December 18, 2009 / 1:56 PM / 9 years ago

Terry Wogan signs off from BBC breakfast show

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Veteran Irish-born presenter Terry Wogan hosted the final edition of his hugely popular BBC Radio 2 breakfast show on Friday, telling listeners it was a sad day that he had been dreading.

Irish-born broadcaster Terry Wogan holds his OBE award (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace in London December 6, 2005.REUTERS/Fiona Hanson/PA/WPA Pool

“I’m going to miss you. Thank you. Thank you for being my friend,” Wogan told his army of loyal listeners as he ended the show he had first hosted nearly 40 years ago.

Wogan’s morning program was Britain’s most popular radio show, with nearly 8 million people tuning in to hear the 71-year-old presenter’s whimsical take on life.

He first hosted the breakfast show in 1972 in a run that lasted till 1984, when he moved full time to television, including an early evening chat show that ran three times a week.

He returned to the radio morning slot in 1993 to present “Wake Up To Wogan.”

“Now, I’m not going to pretend that this is not a sad day — you can probably hear it in my voice. I’m going to miss the laughter and the fun of our mornings together,” he said.

Among those to pay tribute to the broadcaster was Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“Five decades at the very top of British broadcasting is a towering, indeed an unparalleled achievement,” Brown said in a recorded message.

“I wanted to let you know how very dearly you’ll be missed and how delighted we all are you’ll be returning with another venture before too long.”

Wogan will continue to host BBC television’s annual fund-raising “Children in Need” telethon and will present a new live Radio 2 show in the New Year.

He stepped down from providing an increasingly sardonic television commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest last year after covering it across four decades, complaining the result had become too predictable.

Radio 2 colleague Chris Evans, 43, will move into Wogan’s breakfast slot after 3-1/2 years of presenting Radio 2’s afternoon Drivetime show, which enjoys an audience of over five million listeners.

“I know you’re going to welcome Chris Evans with the same generosity of spirit that you’ve always shown me,” Wogan said.

Evans said he didn’t think Wogan would be a hard act to follow but would be “a hard act to beat.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison

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