It’s a Long Way to Tipperary is an air of music hall written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams in 1912 1 .

Sung for the first time on a British music hall scene in 1913 by Florrie Forde , the song was popularized by the Connaught Rangers when they crossed Boulogne-sur-Mer on August 13, 1914 . This was noted by the Daily Mail correspondent George Curnock, and published in this newspaper on August 18, 1914 . The air is then regularly taken over by other soldiers of the British Army .

The song was also part of the musical Oh! What a Lovely War of 1968 . It is also sung by prisoners in the film by Jean Renoir ‘s Grand Illusion , by the crew of U-96 in the movie Das Boot by Wolfgang Petersen in 1982 (in an arrangement with the choirs of the Red Army ) and in the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show . This is also the second part (the other two are Has Anyone Seen the Colonel? And Mademoiselle from Armentieres ) of the regimental march of thePrincess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry . It can also be heard in the film Gallipoli in Peter Weir in 1981. Jean Gabin also sings a few bars in A monkey in winter (1962).

The song should not be confused with Tipperary ( 1907 ). Both were performed by Billy Murray .


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.  “

French translation

The road is long to Tipperary

The road is long to go. 
The road is long until Tipperary 
Until the sweetest girl I know! 
Good bye Piccadilly 
Goodbye Leicester square! 
The road is long long until Tipperary

But that’s where my heart is.  “


Harry Williams was born in Erdington , in the district of Aston  (in) , Birmingham on 23 September 1873 . The first child of Mary Ann and Henry Sketchley Williams, he was christened Henry James Williams.

His father organized shows, the family moving from inn to inn during his childhood. During a stay in Aston, Harry fell from a staircase leading to a cellar and broke his two legs. He remained severely handicapped for the rest of his life. From an early age he showed a great writing talent that he developed by writing songs. He spent his adolescence studying music and poetry, becoming a pianist and talented mandolin player .

His brother Benjamin became a member of the Malt Shovel, where Harry went regularly to host parties in front of an audience, playing his own compositions for piano or mandolin.

The meeting of the two authors

During one of his visits to Malt Shovel, Harry met Jack Judge with whom he began collaborating on the writing of many songs. From this collaboration was born It’s a Long Way to Tipperary , the most popular song of the First World War .

Nevertheless, the paternity of the song is the subject of controversy. 1900 to 1910 was a crucial period for both men. They wrote many songs, although few were successful. They were usually composed by the two men, each putting his personality, one introverted , the other extrovert . Harry was a talented pianist and a good composer. Jack Judge was rather an interpreter, with a voice made for Music Hall.

Harry spent hours explaining to Jack the melodies he had composed. They wrote dozens together. As at the time Gilbert and Sullivan or Rodgers and Hart, “written and composed by Jack Judge and Harry Williams” became one of the immortal partnerships.

To support his growing family, Jack began to explore opportunities to make a living other than selling fish. He made his debut as a public entertainer with John Bull’s Cold at a concert in Birmingham . He was successful and could sing his songs and distribute the scores in stores. He was 38 years old and Harry 36.

Connemara … at the lake

Jack’s first hit was How Are Yer? in 1912 . Other popular texts were The Way The Wind Blows and When The Band Begins To Play . Ironically, his capital success had already been written. Since 1909 , a song called It’s A Long Way to Connemara had been written and remained at the bottom of the drawers (the Williams family still has the handwritten version of the lyrics of this song). Jack’s family was from County Mayo. Like many emigrants , they were nostalgic for their country. It’s A Long Way to Connemara was an attempt by Jack and Harry to take advantage of the popularity of sentimental Irish ballads.

Jack changes his tune

Three years after the song was composed, Jack was performing at the Stalybridge Grand Theater, near Manchester . A mate of boards challenged Jack to compose and perform a song in 24 hours. Jack Judge does not plan to lose the bet, he chooses to release this old unpublished song. Connemara had been chosen after much discussion. Jack replaced Connemara by Tipperary to match the terms of the bet. Harry was very unhappy not to have been consulted on the publication and changes in the song.

When the two songwriters sent their “new” work to Bert Feldman, he made two suggestions:

  • the proposition of sentimental ballad was not retained, in favor of the catchy air;
  • the repetition of the long word was integrated into the choruses of It ‘s long, long way to Tipperary .

