Terry Wogan’s Ireland Review: What Have We Got ‘Ear’ Then?


Think of Sir Terry Wogan and what springs to mind? Irish funny-man, adopted national treasure, unconfirmed toupee… how about large ears? Nope, I can’t say I’d ever noticed them either, but if there’s one thing that Terry Wogan’s Ireland confirms, it’s that Wogie truly does have abnormally plus sized hearing organs, and not just as a result of age (well they do grow over time, don’t they?) Chuckling at an old family photo that reveals just this, Wogan jokes: “as you can see, that’s myself with the old Dumbo ears; it’s very brave of me to be standing out in the high wind ‘cause I could take off at any momentâ€?.

But anyway, I digress – this is obviously not a programme about ears: it is about Ireland. In this sometimes funny, sometimes poignant documentary, Wogan travels across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and comes across everyone from skinny dipping charity fundraisers; (he doesn’t meet them in full glory, but instead counts down to their ‘Dip In The Nip’ from his radio show in London), chat show legends (The Late Late Show’s Gay Byrne), to the creator of Riverdance. People who continue to shape what Wogan describes as, “probably one of the world’s best known national identities.â€?

Though he has spent the last forty years of his life in England, Wogan grew up and lived in Ireland for the previous thirty, and thus the general premise of the programme is to establish the differences – if there are any – between the English and the Irish. Posed this question, David Norris, an English-Irish Senator who speaks in fabulously camp, posh tones with a smidgeon of Irish pronunciation tells Wogan: “I think we’re actually similar in a lot of ways… if you look at her Majesty the Queen – a woman I greatly admire; she is the direct descendant of both Brian Boru and Hugh O’Neil tr’oo her mother who was so gloriously Irish. You know: fag in the mouth, gin in the handbag, punting on the nags, fairies in the kitchen. Absolutely wonderful.â€?

Yeah, he lost me at ‘punting on the nags’ too but it’s a nice moment nonetheless…

At a Cromwell inspired street enactment, Wogan tells one actor: “You played that role of executioner as if you were born to it.â€? Elsewhere, he meets an old college friend whom he performed at a drama group with, and says of a photograph of himself playing the ‘grand inquisitor’: “Even overacting in the still photographâ€?.

Meanwhile from Donegal, Wogan crosses the border into Northern Ireland and recalls of the conflict: “I have memories of several years ago crossing the border and it was no joke then. There were watchtowers, there were soldiers’ in the watchtowers, there was barbed wire… The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was a dangerous place.â€?

Terry Wogan’s Ireland is a series that paints a picture of both Irish history and modern ‘Irishness’ with just the right balance between Wogan’s comic flair and sensitivity. From the light hearted (meeting a band of accordion players), to the devastating (murals in Derry which depict the faces of the fourteen civil rights protesters killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday in 1972), Wogan’s Ireland captures in many forms, what it means to be Irish today.