X Factor and Radio 2 presenter Dermot O’Leary paid a touching tribute to the late Sir Terry Wogan at the Radio Festival today.
O’Leary, a weekend presenter on Radio 2, said that Wogan gave him the best piece of advice he had ever received in his career when he told him to “never be afraid of the silence”.
“Terry was King of the discipline. He owned the silence between the words,” said O’Leary who received the advice from Wogan at a Radio 2 Christmas party when he was beginning his career at the start of the century. “Those six words were the best bits of advice I’ve ever been given.”
He said of the encounter: “We spent a little time talking about Irish Rugby and where my family were from, but before he left, he turned to me, and said he’d not offer much advice, only one piece… ‘Never be afraid of the silence.’
“In other words…listen, don’t feel the need to gabble, less haste, and less speed.
“Terry was, a minimalist, Oh he could talk, but he didn’t do much to make you laugh, smile, cry, think. Because he didn’t have to. One gesture, one beat. It was all he needed.
“Live TV, he could do in his sleep, not easy sometimes, when you’ve got five or six people talking in your ear. He was a master at it.
“Which is all the more unusual when you consider he had an almost clinical aversion to anything that remotely resembled a rehearsal.”
O’Leary added that Wogan was also instrumental in encouraging other Irish broadcasters and helped pave the way for the careers of the likes of Graham Norton and Dara O’Briain.
He said: “He was a self-confessed ‘West Brit’, an Irishman, who’s cultural leanings are considered more anglophilic than Irish. In Ireland, it’s not exactly a compliment, but that does him a great disservice. Of course [Terry] loved the consumer broadcasting and culture here in the UK… but he was proud of being an Irishman and he always bridged the gap between the two countries.
“For my family growing up he was a voice from home when it wasn’t always easy being Irish in Britain. He was trusted by us all because he was one of us all. But the influence he had on making it easier for Irish broadcasters like Graham [Norton] and Dara [O’Briain] can’t be taken lightly.”
In a moving tribute, O’Leary concluded with the words: “So over the next few days, we mourn, we remember, and pay homage, to a presence, a voice, a friend. Never be afraid of the silence. We will try Terry but as time passes it’s deafening in your absence.”
O’Leary’s address was followed by a brass band rendition of the classic Wogan tune The Floral Dance.