Think of Sir Terry Wogan and what springs to mind? Irish funny-man, adopted national treasure, unconfirmed toupeeâ¦ how about large ears? Nope, I canât say Iâd ever noticed them either, but if thereâs one thing that Terry Woganâs Ireland confirms, itâs that Wogie truly does have abnormally plus sized hearing organs, and not just as a result of age (well they do grow over time, donât they?) Chuckling at an old family photo that reveals just this, Wogan jokes: âas you can see, thatâs myself with the old Dumbo ears; itâs very brave of me to be standing out in the high wind âcause 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 doesnât meet them in full glory, but instead counts down to their âDip In The Nipâ from his radio show in London), chat show legends (The Late Late Showâs Gay Byrne), to the creator of Riverdance. People who continue to shape what Wogan describes as, âprobably one of the worldâs 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 â 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: âI think weâre actually similar in a lot of waysâ¦ if you look at her Majesty the Queen – a woman I greatly admire; she is the direct descendant of both Brian Boru and Hugh OâNeil trâoo 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 âpunting on the nagsâ too but itâs a nice moment nonethelessâ¦
At a Cromwell inspired street enactment, Wogan tells one actor: âYou 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 âgrand inquisitorâ: âEven overacting in the still photographâ?.
Meanwhile from Donegal, Wogan crosses the border into Northern Ireland and recalls of the conflict: âI have memories of several years ago crossing the border and it was no joke then. There were watchtowers, there were soldiersâ in the watchtowers, there was barbed wireâ¦ The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was a dangerous place.â?
Terry Woganâs Ireland is a series that paints a picture of both Irish history and modern âIrishnessâ with just the right balance between Woganâs 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), Woganâs Ireland captures in many forms, what it means to be Irish today.