Sad news hit the Eurovision world today when the BBC and family members confirmed the death of Sir Terry Wogan. The UK’s longest-serving Eurovision commentator passed away after a short but brave battle with cancer. He was 77 years old.
As well as his Eurovision role, Sir Terry was known in the UK for his broadcasting work, particularly as the host of the game show Blankety Blank and for his long-running chat show, Wogan. He was also known for his charity work, including his annual hosting of the Children in Need telethon.
Born in Ireland, he held dual Irish and British citizenship. He began his career at RTÉ TV in the 1960s, but soon approached the BBC for some extra work, which led to him commentating at the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest, held in his home country of Ireland. That commentating job was his for the next 37 years, or until 2008 when he retired from the commentating booth, leaving it for his fellow countryman, Graham Norton.
Sir Terry was indeed a controversial character. He was rather infamous in his commentating days for his almost nonstop rants, even talking over performances, as well as his lively commentary.
He even brought the UK contestants up in his commentating booth for interviews right after their performance. In 1990, the 15-year-old singer Emma chatting with Terry whilst the other nations were still performing on stage.
But Sir Terry could also be very funny, and his snarky comments about contestants and hosts are famous throughout the Eurovision world. In 2001 he notoriously referred to the Danish hosts, Soren Pilmark and Natasja Crone Backe, as “Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy”, for which he later apologised.
Wogan could also be a Eurovision multitasker. When the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Birmingham in 1998, he co-hosted alongside the Swedish-born Ulrika Johnson. But Sir Terry did not shirk his usual commentary duties, rushing from the stage to the broadcasting booth to ensure UK viewers would still get the usual Wogan style. To date, Sir Terry has been the only ESC host to do commentary at the same show.
Sir Terry retired from the commentating job in 2008, but not without yet another snarky comment: “I don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a major musical event. I love the Eurovision Song Contest and it will continue long after I’m gone. Just don’t ask me to take it seriously”.
Sir Terry Wogan watched the Eurovision Song Contest change and develop first hand, and didn’t always care for the changes, especially in the 2000s, when the Eastern bloc came in and brought long-awaited freshness with them.
Suddenly, the conservative days of the UK, France and Luxembourg dominating the contest were over, and acts like Lordi with “Hard Rock Hallelujah” took the continent by storm. “Every year I expect it to be less foolish and every year it is more so”, were his remarks about the Finnish monsters claiming victory in 2006.
But while being controversial and — in some people’s opinions — plain rude, there is no doubt that Sir Terry Wogan was one of Eurovision’s biggest characters. He was funny, he was mean but most of all, he was the commentator.
He was a Eurovision legend and will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Sir Terry.
We at wiwibloggs send our deepest condolences to his family.