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Edited Response by Sir Terry Wogan – Doctor of Laws – 16 July, 3pm at the University of Leicester

(Medical degrees ceremony)

Distinguished guests, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor. I’ve always wanted to say this on a stage: is there a doctor in the house?

(laughter)

It does remind me of the great actor Sir Ralph Richardson who was known for his eccentric ways, and he was in this play and in the middle of this scene he stopped, walked to the footlights and said, “Is there a doctor in the house?” And a hand went up and he said, “Oh, doctor. Isn’t this a terrible play?”

Now I wonder if you realise or can understand how much of an idiot you can feel when you stand on a stage while a very distinguished man extols your virtues. It’s humbling at the very least, and furthermore, he said everything that I was ready to say. So this, you’ll be pleased to know, is going to be a very brief speech.

Speaking as somebody who never went to university I’m so pleased to see so many of you graduate after so many hard years of study. It’s a relief that none of you are going to end up like me. Luckily my wife is privately wealthy.

My association with Leicester, as you so rightly say, goes back an awful long time. Because I left the vastnesses of the BBC on some pretext, I don’t know why, and they said, “Go north, young man.” So I crossed over the Watford Gap with some apprehension and as we drove along the M1 I saw this misty city on a hill. I thought, “Let’s go and see what that is.” So we came off the dreaded M1 but we could never find it. So as far as me and millions of listeners were concerned (and probably you) it’s the lost city of Leicester. And when the Leicesterians [sic] heard that they invited me to come up here and I am the proud possessor of the Leicester Spoon, “presented to the intrepid traveller Terry Wogan who discovered Leicester on 21st November 1984.” And so I did and damn it, it’s still here!

I’ve also got this.

(takes out a large picture frame)

I bring it with me nearly everywhere because usually I find people rush the stage. I fight them off with this:

“The eight day of December, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-three, I, Terry Wogan, hereby confirm and attest that I found the city of Leicester to be a wondrous and surprising place and that I shall hereafter refer to it as ‘Leicester, a city full of surprises.’” And that, signed by me and the Lord Mayor of Leicester at the time, a Henry Dunphy; sounds like a man of Irish antecedents.

So we come to the University and as you say, my association with the University is one of enormous affection, and even greater affection now that it has foolishly presented me with an honorary doctorate which I shall boast about until I die. Which is not for a long time yet because that’s the great thing about our business, as you will see from some of the crustier people who appear on the television; you never have to retire. So those of you who’ve qualified as medical doctors you’re making a terrible mistake; you should have gone into showbiz. It’s more regular.

My TOGs, Terry’s Old Girls and Geezers; there are some with me in the audience, I won’t embarrass them by asking them to stand up, but these are people who have rallied together under my name. Now in my previous incarnation as a broadcaster I had followers who were called ‘TWITS’: Terry Wogan Is Top Society. Or ‘TWINKLETOE’s: Terry Wogan Is Not Kinky Like Everybody Says Or Everybody Thinks [sic].

So I then went off to do television; it got tired of me and I came back to do the radio. And my daughter after a couple of years said, “What about those old geezers who listen to you?” I happen to mention it on the radio and all the old geezers rallied round and were proud to call themselves ‘TOG’s. Or in the case of younger ones, ‘TYG’s: Terry’s Young Geezers.

Now at first they needed me. Now they couldn’t care less. Because they formed themselves into an extraordinary society that does good. These are people who do good without praise. When you mention Children in Need, I’m the tip of the iceberg. I’m the one who does less work than anybody else; I turn up on the big evening, walk around for seven hours and get off. The effort, the work has been done by other people throughout the year, including my TOGs who’ve been instrumental through Janet and John’s CDs and other tasteful offerings have been able to raise in excess of three million pounds for Children in Need. And as I said, I’m so proud of these people and I’m so proud that they’ve rallied to this cause in my name. I’m just a broadcaster, I’m just somebody who sits in front of a microphone and speaks, usually without a thought in his head. Open the microphone and hope for the best. It’s the same with television. And I have had the most wonderful time.

This is the important thing to remember, I think. You’ve all qualified and full marks to you for all the studying that you’ve done. It’s fantastic and you deserve your day in the sun, and I hope you’ll go on to great things. But you’ve got to have one other thing in life; you’ve got to be lucky. I hate to tell you this but there is an imponderable factor in life and it’s called luck. And I’ve been luckier than anybody I know. And so I hope as you carry your qualifications forward that you’ll be lucky too. That not only will you have the intellect and ability, but that you’ll have the luck. The luck that I’ve enjoyed, particularly today, to receive an honorary Doctorate in Laws. As I’ve said; I’m one of the laziest people I know. I came out of school very early, went back, did philosophy, then I thought “I don’t want to study for any longer.” So I went to work in a bank. Lazy.

You – you’ve spent years getting to where you are today. Now you deserve to be where you are, you deserve all the success that’s going to come your way. I congratulate you on it. I don’t congratulate myself, I just think that I’m very lucky, very honoured, very moved to have received this honorary doctorate from the University of Leicester. Thank you.

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