It's a Long Way to Tipperary

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"It's a Long Way to Tipperary", performed by Albert Farrington (1915)

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"It's a Long Way to Tipperary" is a British music hall song written by Jack Judge and co-credited to, but not co-written by, Henry James "Harry" Williams.[1] It was allegedly written for a 5 shilling bet in Stalybridge on 30 January 1912 and performed the next night at the local music hall. Now commonly called "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", the original printed music calls it "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary." It became popular among soldiers in the First World War and is remembered as a song of that war.

Welcoming signs in the referenced town of Tipperary, Ireland, humorously declare, "You've come a long way..." in reference to the song.

Initial popularity[edit]

It's a Long Way to Tipperary... (sheet music cover).

During the First World War, Daily Mail correspondent George Curnock saw the Irish regiment the Connaught Rangers singing this song as they marched through Boulogne on 13 August 1914 and reported it on 18 August 1914. The song was quickly picked up by other units of the British Army. In November 1914 it was recorded by the well-known tenor John McCormack, which helped its worldwide popularity.[2]

Content[edit]

One of the most popular hits of the time, the song is atypical in that it is not a war-like song that incites the soldiers to glorious deeds. Popular songs in previous wars (such as the Boer Wars) frequently did this. In the First World War however, the most popular songs, like this one and "Keep the Home Fires Burning", concentrated on the longing for home.

Writing Partnership[edit]

Judge's parents were Irish, and his grandparents came from Tipperary.[3] Jack Judge and Harry Williams met in Oldbury, Worcestershire at the Malt Shovel, where Harry’s brother Ben was the licensee. Judge and Williams began a long term writing partnership that resulted in 32 music hall songs published by Feldmans. Harry was severely handicapped as he had fallen down cellar steps as a child. His parents were publicans and many of the songs were believed to have been composed with Judge, at their home, "The Plough Inn" (now "The Tipperary Inn") in Balsall Common.[citation needed]

Controversy over authorship[edit]

After Harry William's death in 1924 Jack Judge claimed sole credit for the song [4] allegedly writing it for a 5 shilling bet in Stalybridge on 30 January 1912 and performing it the next night at the local music hall. However, the tune and most of the lyrics to the song already existed in the form of a manuscript "It's A Long Way to Connemara". This manuscript was co-written by Williams and Judge. The writing partners split the royalties for "It's a Long, Long, Way to Tipperary" until Jack Judge sold his royalties to Harry Williams in 1915.

In 1917, Miss Alice Smyth Burton Jay sued song publishers Chapell & Co. for $100,000, alleging she wrote the tune in 1908, for a song played at the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition promoting the Washington apple industry. The chorus began "I'm on my way to Yakima."[5] The court appointed Victor Herbert to act as expert advisor,[6] and dismissed the suit in 1920, since the authors of "Tipperary" had never been to Seattle, and Victor Herbert testified the two songs were not similar enough to suggest plagiarism.[7]

Performance[edit]

First World War era sheet music cover (UK issue).
Bronze statue commemorating Jack Judge, the writer of the song, in Stalybridge. Note the World War I soldier.

First sung on the British music hall stage in 1912 [8] by Jack Judge at the Grand Theatre in Stalybridge and later popularised by the music hall star Florrie Forde, it was featured as one of the songs in the 1951 film On Moonlight Bay, the 1960s stage musical and film Oh! What a Lovely War and the 1970 musical Darling Lili, sung by Julie Andrews. It was also sung by the prisoners of war in Jean Renoir's film La Grande Illusion, as background music in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, and by the newsroom staff in the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It is also the second part (the other two being Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire and Mademoiselle from Armentières) of the regimental march of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Mystery Science Theater 3000 used it twice, sung by Crow T. Robot in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, then sung again for the final television episode. It is also sung by British soldiers in the film The Travelling Players directed by the Theo Angelopoulos, and by Czechoslovak soldiers in the movie Černí baroni.

This song is not to be confused with a popular song from 1907 simply titled "Tipperary". Both were sung at different times by early recording star Billy Murray. Murray, with the American Quartet, sang "It's A Long Way To Tipperary" as a straightforward march, complete with brass, drums and cymbals, with a quick bar of "Rule, Britannia!" thrown into the instrumental interlude between the first and second verse-chorus combination [1].

The song is often cited when documentary footage of the First World War is presented. One example of its use is in the annual television special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Snoopy – who fancies himself as a First World War flying ace – dances to a medley of First World War-era songs played by Schroeder. This song is included, and at that point Snoopy falls into a left-right-left marching pace. Schroeder also played this song in Snoopy Come Home at Snoopy's party. Also, Snoopy was seen singing the song out loud in a series of strips about his going to the 1968 Winter Olympics. In another strip, Snoopy is walking so long a distance to Tipperary that he lies down exhausted and notes "They're right, it is a long way to Tipperary." On a different occasion, Snoopy walks along and begins to sing the song, only to meet a sign that reads, "Tipperary: One Block." In a Sunday strip where Snoopy, in his WWI fantasy state, walks into Marcie's home, thinking it a French cafe, and falls asleep after drinking all her root beer, she rousts him awake by loudly singing the song.

The cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show march off screen singing the song at the conclusion of the series' final episode.

It was sung by the crew of U-96 in Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 film Das Boot (that particular arrangement was performed by the Red Army Choir). Morale is boosted in the U-boat when the German crew sings the song as they start patrolling in the North Atlantic ocean to disturb convoy traffic to Britain. The crew sings it a second time as they cruise toward home port after near disaster.

Hercule Poirot (portrayed by David Suchet) teaches his fellow Belgian refugees to sing the song in the 1990 TV adaptation of The Mysterious Affair at Styles from Agatha Christie's Poirot.

The Great Escape video game features the song as its theme.

The song is the topic of Bill Caddick's song "The Writing of Tipperary," which was recorded by June Tabor on her 2000 CD, A Quiet Eye.

The tune is played by the carillon in the Sint-Niklaaskerk church in Mesen, Belgium.

It regained popularity after being sung in the 1998 hit film Goodnight Mister Tom.

Lyrics[edit]

Up to mighty London
Came an Irishman one day.
As the streets are paved with gold
Sure, everyone was gay,
Singing songs of Piccadilly,
Strand and Leicester Square,
Till Paddy got excited,
Then he shouted to them there:
It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.
(repeat)
Paddy wrote a letter
To his Irish Molly-O,
Saying, "Should you not receive it,
Write and let me know!"
"If I make mistakes in spelling,
Molly, dear," said he,
"Remember, it's the pen that's bad,
Don't lay the blame on me!
It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.
Molly wrote a neat reply
To Irish Paddy-O,
Saying "Mike Maloney
Wants to marry me, and so
Leave the Strand and Piccadilly
Or you'll be to blame,
For love has fairly drove me silly:
Hoping you're the same!"
It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.

An alternative concluding chorus, bawdy by contemporaneous standards:

That's the wrong way to tickle Mary,
That's the wrong way to kiss.
Don't you know that over here, lad
They like it best like this.
Hooray pour Les Français
Farewell Angleterre.
We didn't know how to tickle Mary,
But we learnt how over there.

Other versions and adaptations[edit]

In 1916 the Daily Mirror published the song in the languages of the Empire. This included a version translated into the Cornish language by Henry Jenner.[9]

The Kannadiga playwright and poet, T.P. Kailasam, as part of a wager from a British friend, translated the song into Kannada, adding witty Kannada-specific lyrics. The resulting song, "Namma Tipparahalli balu Doora" (halli meaning "village" in Kannada), is a popular song in Karnataka. This version can be heard played by a marching band in the Bengali film, Pather Panchali, directed by Satyajit Ray.

The University of Missouri uses a version of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" as a fight song, renamed "Every True Son".[10]

"It's a Long Way from Amphioxus", a parody of this song, is sung by students and scientists as an affirmation of evolution. It was originally recorded by Sam Hinton,[11] and is the official song of the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago.[12] The chorus goes,

It's a long way from Amphioxus, It's a long way to us.
It's a long way from Amphioxus to the meanest human cuss.
Well, it's goodbye to fins and gill slits, and it's hello teeth and hair!
It's a long, long way from Amphioxus, but we all came from there.

The song is also an example of a partner song, or simultaneous quodlibet, in that the chorus of the song can be sung at the same time as another well known music hall song, "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag", in perfect harmony.

The Club Atletico River Plate from Buenos Aires, Argentina, used the music from this song to create its hymn.[13]

Jonh McCormack's version is featured in the Titanic soundtrack.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Max Cryer (2009). Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World's Best-loved Songs. Frances Lincoln Publishers. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7112-2911-2. 
  2. ^ Gibbons, Verna Hale (1998). Jack Judge: The Tipperary Man. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. ISBN 1-900689-07-3. 
  3. ^ Gibbons, Verna Hale (1999). The Judges: Mayo, to the Midlands of England. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. 
  4. ^ Max Cryer (2009). Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World's Best-loved Songs. Frances Lincoln Publishers. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7112-2911-2. 
  5. ^ "'Tipperary'" Tune Stolen, She Says. Boston Daily Globe, September 20, 1917, p. 16
  6. ^ "Victor Herbert Is 'Tipperary' Expert," The New York Times, September 27, 1917, p. 10
  7. ^ "Loses 'Tipperary' Suit." The New York Times, June 24, 1920, p. 25.
  8. ^ Gibbons, Verna Hale (1998). Jack Judge: The Tipperary Man. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. ISBN 1-900689-07-3.
  9. ^ Berresford Ellis, The Cornish Language and its Literature, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1974.
  10. ^ University of Missouri fight song
  11. ^ "The Sam Hinton Website – Sounds". Golden Apple Design. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  12. ^ University of Chicago: Biological Sciences Division
  13. ^ Video on YouTube

15 The Harry Williams papers are available for study at the Documents and Sound Department of the Imperial War Museum

External links[edit]