31 January 1912, "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", written and first performed by Jack Judge, premiered in a Stalybridge music hall in the Greater Manchester area.
“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
We didn't know how to tickle Mary,
But we learnt how over there.”
(Alternative concluding chorus to a popular tune as sung in the Great War)
|"It's a Long Way to Tipperary" |
Sheet music cover from a United States/Canada issue (before 1918)
When the first group of males banded together in the grey dawn of time, grabbed their war-clubs and set forth to vanquish the despoilers of landscape in their abominably foreign abodes around the next bend of the river, we can be almost certain that had a song on their lips. When they marched and when they returned, not all of them, though, quite shaken but full of swagger, glossing over the fundamental shock of warfare. Few things tie toiling people together like a song, sung at work, at play, at celebrations, secular and religious, and when a day’s work is done. Soldering makes no exception. “'That's a nice song,' said young Sam, and Vimes remembered that he was hearing it for the first time.
'It's an old soldiers' song,' he said.
'Really, sarge? But it's about angels.'
Yes, thought Vimes, and it's amazing what bits those angels cause to rise up as the song progresses. It's a real soldiers' song: sentimental, with dirty bits.
'As I recall, they used to sing it after battles,’ he said. 'I've seen old men cry when they sing it,’ he added.
'Why? It sounds cheerful.'
They were remembering who they were not singing it with, thought Vimes.” Terry Pratchett pointedly sums up the whole affair in “Night Watch”. Some of these tunes are artificial hideosities, celebrating the great leader, the party, the place one is supposed to get slaughtered for happily and what not. Some belittle the foe one is about to engage, naturally, many satirize the conditions of soldiery, miserable food, long marches, idiotic commanders, many deal with homesickness and yearning for loved ones left behind, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame, the killing and dying and some were once popular tunes from a completely different context that went to war with the men and women struggling far from home. More often than not, they became something of a soundtrack for the conflicts they were sung in and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” certainly belongs into this category.
|Jack Judge, to the left, and his partner in composing more than 32 popular music hall ditties, Harry Williams*|
|Postcard from the Great War|
* the image above was found along with an excellent article about Harry Williams on the "Irish Mirror" website:
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