Sir Terry Wogan’s friend Father Brian D’Arcy has spoken of their emotional “last shake hands” and goodbye.
Father D’Arcy, a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s Wake Up To Wogan for 20 years, knew Sir Terry for more than four decades and was also close to the broadcaster’s wife Lady Helen and the couple’s children.
Sir Terry had spoken in recent years about not believing in God after the death of his three-week-old daughter Vanessa in 1966.
Father D’Arcy told The Chris Evans Show: “He said, ‘everything’s going to be all right, old boy, and you’d better say a few prayers if you have any influence up there, if there’s anyone up there’. You know how he used to go on with this atheism.”
The Co Fermanagh priest said he noticed a change in Sir Terry after Christmas.
“I went over last Thursday and I am never as glad that I did, I just dropped everything and went over as he had often done for me over the years,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure if it was goodbye, but as soon as I saw Terry I knew it was the last time I was going to see him, and the shake hands was the last shake hands I’d ever have with him.”
His voice cracked as he added: “It was a beautiful day, a day I’ll never forget, a sad day, because it was the end of a beautiful friendship.”
He told Evans he had first worried when illness forced Sir Terry to pull out of hosting Children In Need last year.
The 77-year-old had been the face of the telethon since 1980.
David Cameron also paid tribute to Sir Terry, hailing him as “a wonderful human being” on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 show.
“To call someone a national treasure is sometimes a bit of a cliche, but with Terry Wogan that is absolutely what he was. I mean, someone my age very much just feels you grew up with this man,” he said.
“When I used to travel around in the car with my mum, she listened to him on the radio and she felt he was speaking directly to her, and I remember growing up watching Blankety Blank and then the Eurovision Song Contest, and he always made you smile, made you laugh.”
The Prime Minister added: “He has this fantastic sense of humour and then later, seeing what he did with Children In Need, and seeing that quite close up, just immensely impressive. So a great sense of humour, a wonderful human being but also a very passionate man.”
Leading figures in showbusiness and politics paid tribute to the much-loved star after his death from cancer.
The veteran broadcaster, known for his velvety voice on radio and television, was one of the UK and Ireland’s best known stars.
Limerick-born Sir Terry was last on air on BBC Radio 2 just under three months ago, on Sunday November 8.
His career spanned more than four decades and he was known for his work on his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, Children In Need and the Eurovision Song Contest.
A Clarence House spokeswoman said the Duchess of Cornwall, who has described herself in the past as one of Terry’s Old Geezers and Gals (TOG), was moved after learning about the death of the veteran broadcaster.
She said: “The Duchess of Cornwall, an ardent TOG and admirer, was very sad to hear about the death of the great Terry Wogan.”