Terry Wogan, hailed as a “national treasure” in Britain and much-admired in his native Ireland, has died aged 77 after suffering from cancer.
The veteran broadcaster, known for his velvety voice on radio and television, was one of the UK and Ireland’s best known stars.
A statement said the Limerick-born Wogan died surrounded by his family.
Tributes have poured in from a host of stars, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying Terry Wogan was “someone millions came to feel was their own special friend”.
He 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.
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.”
BBC Director General Tony Hall described him as a “national treasure”.
He said: “Terry truly was a national treasure. 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.”
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “My thoughts are with Terry Wogan’s family. Britain has lost a huge talent – someone millions came to feel was their own special friend.
“I grew up listening to him on the radio and watching him on TV. His charm and wit always made me smile.”
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.”
President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, said: “I have heard with sadness of the death of Terry Wogan, one of the great figures of broadcasting.
“His was a distinguished contribution to television and in particular to the medium of radio.
“People in Ireland will remember his early career in Irish broadcasting. On his move to Britain his voice became one of the most often quoted, favourite radio voices.
“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.”
Presenter Dermot O’Leary described him as “just the most warm-hearted, generous, funny, clever, life-affirming man”, and Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans added: “We are all so terribly sad upon hearing of the passing of Terry. I can’t put into words how the whole Radio 2 family is feeling.”
Piers Morgan hailed Sir Terry as “one of the greatest broadcasters who ever lived”, and f ellow Irishman Graham Norton said: “He made it seem effortless and for a young boy in Ireland he made it seem possible. RIP Sir Terry Wogan. I’ll raise a glass during song 9.”
Bafta wrote on Facebook: “We’re deeply saddened to learn that Terry Wogan has passed away.”