Media families: 27. The Wogans

Terry Wogan (broadcaster) begat Alan (newsreader/presenter), Mark (TV chef) and Katherine (aspiring thespian)
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The Independent Online
The Wogans. It could have been a heart-warming story of everyday Irish folk. Instead, it's the tale of a budding TV dynasty with enough ups, downs and tabloid exposes to bring tears to Grandma Walton's eyes.

For years, the word Wogan meant just one thing: the loveable Irish banter of "our Tel" which once filled the airwaves morning, noon and night. Now, after a minor setback in the late Eighties following the axing of his thrice-weekly TV chat show, Terry's back and he has brought reinforcements in the shape of TV presenter sons Alan and Mark and their younger sister, Katherine.

If he'd stuck to his guns, 59-year-old Michael Terence Wogan could have been a bank manager. Instead, the young Irishman who left school at 16 to become a clerk at the Royal Bank of Ireland answered an ad in the Irish Independent for a newsreader with Radio Eireann. With his smooth, rich voice and cheeky twinkle, the 21 year old was a natural. He got the job.

Terry spent the next few years honing his technique before joining the BBC. He had his own Radio 1 show from 1969 to 1972 and then switched to Radio 2 where he hosted the morning show for 11 years from 1973 to 1984. During this time he made a bid for pop stardom with his version of The Floral Dance. Accompanied by the Brighouse and Rastrick brass band, he even made it on to Top of the Pops - much to his children's chagrin.

He was also busy establishing a TV career with a succession of light entertainment shows from Do The Right Thing, Blankety Blank and Come Dancing to the Eurovision Song Contest. All were stamped with Terry's trademark - deadpan delivery of gentle quips and loveable blarney. BBC bosses, heady with the popularity of their Irish star, even granted him his own chat show.

"It was bound to end because only a river runs forever," Terry later admitted. But when Wogan was eventually axed by the BBC he admits he felt hurt. It was the manner of the axing that stung - the suggestion that it was a failure. Terry slipped from public view, taking up Radio 2's breakfast slot in 1993 but otherwise in televisual wilderness unless you count the occasional Auntie's Bloomer.

Meanwhile, his three children were growing up in the family's pounds 2m pile in Buckinghamshire. Katherine, the youngest, recently admitted to deep embarrassment at dad's efforts to do the school run in the family Rolls- Royce (not to mention his Floral Dance). Oldest brother Alan retreated into school work, becoming head boy before taking a degree in psychology and philosophy at Warwick University. Meanwhile, Mark rebelled - prompting tabloid headlines about drug-taking behind the bike shed.

Each left school determined to do anything other than follow in Terry's footsteps. Only after numerous attempts at other careers, such as chauffeuring, did Alan do work experience with Dublin Radio. By the time he was 24 he had a job working as a news reader on Radio 5 Live. Now 29, he works for Financial Times Television presenting hourly business news bulletins broadcast throughout Europe on NBC Super Channel.

Mark, meanwhile, ended his troubled teens with a spate of dead-end jobs - including work as a builder, cocktail barman, steel fitter, Lloyd's of London insurance broker and researcher on Kilroy. Only in his twenties did he discover his true vocation: cooking. Following a course at Pru Leith's School of Food & Wine he landed a 10-part series on cable channel Live TV, Cheat's Cuisine. He then graduated on to the station's late-night sex show. Now aged 27, Mark presents Channel 4's afternoon cookery show, Here's One I Made Earlier.

Twenty-five-year-old Katherine recently graduated from Manchester University and is now working in PR as she attempts to break into acting. She claims few vices as a teenager other than taking up smoking at 15 - a slip she made up for subsequently by becoming head prefect, then head girl. One of her ambitions now is to play Lady Macbeth.

Colleagues describe the Wogans as "close-knit" and "remarkably level- headed". Dad is proud of his brood and eager to help further their media careers although in a recent interview he expressed doubts about whether, in his case, nepotism would have much effect. "In the long run, I think the Wogan name is going to go against them," he remarked.

Maybe. But with TV work once more rolling in and rumoured discussions now under way between Terry and ITV - who knows.