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Gloria Hunniford leads tributes to Terry Wogan, the colossus of British broadcasting

By Angela Rainey

Some of Northern Ireland's best known faces have told of their sadness following the death of Sir Terry Wogan.

The BBC stalwart died at the weekend after a "brave and short battle with cancer".

The 77-year-old father-of-four died peacefully, surrounded by his wife Lady Helen and their children.

A multitude of celebrities have paid tribute to the Limerick-born presenter, whose Radio 2 Breakfast Show Wake Up To Wogan once boasted nearly nine million listeners.

Renowned for his wit and sense of humour, colleagues called him a "true gent" and "a broadcasting legend".

Sir Terry began his broadcasting career in Dublin with RTE, his broadcasts often interrupted by a mouse-infestation of the Henry Street building in Dublin.

In a career that spanned five decades, his best-loved shows included Wogan, Children in Need and his hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest.

He is also credited for helping musicians such as Daniel O'Donnell and Foster and Allen to stardom by airing their records on his radio show.

This Morning presenter Eammon Holmes led online tributes to his friend. He wrote: "The Don is gone - Will miss you so much, head of The Murphia. Thanks for your blessing and your friendship."

First Minister Arlene Foster said the broadcaster was legendary for his wit. In a Facebook tribute she said: "I am so, so sorry to hear about the death of Terry Wogan. I used to love him on Radio 2 and his Eurovision coverage was legendary for its wit. Children in need was synonymous with Sir Terry and when he missed it in November, little did we think it was because he was terminally ill. A truly fabulous broadcaster and family man, we are the poorer for his passing."

Northern Ireland television presenter Gloria Hunniford credited Sir Terry for helping her career and never losing touch with his Irish roots.

She said his death felt like "losing a member of my family, because I seem to have known Terry forever".

"I have to be very grateful to Terry for all sorts of things apart from his friendship, because he turned my broadcasting career around.

"He was very generous of spirit, a terrific family man and had a unique sense of everything. The word unique is often bandied about, but I believe that Terry was unique.

"Terry always talked about his Irish roots, he loved anything to do with an Irish story and he loved Irish music.

"There'll never be anybody like him in broadcasting again, I believe."

Donegal singer Daniel O'Donnell said the veteran broadcaster aided his career in the 1980s, airing his records to an audience of millions. The pair last met in October.

He said: "He was a lovely man and helped me greatly in my early career."

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan tweeted: "Even if you didn't know him personally, it will feel today that your friend has died. That was Terry Wogan's brilliance. RIP"

Graham Norton, who took over as Eurovision commentator from Sir Terry, said on Twitter: "He made it seem effortless and for a young boy in Ireland he made it seem possible. RIP, Sir Terry Wogan."

David Cameron wrote on Twitter: "My thoughts are with Terry Wogan's family. Britain has lost a huge talent - someone millions came to feel was their own special friend."

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said: "Always proud of his origins in Limerick, he made many returns to his native country for television and radio projects.

"His rise to the top of radio listenership in the United Kingdom was a great tribute to his breadth of knowledge and in particular his unique, very personal sense of humour."

His meteoric career

  • Sir Terry's first taste of television came when he began working at Irish broadcaster RTE, as a newsreader and announcer.
  • Making the move to the BBC, he hosted a mid-1960s programme called Midday Spin and a big break came when he provided holiday cover for Sir Jimmy Young, which went so well it resulted in him getting his own show.
  • Millions of people woke up to his Limerick brogue during the 27 years he presented his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show. His salary was said to be around £800,000. His announcement in September 2009 that he would be quitting the show was met with an outcry from fans.
  • Sir Terry's commentary at the Eurovision Song Contest made for an amusing listen, as he spoke - often quite honestly - about the acts vying for the title. He gave the role up in 2008.
  • He was very much a TV star as well as a radio veteran, fronting the long-running panel show Blankety Blank and appearing as a guest on shows including Celebrity Squares and New Faces.
  • Sir Terry will always be known for his association with the BBC's Children In Need. He was one of the founders and hosted the telethon for more than 20 years, helping to raise over £400m for charity. He missed last November's appeal at the last minute on medical advice, after a procedure on his back.
  • He saw his Radio 2 audience pass the 8 million mark in 2005. He joked: "Hang on, there's 60 million people in the country - what are the other 52 million listening to?"
  • An accomplished star of TV and radio, Sir Terry tried his hand at singing and had a novelty hit single in 1978 with a version of The Floral Dance.

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