The first record

The new version was published in 1912 . She quickly about her 2 . In 1913 , Florrie Forde , a popular music hall artist at the time, decided to put her on her singing tour during her tour of the Isle of Man . The first recording was the work of John McCormack in November 1914 3 . Then came the First World War .

The Great War and the world famous

The song owes its fame to a coincidence. On August 13, 1914 , a Daily Mail reporter , George Curnock , was on vacation in Boulogne-sur-Mer . He followed the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force in France , and wrote in his diary the anecdote of the parade of troops singing the song.

George Curnock, “with a heart full of pride and envy,” watched the English , Scottish , Welsh, and Irish soldiers march towards the camp on the heights of Boulogne. “Every man, in the prime of life, without a kid among them, proclaiming the slogan of the English:
” – Are they slaughtered?
– No-oooooo-!
– Are we going to win?
– Ye-eeeeess. ”
Their shirts are open, and while they’re singing, you can see the muscles of their chests, their mouths wide open and their teeth glowing …”

Then he noticed how strange the song became a military anthem. He was on the threshold of a hotel in Boulogne. The marching troops sang Soldiers of the Queen , Dolly Gray “and then came a song of another style, new and unusual to me -with Irish choirs …” As the Connaught Rangers passed by, they asked him,
“What is So what song do they sing?
Curnock replied,
“I do not know, no doubt a new tune from one of our music halls.
– But the words, m’sieu?
– Ma’am, he replied as the second company of the Connaught Rangers passed, they sing “It’s a long time to Tipperary it’s a long time to go”

Curnock sent this story to the Daily Mail, which was then transmitted around the world who read the song. When 20 years later, Curnock met Captain Dryden who had marched to Boulogne, who told him what had happened before. “I heard Tipperary for the first time,” explained Captain Dryden, “played on an accordion by a traveling musician on a street in Galway . It must have been early in 1913 , when Florrie Forde was singing it at the music hall at the time. Our battalion, which had been stationed at Tipperary for three years, took over the choir, and sang it regularly during marches in Ireland . ”

“When the war was declared, we went to Aldershot, and the air was most popular among men when we arrived in France ; it was therefore normal to sing it on our arrival and on the way to the camp. ”

“The men always sang when they joined Mennevret , near Guise , but engaged against the German army in Mons on August 23 and the next day, they had to dig trenches and had little time to devote to the song. They were then surprised to hear other troops intone this air. ”

“It was strange that it must have been the Connaught Rangers who introduced Tipperary , because to tell the truth, the Irish regiments were not allowed to sing in a hurry. ”

Harry Williams quickly became a rich man. The Coventry Evening Telegraph described Harry’s pilgrimage from his home at Greyfriar’s Green in Coventry to donate to the Great Invalides of the First World War . From the station, Harry was pushed into his chair through the crowd singing It’s A Long Way To Tipperary . The sum given, £ 1,000, was huge for the time. He used part of the song’s earnings to buy Plow Inn, a lot and a cottage for his parents. It is nowadays a hotel, renamed The Tipperary Inn ; it is located at Meer End Road, A4177, Honiley, Kenilworth, southwest of Coventry .

Death of Harry Williams

Harry Williams died at the age of 50 on 21 February 1924 . He is buried in a family vault at Balsall Temple. The tombstone bears the following inscription:

Author of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary , give me the making of the songs of a nation and let who will make its laws

In French:

Author of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary , Entrust me to write the songs of a nation and others to write its laws

Alternative version

Note that there is a final ribald the refrain:

That’s the wrong way to tickle Mary,

That’s the wrong way to kiss. 
Do not you know that over here, 
they like it best like this. 
Hooray for the French 
Farewell England. 
We did not know how to tickle Mary,

But we learnt how over there.  “

French translation

It’s the wrong way to tickle Mary

It’s the wrong way to kiss. 
Do not you know that, my boy? 
They prefer like this. 
Hooray “for the French” 
Farewell “England”. 
We did not know how to please Mary,

But that’s where we learned how to do it

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Max Cryer, Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World’s Best-loved Songs , Frances Lincoln Publishers , ( ISBN  978-0-7112-2911-2 , read online  [ archive ] ) , p.  188
  2. ↑ Gibbons, Verna Hale (1998). Jack Judge: The Tipperary Man. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. ( ISBN  1-900689-07-3 )
  3. ↑ ( in ) Verna Hale Gibbons , Jack Judge: The Man Tipperary , West Midlands, Sandwell Community Library Service ( ISBN  1-900689-07-3