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Sir Terry Wogan hailed as broadcaster for all time at thanksgiving service

Published 27/09/2016

Sir Terry Wogan will be remembered at a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday
Sir Terry Wogan will be remembered at a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday

Chris Evans led the tributes to the late Sir Terry Wogan at a packed service at Westminster Abbey, saying: "He will always be the best."

The unforgettable Irish brogue of the broadcaster - who died in January following a battle with cancer - could be heard at the service, which opened with recordings from Sir Terry's archive.

Evans, who inherited millions of Sir Terry's listeners when he took over the Radio 2 breakfast show, told the congregation: "Terry Wogan wasn't the best. He is the best and he will always be the best."

Katie Melua, who made her name with the help of Sir Terry, and Peter Gabriel sang at the moving event, which was attended by Sir Terry's three children and his wife, who he famously described as "the present Lady Wogan".

The biggest names in broadcasting turned out for the event, A Service Of Thanksgiving For The Life And Work Of Sir Terry.

They included Dermot O'Leary, Claudia Winkleman, Fearne Cotton, Tess Daly, Joanna Lumley, Gloria Hunniford, Jimmy Carr, Eamonn Holmes, Ruth Langsford, Matt Baker and Jo Whiley.

Strictly Come Dancing co-host Winkleman said afterwards: "I thought the service was beautiful."

The event included tributes from Sir Terry's children and a poem especially co-written for the occasion by actress Lumley, in which she compared Sir Terry's voice to "an aural, newly ripened peach".

It ended with The Floral Dance, which was a hit for Sir Terry in 1978.

The BBC Concert Orchestra performed at the event, where Sir Terry was described as "a legend in his own lifetime."

The congregation was asked to donate to one of Sir Terry's most beloved causes - Children In Need.

BBC director-general Tony Hall paid tribute, saying that Sir Terry was most proud of his work for Children In Need - he fronted the main appeal show from its inception in 1980 to 2014.

He also spoke of the broadcaster's "numerous" and "memorable" Eurovision quips, adding: "My own favourite comes from 2007, when he announced as the coverage began: 'Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually I do, I've seen the rehearsals!'"

He called Sir Terry a "national treasure" and thanked him "for giving us so much sheer unalloyed joy".

Evans told how Sir Terry invited him for lunch when the younger broadcaster landed the job hosting the Radio 1 breakfast show, going head to head with the veteran Radio 2 star.

Evans said that he had been "gifted" ..."the single most useful piece of advice" about broadcasting "from the great man himself".

After a marathon lunch, rounds of golf, dinner and plenty of alcohol consumed, Evans suggested, close to midnight, that the pair get the bill.

"'Well', said Sir Terry. 'I never had you down as a quitter'."

When Evans asked whether "even you" have to prepare just "a little bit" for the following day's breakfast show, Sir Terry "looked at me as if I'd lost my mind.

"He looked at me and said 'it's very simple. They either like you or they don't'," Evans recounted.

"Of course he was exactly right."

Lady Susan Hussey, the Queen's lady-in-waiting, represented her at the service.

Sir Terry's children, Alan Wogan, Mark Wogan and Katherine Cripps, paid tribute to their father's "love of our mother, his children and grandchildren", "his true understanding of charity", his "empathy and selfless wisdom", his gentleness and "his love of people".

Melua, who shot to fame after being championed on Sir Terry's long-running breakfast show, performed an acoustic version of her hit track The Closest Thing To Crazy.

Radio 2 broadcaster Ken Bruce read WB Yeats' The Song Of Wandering Aengus at the service, which marks the 50th anniversary of Sir Terry's first radio broadcast for the BBC.

Gabriel sang a moving rendition of That'll Do, one of the tracks Sir Terry picked as a castaway on Desert Island Discs and played before signing off after 27 years on his breakfast show.

Lumley's poem, co-written with songwriter Sir Richard Stilgoe, was entitled For The Former Greatest Living Irishman.

"I think he was the tops, the cat's miaow," she said.

Lumley, who provided one of Children In Need's most memorable moments when she stripped down to her underwear on live television in 1983 as host Sir Terry pretended to yawn, added: "If he was here I'd kiss his handsome face/And tell him that they simply broke the mould/When he was made."

Other stars at the event included Alan Titchmarsh, Gaby Roslin, Sara Cox, Michael Ball, Rory Bremner, Paul Gambaccini, Judith Chalmers, Vanessa Feltz, Heston Blumenthal and June Whitfield.

The BBC said it received more than 14,000 applications for tickets from Sir Terry's listeners, with 250 pairs given out.

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