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Sir Terry Wogan kept his cancer secret from everyone but his closest family – because he didn’t want to “make a fuss”, according to friends.
The broadcasting legend died yesterday after a “short but brave battle” with the disease.
But 77-year-old had kept the illness quiet, instead preferring to tell friends and colleagues that had a bad back.
Henry Kelly, a friend and fellow broadcaster, said: “It is a real, real shame. For so many people it is going to be like a death in the family — they adored Wogan.
“I didn’t know he was that seriously ill. He put it out that he had a bad back.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him. I think it is a terrible loss.
“He said he wasn’t going to do Children in Need because, as he quipped, ‘They don’t want an old fella of 77 standing up for ten hours asking for money’.”
Even Richard Madeley, who has been filling in for Wogan on his Radio 2 show, said he and his colleague were expecting him back soon.
He said: “None of us saw this coming.”
His friend, Daily Mail journalist, John McEntee added: “He would have thought, ‘I am going to die and I am not going to make a fuss’.”
Born in Limerick on 3 August 1938, Wogan, son of a grocery shop manager, rose to the status of national treasure during a 50-year career.
After a stint at Irish broadcaster RTE, he approached the BBC for work in 1967. After filling in on Radio 2, he picked up a regular slot on Radio 1 in the afternoon.
From there he began his breakfast radio show on Radio 2, becoming an immediate hit and achieving unprecedented audiences.
He became known for his idiosyncratic radio style, which included the use of long, amusing tangents, and biting wit, particularly on the Eurovision Song Contest coverage.
He was also celebrated as a presenter on Children In Need.
The broadcasting world and beyond paid tribute to Sir Terry as the news broke yesterday.
Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said: “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.”
Simon Mayo aded: “There was noone better at being a friend behind the microphone than Sir Terry”, and BBC director general Tony Hall called him “a broadcasting legend”.