It's a Long Way to Tipperary

"It's a Long Way to Tipperary" is a music hall song written by Henry James "Harry" Williams and co-credited to Jack Judge.[1] Originally it was credited as written by Jack Judge and co-credited to Henry James "Harry" Williams.[2] 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.

"It's a Long Way to Tipperary"
Sculpture in Tipperary Town, Ireland, commemorating the song
Written30 January 1912
Songwriter(s)Henry James "Harry" Williams and Jack Judge

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

Initial popularity

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 Irish tenor John McCormack, which helped its worldwide popularity.[3]


One of the most popular hits of the time, the song is atypical in that it is not a warlike 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.

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.[4]

Writing partnership

Jack Judge's parents were Irish, and his grandparents came from Tipperary.[5] Judge and Harry Williams met in Oldbury, Worcestershire at the Malt Shovel public house, where Williams'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. Williams was severely handicapped, having fallen down cellar steps as a child. His parents were publicans (proprietors of pubs) 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.

Controversy over authorship

After Harry Williams' death in 1924 Jack Judge claimed sole credit for the song,[6] 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, Alice Smyth Burton Jay sued song publishers Chappell & 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".[7] The court appointed Victor Herbert to act as expert advisor[8] 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.[9]


Williams' family got together in 2012 to have Harry Williams officially re-credited with the song. They shared their archives with the Imperial War Museums. The family estate still receives royalties from the song.[10]


First sung on the British music hall stage in 1912[11] 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 (1937) and as background music in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966). 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 (1996), then sung again for the final television episode. It is also sung by British soldiers in the film The Travelling Players (1975) directed by Theo Angelopoulos, and by Czechoslovak soldiers in the movie Černí baroni (1992).

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 (1966). 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 (1972) at Snoopy's send-off 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 wherein Snoopy, in his World War I fantasy state, walks into Marcie's home, thinking it a French café, and falls asleep after drinking all her root beer, she rousts him awake by loudly singing the song.

It is also featured in For Me and My Gal (1942) starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly and Gallipoli (1981) starring Mel Gibson.

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 submarine when the German crew sings the song as they begin patrolling in the North Atlantic Ocean. The crew sings it a second time as they cruise toward home port after near disaster.

When the hellship SS Lisbon Maru was sinking, the Royal Artillery POWS trapped in the vessel are reported to have sung this song.[12]

Survivors of the sinking of HMS Tipperary in the Battle of Jutland (1916) were identified by their rescuers on HMS Sparrowhawk because they were singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in their lifeboat.[13]


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.

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!"


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!"


An alternative bawdy concluding chorus:

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.
Hoo-ray pour les français,
Farewell Angleterre.
We didn't know how to tickle Mary,
But we learnt how over there.

Other versions and adaptations

See also


  1. Pybus, Meg (2014). "Final recognition of harrys composition". Pybus. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  2. 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.
  3. Gibbons, Verna Hale (1998). Jack Judge: The Tipperary Man. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. ISBN 1-900689-07-3.
  4. Archived 16 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Gibbons, Verna Hale (1999). The Judges: Mayo, to the Midlands of England. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service.
  6. 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.
  7. "'Tipperary'" Tune Stolen, She Says. Boston Daily Globe, 20 September 1917, p. 16
  8. "Victor Herbert Is 'Tipperary' Expert," The New York Times, 27 September 1917, p. 10
  9. "Loses 'Tipperary' Suit." The New York Times, 24 June 1920, p. 25.
  10. Fricker, Martin (19 February 2014). "Song that won war: It's a long way to Tipperary and a long time to pay royalties". Mirror. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  11. Gibbons, Verna Hale (1998). Jack Judge: The Tipperary Man. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. ISBN 1-900689-07-3.
  12. BBC July 2018
  13. "The Fighting at Jutland". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  14. Peter Berresford Ellis, The Cornish Language and its Literature, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1974.
  15. Ballinger, Tony (2015). A Walk Against The Stream: A Rhodesian National Service Officer's Story of the Bush War. Solihull: Helion and Company. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-910294-43-7.
  16. University of Missouri fight song Archived 3 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. "'Mighty Oregon' sings of the past". Daily Emerald. 12 November 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  18. "The Sam Hinton Website – Sounds". Golden Apple Design. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  19. University of Chicago: Biological Sciences Division Archived 21 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  20. Video on YouTube
  21. UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive
  • The Harry Williams papers are available for study at the Documents and Sound Department of the Imperial War Museums.

* Sheet Music for "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary", Chappell & Co., Ltd., 1912.

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