Picture Postcards from the Great War

"It's A Long, Long Way to Tipperary"

“It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” was probably the most famous marching song of the Great War. Originally a British music hall favourite it was written in January 1912 by Jack Judge and co-credited to Harry Williams.

Just after the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, George Curnock, a war correspondent helped to make the song famous. Curnock worked for the Daily Mail and watched the Connaught Rangers disembark at the French port of Boulogne and as they marched off through the town, they were singing "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary." In his dispatch to the Daily Mail headquarters Curnock reported what he had seen and heard and that brought the song to the notice of an even wider audience. 

In November 1914, the song was recorded by the famous Irish tenor John McCormack as a single and was a massive hit. “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” became and remained, a much loved marching song for British troops throughout the war. The words and tune invoked memories of home, where-ever that may have been.

Tipperary ww1 song sheet
John McCormack (1884-1945) was an Irish tenor, celebrated for his performances of operatic and popular song repertoires and renowned for his diction and breath control which is evident on this 100 years old recording.
With the song being so popular, it was inevitable that picture postcard publishers would soon find ways to incorporate the song title and words into illustrated and colourful song titled cards and verse song cards - and they did!

This card by the ‘Inter-Art Co.’ is an example of the genre which highlighted the war-time song "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary." It became one of the most popular marching songs of the war. Here a column of soldiers with their battle trophies, are singing the song as they march. The artist did not sign the card.

The masters of illustrated song cards Bamforth & Co., Ltd., released at least four sets of Tipperary cards. Each set had the same song verses and chorus - but the pictures were different in each set. A set of four is illustrated below.
It's a long,long way to tipparery song cards
These cards were published by Bamforth & Co., Ltd., in its Series number 4742 and numbered 1,2,3,4, respectively. Did Bamforth release this set of cards before the outbreak of the Great War - as the illustrations are all set in a pre-war context?
A second set of four Bamforth song cards carrying the Tipperary verses and chorus is shown below - but this time with war-time illustrations.
ww1 it's a long. long way to tipparery Bamforth song cards
This set of four cards from Bamforth & Co., Ltd., was from Series 4788 and numbered 1,2,3,4, respectively and showed the war-time use of verse and chorus from "It's a Long, Long way to Tipperary." However, 'Paddy' has now joined the colours and writes to 'Molly' from a tented encampment. 'Molly replies to 'paddy' but has moved from her cottage to another - covered in roses.

A set of images and verse dedicated to the "Tipperary" song

This set of six black and white cards was produced by an unnamed printer and publisher. We know that the artist was A. Pearse from his signature on each of the cards. The use of the Tipperary words  were granted "By permission of B. Feldmann & Co., 2 & 3 Arthur St., London, W. C."
six ww1 cards song cards
The scenes depicted on this set of six, included soldiers disembarking at a French port, receiving drinks from an elderly French woman while on the way to Ypres, singing around the camp-fire, in action against the Germans, surrender on the Rhine -  the Allies did occupy bridgeheads west of the Rhine from 1918 to 1927, although the final card envisaged British soldiers marching through Berlin - it never happened!  All the cards carried verses or chorus of the song.
A number of cards appeared in the postcard racks with captions or titles referring to the 'Tipperary' song, some were from sets of cards and others were single ones. Three examples are shown below.
three ww1 cards It's a long, long way tipperary
Mr.T. Martin was responsible for the image on the card on the right. It was published by the Graphic Photo Engraving Co., London and was not posted. The card in the centre was an early one and had a column of marching soldiers singing the popular song, while, rather optimistically, on their way to Berlin and sweeping the German Army before them. Published by James Henderson & Sons of London the artist was not named. The card on the left was number five in a set of eight. The artist was H. Canivet. These cards were described on the envelope in which they were sold as "Artistic and up-to-date."  Produced by the printers and publishers Dobson, Molle & Co, Ltd, of Edinburgh, London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast, the eight cards sold for 6d. a set and were probably first released in 1915.
It was said that "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary"  first saw the light of day because of a bet

The song was not a warlike song that incited soldiers to glorious deeds as popular songs in previous wars frequently did. In the First World War, the most popular songs, like this one and ”Keep the Home Fires Burning", concentrated on the longing for home.

Jack Judge's parents were Irish and his grandparents came from Tipperary. Jack Judge and Harry Williams met in Oldbury, Worcestershire at the Malt Shovel, where Harry's brother Ben was the licensee. Judge and Williams began a long-term writing partnership that resulted in 32 music hall songs published by Feldman & Company, 2, 3, and 4, Arthur Street, London, W.C. Harry had fallen down some cellar steps as a child and was left severally handicapped. His parents were publicans and many of the songs were believed to have been composed with Judge at their home The Plough Inn in Balsall Common in the West Midlands, although a rival claim said the song was composed in Stalybridge in Greater Manchester.

ww1 It's a long, long way to tipperary postcard
This Valentine's Series card has Paddy reunited with Molly in Tipperary. A hand written message on the reverse of the card reads, "I hope you will remember this song which is the soldiers favorite."

Controversy over authorship

After Harry Williams' death in 1924, Jack Judge claimed sole credit for the song, saying he had written it for a 5/- bet in Stalybridge on 30 January 1912 and performed it the next night at the local music hall – the Grand Theatre.  But, the tune and most of the lyrics to the song were said to have already existed in the form of a manuscript, "It's A Long Way to Connemara". The manuscript was co-written by Williams and Judge. The writing partners split the royalties for "It's a Long, Long, Way to Tipperary" until Jack Judge sold his royalties to Harry Williams in 1915.


Yet, whatever the truth about whom and where the song was composed, it was a firm favourite throughout the war for soldiers and civilians alike and of course made a profit for picture postcard publishers too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Home page
Copyright © 2014 Picture Postcards from the Great War 1914-1918. All rights reserved.