Tributes have been paid to ‘national treasure’ Sir Terry Wogan following his death at the age of 77.
The veteran broadcaster, known for his velvety voice on radio and television, was one of the UK and Ireland’s best known stars.
A family statement issued by the BBC said: “Sir Terry Wogan died today after a short but brave battle with cancer. He passed away surrounded by his family.
“While we understand he will be missed by many, the family ask that their privacy is respected at this time.”
Sir Terry switched on the Blackpool Illuminations at the height of his TV fame in 1978, and thrilled hundreds of visitors to a Kirkham bookshop during a flying visit in 2006.
The popular host helicoptered into a nearby farmer’s field for a VIP visit to SilverDell Bookshop in Poulton Street, where he signed copies of his autobiography, Mustn’t Grumble.
Hundreds of people queued to meet him – some for hours – and gave him a reception he described as ‘a very grand entrance, far too grand for someone like me.’
Melina Sanderson, from Wrea Green, said at the time: “I went to have a book signed by Terry in the 1980s and if anything he is more handsmore now than he was then.”
Silverdell owner Elaine Silverwood paid tribute to Sir Terry this morning: “I have very fond memories of him, he was a special man.
“Those smiles were genuine, you could really see it in his eyes. He could not get over how many people turned out for him.
“He was a true gent.”
BBC Director General Tony Hall described Sir Terry as a “national treasure”.
He said: “Today we’ve lost a wonderful friend. He was a lovely, lovely man and our thoughts are with his wife and family.
“For 50 years Sir Terry graced our screens and airwaves. His warmth, wit and geniality meant that for millions he was a part of the family.
“Wake Up To Wogan was for millions of Radio 2 listeners the very best way to start the day. For decades he’s been such a huge part of the BBC on television and radio and leaves so many wonderful memories.
“At the centre of Children In Need since its beginning he raised hundreds of millions of pounds and changed so many lives for the better. He leaves a remarkable legacy.”
Paying tribute to his friend, BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine said: “Terry started doing the Radio 2 breakfast show when I was six. When, aged 37, I joined the network, he was unfailingly encouraging and friendly. He did nearly 40 years at breakfast, with an intermission for TV work: surely an unbeatable record.
“Someone asked Terry how many listeners he had. Instead of answering nine million, which would have been accurate, he said: ‘Only one.’
“And it was this approach that made him one of the greatest broadcasters this country has ever seen. He only ever spoke to one person.”
Vine also quoted a conversation between Sir Terry and the Queen, during which she asked him how long he had worked at the BBC.
Sir Terry replied: “Your Majesty, I’ve never worked here.”
Limerick-born Sir Terry was last on air on BBC Radio 2 just under three months ago, on Sunday November 8, and days later was forced to pull out of presenting Children In Need at the last minute due to health issues.
Mark Linsey, acting director of BBC Television, said: “Terry Wogan was part of the fabric of BBC Television, a consummate broadcaster who entertained and delighted millions.
“His contribution - to Children In Need, Eurovision, Blankety Blank and his long-running chat show Wogan - was truly outstanding. We will remember him with warmth, affection and admiration, and our thoughts are with his family.”