Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tipperary Lives On

By James Patton

Traces of WWI are still with us, besides Middle-Eastern politics, battlefield artifacts, or even the ubiquitous Doughboy statues in the courthouse square. One of these is the song titled "It’s a Long Way to Tipperary" (later "It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary"), most often called simply "Tipperary," which was written in a Manchester pub by music hall performer Jack Judge (with help from the publican’s son Harry Williams) on 30 January 1912 and debuted by Judge the following night.

Written well before the start of the war, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the war, nor is it either patriotic or about anything military, but notwithstanding it became the "theme song" of the British Expeditionary Force in WWI. Why? Although the melody is bright, lilting, and easy to march to, and, as typical of the music hall genre, it has a rollicking sing-a-long chorus, instead it seems to have been a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Cap Badge of the Connaught Rangers
"Tipperary" wasn’t a well-known song in 1914, but popular lore says that the 2nd Battalion of The Connaught Rangers was marching to it after their landing at  Boulogne on 13 August. The song quickly spread to other bands, and, in today’s terminology, it went viral.

With popularity came serious money, and Judge and Williams were eventually sued for plagiarism by the writer of a 1908 ditty promoting Washington state apples. At the trial in 1920 expert witness Victor Herbert’s opinion that the two works were musically dissimilar carried the day and the suit was unsuccessful. Here’s a YouTube link to the legendary Irish tenor John McCormick’s recording, one of many in the day

Wartime Connections

A later connection to the war was the loss of the destroyer HMS Tipperary on 1 June 1916, which although seriously outgunned, heroically went one-on-one with the German battle cruiser SMS Westfalen at Jutland. Only 13 of Tipperary’s crew survived.

Jack Judge’s son, John, Private 35506, 8th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, was killed in Mesopotamia on 15 February 1917, age 20. He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial to the Missing.

In 1920 about 90 members of the 1st battalion of the Connaught Rangers, stationed at Jalandhar, India, staged a peaceful protest against martial law in Ireland, which was brutally repressed.

This is regarded as the most recent incident of mutiny in the British Army. In 1922 the Rangers were disbanded, along with all of the British regiments that recruited in territory ceded to the Irish Republic.

Across the Ocean

Like some other popular songs of the war era (e.g. "Keep the Home Fires Burning"), "Tipperary" speaks of longing for home and loved ones, rather than thrashing the evil Hun. It was a hit on the home front, too, a mainstay of music hall acts for the entire war.

"Tipperary" found its way across the Atlantic and into our popular culture. Sports fans might be quite familiar with this tune, though they may not know where it came from.  The University of Missouri's Fight Song, "Every True Son of Missouri,"  is such an example. Nowadays "Tipperary" is a regimental quick march of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a unit formed in 1914 which is still active in the Canadian Forces.

No comments:

Post a Comment