16 at 1:35 am

Dipper, in general we don’t wish anyone well. It’s a cultural thing.
More seriously , yeah it’s more or less seen (as you say) like regional migration is in the uk. With a bit more of a fuss made.
Historically , perhaps , when it was less a choice and more of an obligation (ie they were booted out of school at 15 then sent off to join family in Birmingham, or wherever, to work) it could cause more consternation within families, between those who might have thought they were forced to leave and those who might have felt they were obliged to stay. But not so much nowadays. You can’t even really begrudge the successful emigrant their success anymore, instead the expectation is to applaud and nod sagely as they describe leaving an Ireland on the brink of ruination with nothing but a roll of fivers and their masters degree in their back pocket to prosper from whatever the tech equivalent of hod carrying is .


Ronan(rf) 02.01.16 at 2:03 am

I was only joking with the last part btw, it might sound a little mean spirited or snarky .

What’s a “TOG”, btw ? (As per the op describing his Tory listeners)


Garrulous 02.01.16 at 2:04 am

name for his listeners: TOG = Terry’s Old Geezers/Gals


Ronan(rf) 02.01.16 at 7:40 am

Ah , right. That actually rings a bell. Thanks garrulous


bos 02.01.16 at 10:57 am

A couple of tributes (Mark Lawson, Jonathan Coe) have mentioned Terry Wogan’s love of Flann O’Brien. I think self-describing as a “West Brit” is better understood if read with a Myles-ian sensibility rather than to reading it literally.

And it is difficult not to see citizen Cyclops when reading a phrase like ‘loyalty to this country’. Wogan was an economic migrant. So what. It was a path that may have followed and it doesn’t make any of us less Irish. It was a path that was popular and profitable, and unavoidable for many.

He has funny and witty. He was Irish and didn’t hide it – but didn’t hit people over the head with it either. Good on him.


Garrulous 02.01.16 at 12:33 pm

I think EWI may in fact be a creation of Flann O’Brien from beyond the grave.


EWI 02.01.16 at 11:20 pm

Garrulous @ 22

Maybe you can explain, for the entertainment value, what you think Flann O’Brien might have thought of a practised purveyor of paddywhackery, of the ‘good Irishman’ to his UK market, and whose reaction to discovering that he could only get an honorary feudal gong was to promptly take out British citizenship? Be a good lad.


EWI 02.01.16 at 11:26 pm

Bos @ 21

And it is difficult not to see citizen Cyclops when reading a phrase like ‘loyalty to this country’. Wogan was an economic migrant.

Tsk. Like Bono, that well-known economic migrant from the Northside who told Obama’s second inauguration how he knew all about hardship? The Wogans were very comfortably middle-class (and Terry himself a Belvedere boy). I know some parts of the Irish middle class love to harbour self-delusions of how hard they had it, but this is ridiculous.


Ronan(rf) 02.02.16 at 10:20 am

I would say wogan was channeling cavafy rather than flann o brien


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