Tribute to Sir Terry WoganFebruary 3, 2016 4:00 pm
Former chairman, Graham Peart offers a personal reflection on Sir Terry Wogan’s dedication to his community, through his patronage at Heart of Bucks.
Soon after being appointed as chairman in 2004, an event was held for supporters of Bucks Community Foundation at Hedsor House with Sir Terry in attendance. Several hundred guests accepted an invitation mainly because he was to be present. Two local charities had been invited to make a short presentation about their activities along with an indication of the difference they made within their local community. The format was for Sir Terry to say a few words afterwards to thank the guests for their support and I was then to appeal for additional donations to be made that evening.
As someone with little talent for public speaking, the thought of following one of the world’s best communicators was, you will understand, rather daunting. We had agreed the format about five minutes before the presentations started and Sir Terry had brushed aside my concerns saying ‘let’s just make it up as we go along and it will be fine!’
It was more than fine. Sir Terry was brilliant, making some perfectly judged comments about the achievements of the two charities in supporting disadvantaged people and proposing to the guests to ‘open your wallets and purses and tip out your small change, a £100 each will do nicely, more if you can and if you are like the queen and don’t need to carry cash, sign a pledge note before you go’.
It was brilliant and the guests responded positively, how could they not? And my planned task was already completed in a way that I could not have delivered, so all I had to do was to say thank you and goodnight.
The Terry Wogan Golf Day at Denham GC followed soon after and it was my pleasant duty to host the host and play golf with Sir Terry. I invited Martin O’Neill, another genial Irishman, to further enrich the conversation along with another guest player to make up the team of four. The event was always sold out due to Sir Terry’s involvement. Lunch was first and after a short and captivating dialogue, not a speech, more a personal soliloquy to each guest, autographs were freely signed and many photographs taken . Despite the rain, it was a memorable occasion with Irish humour and laughter at every juncture, even if the golf was sometimes indifferent. On the radio the next day Sir Terry told tales of his adventure describing the conditions as ‘wet enough for the ducks to be swimming in the puddles on the fairway’.
Each year for the golf day, the team reunited at Denham with a different guest, and we did it all again. Martin O’Neill was once seen laying prone on a green lining up Sir Terry’s putt and the response was ‘I can well enough line up a fourth putt without your assistance!’
Special permission was granted by Denham GC for Sir Terry’s team to pause and enjoy a glass of champagne at the halfway point, on the grounds that it was ‘medicinal’. In fact the secretary almost insisted on it happening each year.
As the years went by Martin O’Neill’s competitive nature showed through and there were earnest attempts to actually win the handsome team trophy, never easy when the fun and humour was so prevalent. It was 2007 when Sir Terry won the Nearest the Pin trophy, narrowly missing a hole in one with a brilliant shot. Saying afterwards that he deliberately did not hole it, as it saved a few shillings at the bar by not having to buy a round of drinks for 100 people.
On the 11th attempt in 2014, Martin was absent for the first time as he was in Brazil in the ITV studio for the World Cup. And that was the year when Sir Terry’s own team came out as winners by the narrowest of margins. The team members insisted on two things, that Sir Terry looked after the trophy for a year during which Lady Helen kept it beautifully polished and that Martin was not required to play again!
Well Martin could not miss this most enjoyable annual event of course and he did play in 2015 but Sir Terry was not fit enough to defend the title, citing a ‘bad back’ as the reason. So after the lunch, when he was on top form as usual, the sunny afternoon was spent with me seconded as his chauffeur on a buggy, visiting all the teams as they played round the course. After approaching a group as they were about to tee off, Sir Terry would ease himself from the buggy and ask very politely if they didn’t mind too much if they all took a breather for a moment and posed so that he could have his photo taken with them. It was always a most welcome disruption and with more humour about the golf, the course etc. And we did stop at the half way point for the champagne too.
There was no indication at the prize giving over tea later, that this day in July was to be Sir Terry’s last presence at his own golf day. Since the sad news, many of the golfers who had enjoyed a guest appearance in his team have contacted me to say that their round of golf with Sir Terry, was one of the most memorable experiences in their lives. We will miss his irreplaceable wit and gentle repartee.
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