The broadcasting legend that is Sir Terry Wogan (77), now firmly in the category of Living National Treasure with a little more time on his hands, has just published his first work of fiction, a collection of short stories.
The serious boys were still serious, the amusing ones were still amusing and the ‘eejits’ were still ‘eejits’
This is not, of course, the first time he has put ‘pen to paper’, so to speak, as he has published many books before now but this is, and this is what must be stressed again, his first work of fiction. Loved by millions for his stellar career in broadcasting over forty years on both radio and television, he still does a weekend show for BBC Radio 2 and hosts Children in Need which, with his help, has raised over a billion pounds for charity.
In the tradition of a fellow Old Belvederean, James Joyce’s Dubliners it is an amusing well written short collection of cameos of Irish life drawn from the time when Terry started his working life as a bank clerk in what was then the smelly cattle market area of Dublin.
An Audience with Sir Terry – Living National Treasure
On the day of publication he chose to go before an audience of fans for a Question and Answer session after which he amiably signed copies of the book.
Inevitably the packed audience at the St James’s Theatre in London included many devoted ‘TOGs’, (Terry’s Old Geezers) from his ‘Wake Up To Wogan’ Radio 2 morning show days. Those TOGs were said to include in their number, no less than Her Majesty the Queen, herself.
In his inimitable self-effacing humorous way he related experiences from hosting his eponymous live TV show ‘Wogan’ (1982-92), Eurovision, and ‘Blankety Blank’. He told us laconically that people only recall the worst moments like his one sided interview with Anne (The Miracle Worker/The Graduate) Bancroft, when she said nothing at all, or the one in which George Best, having over refreshed in the Green Room or ‘hostility suite’ before the show, had to be carried off.
Privileged Wogan’s articulate use of language and peerless timing makes him an acknowledged master of such relaxed informal occasions.
I could not resist asking him how much, given that he is a professed atheist, his education by the Jesuits at Belvedere College had shaped his career. My cousin Rector Fr. Frank McDonagh was his headmaster at Belvedere.
Being Wogan he was disarmingly honest: he told us that growing up in Limerick in the 1950s he witnessed severe poverty with children going to school barefoot and that he felt privileged when his parents moved to Dublin, scrimping and saving to give him the chance of an education at Belvedere.
He related how he had gone back in recent years for the 50th anniversary re-union of his class and discovered that everybody, although now old and grey, was basically just the same. The serious boys were still serious, the amusing ones were still amusing and the ‘eejits’ were still ‘eejits’.
In terms of his broadcasting career Wogan always reminded himself it was about the audience and not himself by talking personally to the microphone, as if to one individual person.
He said if he dropped in some joke in Latin he had done his job if one solitary academic in Oxford picked up and laughed.
That was his trick. We all thought he was talking to us including, of course, his fan down the road in Buck House, Her Majesty the Queen. Ten years ago in December 2005 she woke up to his radio show as usual, and knighted him later that day. Terry, who has dual Irish and British citizenship, thus has both an honorary knighthood and a full knighthood permitting him to be called Sir Terry.
“Those Were The Days” takes the same approach all will find amusement identifying with characters like ‘Tom’ the promoted Bank Manager (whom, one suspects, has a touch of a young Wogan in there) or ‘Johnny the Character’.
Each of these short made up memories is beautifully written, amusing, and sometimes sad but nevertheless full of the personality of Wogan himself, making it quite excellent company. Enjoy.