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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. Judge's parents were Irish, and his grandparents came from Tipperary.[2] It became popular among soldiers in the First World War and is remembered as a song of that war.

Now commonly called "It's a long way to Tipperary", original printed music has the extra "long," making the correct title "It's a long, long way to Tipperary".

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

Initial popularity

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.[3]

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."[4] The court appointed Victor Herbert to act as expert advisor,[5] 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 piracy.[6]


One of the most popular hits of the time, the song is typical 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.


First World War era sheet music cover (UK issue).

Bronze statue commemorating Jack Judge, the writer of the song, in Stalybridge. Note the WW I soldier.

First sung on the British music hall stage in 1913 by 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, by the crew of U-96 in Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot (that particular arrangement was performed by the Red Army Choir), 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, once for the final television episode, then sung again by Crow T. Robot in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. 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 singer. 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 an other 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."

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

In the 1981 Second World War film Das Boot, 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.

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.


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!
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

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.[7]

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".[8]

"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,[9] and is the official song of the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago.[10] 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.[11]

See also

  • Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square (novel)


  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 (1999). The Judges: Mayo, to the Midlands of England. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. 
  3. Gibbons, Verna Hale (1998). Jack Judge: The Tipperary Man. West Midlands: Sandwell Community Library Service. ISBN 1-900689-07-3. 
  4. "'Tipperary'" Tune Stolen, She Says. Boston Daily Globe, September 20, 1917, p. 16
  5. "Victor Herbert Is 'Tipperary' Expert," The New York Times, September 27, 1917, p. 10
  6. "Loses 'Tipperary' Suit." The New York Times, June 24, 1920, p. 25.
  7. Berresford Ellis, The Cornish Language and its Literature, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1974.
  8. University of Missouri fight song
  9. "The Sam Hinton Website – Sounds". Golden Apple Design. Retrieved 14-08-2012. 
  10. University of Chicago: Biological Sciences Division

External links

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