Also known as "It's A Long Way To Tipperary", "The Tipperary Song" or simply "Tipperary", this was the first hit song of World War One in the UK, though there is some controversy over its origin, as explained by Richard Anthony Baker in his 2005 monograph British Music Hall: An Illustrated History.
"It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary" was written by Jack Judge, who by trade was a fishmonger, although he also worked as a semi-professional music hall entertainer. In January 1912, he was appearing at the Grand in Stalybridge, Manchester. Just after midnight one night, while leaving the club, he bet someone that he could compose and sing a new song before the day was over. On the way back to his lodgings he heard someone say "It's a long way to..." somewhere or other, and the following morning he sat down and wrote the song, choosing Tipperary as the destination.
The conductor of the orchestra at the Grand wrote out the band parts, and Judge sang it the same night. By the end of the week it had become the centerpiece of his performance. Bert Feldman (of music publishers B. Feldman) bought the song from Judge and Henry Williams for five shillings, and published it in October the same year, but after the outbreak of war in Europe it had become such a massive hit that he agreed to pay them £5 a week for the rest of their lives. By the end of 1914, ten thousand copies of the sheet music were being sold every single day, it was translated into seventeen languages, and went on to sell eight million copies by the time the War was over.
Feldman always believed the song to be a winner, and found Australian-born music hall star Florrie Forde to sing it in her 1913 season on the Isle of Man, but she dropped it from her act because it didn't catch on. Judge himself recorded it in 1915, but Florrie waited until 1929 to record it, and then only as a medley.
It has to be said that Florrie Forde was not the only artist who was not enamoured with "Tipperary"; Madam Clara Novello Davies became so tired of it that she bullied her son into writing a song that would knock it off its perch, which he did in spectacular fashion with "Keep The Home Fires Burning".
Baker says the original sheet music credited Judge and Williams as co-writers, but after the latter died in February 1924, Judge claimed he had written the song by himself but had promised Williams that if he ever published a song he would credit it to the both of them and they would share the royalties. Judge is also said to have given Williams a share of the royalties as a means of repaying a loan, while a niece of the dead man said Judge was the biggest liar who ever lived, that he could not write music, and that he had only helped out with the words, while her uncle had actually written the song as early as 1910. The complete truth will probably never be known, but Judge published a fair few songs after his biggest hit, so presumably he had some musical talent. Whether it was written January 31, 1912 or two years earlier, by one man or by two, "Tipperary" continued to be credited to both men; in 1930, an arrangement for male voice quartet, arranged by Harry Stickles, was published by Chappell-Harms Inc of New York.
Jack Judge died July 28, 1938; his obituary in the London Times the following day said that at the outbreak of the Great War the song spread like wildfire: "its qualities soon made it into a marching song of the troops, and the combination of nonchalance and sentiment in the words reflected the emotions of the moment. Every one, even the tone-deaf, knew its refrain. But few could have named the composer."
In March 1972, a letter to the same newspaper from E. Anthony Lewis of Stalybridge quoted Judge thus: "The song was actually written at the New Market Street Inn, Corporation Street, and I sang it at the Grand Theatre, there, the same evening".
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3