Friday 26 December 2014

Songs of war - many popular tunes had Irish origins

Soldiers sang to calm their frayed nerves and to raise morale. Many popular tunes had Irish origins, says Anita Guidera

Published 11/05/2014 | 02:30

A sign for the Berlin Road c1918, which has been renamed Tipperary. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
A commemorative hankie with ‘It’s a long, long way to Tipperary’.
Cover page for the sheet music of 'It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary,' by Jack Judge and Harry Williams, 1914. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
Bing Crosby was one singer who recorded a version of 'Danny Boy'.

A late night bet and the outbreak of World War I ensured the immortal marching song, 'It's a Long Way To Tipperary', became the longest earning song in history.

With its soul-stirring lyrics of homesickness and desire, the viral hit of World War One came about as a result of a five-shilling wager after a late night drinking session – and went on to become one of the most popular marching songs by the troops on their way to the trenches.

Oldbury, Birmingham, music-hall entertainer Jack Judge, whose father came from Co Mayo, and musician Harry Williams were behind the hit. The duo had composed dozens of music hall songs together.

Legend has it that on January 30, 1912, Jack retired to a nearby pub following a performance at Stalybridge in Cheshire.

Someone challenged him that he could not write a new song and perform it on stage during the next performance.

'It's a Long Way to Tipperary' was performed on the stage of The Grand Theatre on January 31, 1912, and Jack won the bet.

The most credible version of the story is that Jack and Harry had written the song as a ballad in 1909 calling it, 'It's a Long Way to Connemara', and that Jack merely changed the name to produce the new song.

The lyrics had been inspired by a snippet of conversation Jack overheard in which one man was telling another; "It's a long way to ..." someplace or other.

Both men shared the credit and made a small fortune from the song that continues to earn an estimated £30,000 (€36,490) a year in royalties today.

Tipperary was given a marching beat and shot to fame after Irish troops from the Connaught Rangers were heard singing it as they marched to the French front. Its rousing strains echoed through the battlefronts during the war and was said to be the inspirer of victory.

In November 1914 it was recorded by John McCormack and was later picked up and sung by French, Russian and German armies.

An additional bawdier verse was added during the war:

"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 le Francais!

Farewell, Angleterre!

We didn't know the way to tickle Mary,

But we learned how, over there!

Such was its popularity during the war, the Lambkin Tobacco Factory in Cork even produced a Tipperary brand to be sent to the soldiers on the front.

In 1915 one English newspaper sent a reporter to Tipperary to write an article about the town under the heading 'Tipperary in the Limelight'.

The song is played on Remembrance Sunday in Britain every year. It was played at the official opening of the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, Belgium, to commemorate the Irish war dead.

It's a Long Way to Tipperary

Up to mighty London came

An Irish lad one day,

All the streets were paved with gold,

So everyone was gay!

Singing songs of Piccadilly,

Strand, and Leicester Square,

'Til Paddy got excited and

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.

Waltzing Matilda

WRITTEN by the great-great grandson of a Co Donegal army general, 'Waltzing Matilda' was sung in a Sydney army camp at the start of World War I as soldiers prepared to head for the eastern and western front.

It went on to become an anthem and battle cry not just in World War 1 but also in World War II.

Its composer, Andrew 'The Banjo' Barton Peterson later remarked: "I only got a fiver for the song but it's worth a million to me to hear it sung like this."

A poet, journalist and author, Peterson's great-great grandfather was General Charles Barton from Pettigo, Co Donegal.

Danny Boy

Released, just prior to World War I, 'Danny Boy', with its images of loss, parting and hints at reunion, became an anthem for the troops.

It was originally penned in 1910 by prolific British songwriter and lawyer Frederick Edward Weatherly, but was a flop.

Two years later, his sister-in-law in the US sent him a tune called the 'Londonderry Air' and he published a revised version of the song in 1913.

There is no evidence that Weatherly ever set foot in Ireland.

The Air first emerged in 1855 from Jane Ross, a female collector, in Limavady who claimed to have taken it down from the playing of an itinerant piper.

The melody has now been traced back to blind Ulster harpist Rory Dall O Cahan in the late 16th or early 17th Century.

'Danny Boy' has been recorded by everyone, from Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, John McCormack, The Pogues and The Muppets and was played at the funerals of President John F Kennedy and Princess Diana.

The 100th anniversary of the song was marked by a mass sing-along in Derry-Londonderry, the UK City of Culture in 2013.

 

 

See our dedicated  World War 1 section here.

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