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.
Thanks to Wiwibloggs for the tribute.
I will always remember Sir Terry most of all for all of those mornings he presented on BBC Radio 2. For the first four years of my career, I got to “wake up with Wogan.” He was indeed unique and a legend. He will be greatly missed.
DR I’m still not convinced. I got the feeling (certainly in later years) that he was irked that everyone brought up the subject, as if the contest was the only thing he’d done. Actually I liked Wogan more in his non-Eurovision shows. The YouTube clip of him interviewing Victoria Principal showed how entertaining he could be as a chat show host.
He was rude, obnoxious, culturally impotent typical Brit, who was so ignorant with some of his comments, that it made Eurovision unbearable to watch for anyone not British (or Irish). I was celebrating the day he retired!
damn cancer. rip terry wogan. 🙁
This was shocking. Listened to his radio show a lot here in Sweden. It was always brilliant and fun, and he plugged Eurovision entries when it was time. You could tell he loved it.
And the YouTube videos with his comments will cheer up any bad day.
What a legend. R.I.P Good Sir
*he wouldn’t have taken part…
If that was true it wouldn’t if taken part in the 60 years of Eurovision documentary last year, and talked about it with such fondness.
Jonas, it indicated to me that he’d asked not to talk about it!
So what if he never mentioned the contest on his appearance(s) on Desert Island Discs? That’s not indicative of anything. In his autobiogaphy, he covers the contest a lot. He loved it. It meant a great deal to him, especially as it provided him with many happy travel memories such as walking along the historic sites of Jerusalem.
Also, I must echo that the term “British Isles” is out-dated and offensive, so people should really stop using it. Okay?
🙁 Loved Terry’s commentary, called out the bloc voting farce every time ????????. Do the swedes know him? Do you think he’ll be mentioned by them?
Rest in peace, I stoppe watching full eurovision since Terry left eurovision as a commentator, infact I have been watching only the voting part of eurovision as we hear all the song long time before eurovision nights, therefore I didn;t vare about how they performed but the voting part ha salways been exciting for me, but I know without Terry its never the same, sad 🙁
@Ben Cook Thank you for putting that post up. You’ve converted one of the biggest Wigan basheres out there. He did the contest a great service by calling it out for what it was. While I still claim voting was maybe cultural rather than political. Neighbour voting was rife. If it wasn’t for people like him calling a spade a spade, and calling the contest out for what it was, a neighbour voting farce, the EBU might not have been pressured to change the voting procedures in 2009. And without that change the song quality might not have increased as… Read more »
Thank you Terry for all your laughs, seriously your comments have been spot on and really inspired the fun of the event.
My favourite comment of yours came in the middle of Maja Blagdan….Sveta Ljubav in 1997 when she hit the high note and you just said “Good God woman” A brilliant song, A brilliant comment and makes me remember it all the more.
RIP and Thanks for being brilliant.
RIP Mr Wogan
Thanks Ben, important to keep that in mind.
I think the article is spot on, but I’m not sure Terry really did love the contest. He made no reference to it at all when he was on Desert Island Discs.
Sadly not, Hollywood is still quite far away.
@ max good for you.. Hopefully you are where you belong now ..
Ben cook thank you for that fantastic post. Truly the best ive seen today.
Aww another legend gone 🙁 r.i.p
Some words from Terry from shortly after he stopped doing commentary: “That’s what I’ve tried to bring to the Contest that I love : A spirit of joy, the sheer fun of it. Through the many years I’ve been accused of not taking the contest seriously enough, of sending it up, of jeering it, of not showing enough respect. Wrong. I’m a friend of this Contest, possibly it’s oldest friend. “How do friends behave to each other ? Do they flatter each other, like lovers? Are they sycophantic ? Do they constantly tell each other what they want to hear?… Read more »
I’m half Irish and grew up there for 11 years. Now is really not the time for a class in Irish nationalisn. Ireland is in the British Isles the Irish government can no more change that or ban that, than Serbia can change the fact it’s in the Balkans. Or Norway can change the fact it’s in Scandinavia.
It’s a geographical fact. Not something the brits made up to try and resurrect the empire
@ Hello hi
No disrespect aimed to you there at all, just saying it is fact. Don’t think now is the time for nationalism anyway, huh? 🙂 RIP Sir Terry. Some hilarious comments from him during his prime, hope people remember good times before he did turn a little sour at the end of time as commentator. (not a dig, just saying).
@ mario .. It’s a term forced apon ireland by the British establishment .. It doesn’t make it right ..
Should we be calling the Iberian peninsula the Spanish peninsula or how about the Balkans the Serbian peninsula ..
Have some respect and learn the history..
It’s a shame to see a few cheap shots at Terry when he has just died. I guess some people just have no decency (but still it’s better than the hate filled bile being spread on Eurovision times) I agree Terry was the voice of Eurovision, it wasn’t him that made the eastern block a thing Brits would have a bad impression of it without him. In fact it was his ability to view it critically and with humour that kept a lot of people interested. Hence why UK ratings never fell to the lows of France or Italy. He… Read more »
@ Hello hi –
Ireland is in the British Isles 🙂 It’s a geographical fact.
@ Deven .. I hope you are not referring to Ireland being in the “British isles” .. No self respecting Irish person would use that colonial term and it is banned by the Irish goverment .. Republic of Ireland and UK two seperate nations .
Does seem a bit petty to get in a dig about him talking over songs when he’s only just died though.
Deven, that’s a horrible thing to say.
Yes, he is partly responsible for the UK’s (often well-founded) cynicism towards the contest – but I don’t think without him it would be as popular here as it still is.
He took the piss – but he truly loved the contest, and whilst he’d rubbish the “foolish” entries, when a good one came along he’d praise it.
His retirement came at the right time, but for years he was one of the best and certainly one of the most important parts of Eurovision. Bye Sir Tezza.
His job was to commentate for a British audience and he reflected what a lot of British people feel when watching the contest. Sometimes, it is better not to take things too seriously.
For a lot of us, he is THE voice of Eurovision and will be missed.
I felt a bit of cynicism when I first found out the news. But you know, I can’t help but feel sympathy as well. He really was the headline act of Eurovision for over 37 years in the eyes of a lot of people in Britain and Ireland.
Rest in Peace (Or Rest in Pain if you haven’t gotten over the animosity from his late commentary days) Terry. I won’t forgive you for the damage you caused to the reputation in the British Isles but I will praise your desire for the contest.
I thought it was Francis Ruffelle in 1994 that was speaking to Terry in the booth as she was speaking about the German entry which she admitted to having not seen any of the entries. Emma in 1990 was speaking during the Zagreb video “interval act”.
RIP Terry. You may have annoyed me during your last years of Eurovision but there is no denying that you were a legend and will be sorely missed.
Oh really? That is not good news.
I don’t think this article is all fair towards terry at all. Biased towards calling him a dick. Just after he died :/. You need more respect please.
Shame, you don’t realise he was legend. This article should be looked at again.