If there was another Irish broadcaster who forced me to sit in the car park and make me late for work it was Gay Byrne. Gay had a similar subversive streak and a light touch with a sting in the tail. But he did not travel so well across the Irish Sea, nor did he aspire to. Terry Wogan gave comfort to millions by spreading the word that the struggles of daily life are shared far more widely than we thought, and at an hour when many of us needed a fix of encouragement to go with the shot of caffeine. In Broadcasting House, in Maidenhead Berks., and on innumerable golf courses, he remained an Irishman from Limerick, but never one with an overdeveloped sense of origins. It’s fair to say he managed to duck being drawn into the Troubles without attracting resentment. It was the facility to treat fantasy like an old friend that was his most obvious Irish characteristic. This was noticed by that other sharpest of BBC insiders, the arts commentator Mark Lawson, writing in the Guardian.
He was a keen reader of Irish authors from James Joyce to William Trevor and, above all, Brian O’Nolan, the satirist and surrealist whose wild but jaunty tone Wogan knowingly adapted to the airwaves. Possessing a natural high intelligence – honed by education in Limerick and Dublin from Jesuit priests, the intellectual SAS of the Roman Catholic church – Wogan became one of the few presenters on radio music stations whose audiences routinely wanted the singers to shut up so that they could hear more of the host talking.
his two occupations of the Radio 2 morning slot, Wogan memorably applied a vital lesson – the benefit of building up a stock of catchphrases and characters – learned from O’Nolan, who wrote novels, including At Swim-Two-Birds, under the name Flann O’Brien, and whose newspaper columns, under the byline Myles na gCopaleen, Wogan had read when growing up.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London