War or Peace: Tipperary town’s dillemma

Just after the National Day of Commemoration, the military heritage of the town of Tipperary was discussed. The Tipperary Peace Convention was held from 5-8 July and featured a Song of Peace Concert. The Peace Convention was established because of a simple song written in Stalybridge, Manchester by Jack Judge, called ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. 1

This year is the 100th anniversary of the composition of the song, in which an emigrant sings of his love for a girl at home in Tipperary. This song became an unofficial anthem of British soldiers in World War I and has been inextricably associated with the British army ever since. The original lyrics do not mention war, the British army, the Germans or anything martial. It was simply a good song to march to and agreeable to sing.

The association of the town with this British military tradition did not fill Tipperary hearts with joy, so the Tipperary Peace Convention was established in 1983 to attempt to disassociate the town from war. 2 Presumably, the song contest hopes to produce a composition as light-hearted, catchy and cheerful as Judge’s while conveying something of the importance of peace.

By contrast, the residents of the town of Stalybridge, Manchester, where Judge wrote and first performed the song, are not upset by the song’s acquired martial overtones. There is a statue of Judge in the town centre and the 100th anniversary of the song was celebrated by the local Historical Society who said ‘It’s [the song] very much knitted in with Stalybridge.’ 3

So, the English celebrate the British army without a qualm, while the Irish divert the conversation to peace. And throughout, nobody mentioned that the 500-strong force of British troops garrisoned in the barracks of Tipperary town. 4 As Pat Bracken has pointed out below, barracks¬† was about more than war for other Tipperary towns. Someday, perhaps Tipperary¬† town can embrace its worldwide fame, even if it is due to marching Tommies singing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’.

Tipperary Barracks, photographed between 1865-1914

Source: http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000323862 Accessed 3 September 2012.


  1. For more on the song, see Walter O’Shea’s account here http://www.freewebs.com/tipperarybarracks/tipperarythesong.htm Accessed 3 September 2012.
  2. tipperarypeace.ie Accessed 3 September 2012.
  3. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/long-way-from-tipperary-as-song-turns-100-2989323.html Accessed 3 September 2012
  4. http://www.freewebs.com/tipperarybarracks/thebarracks18741922.htm Accessed 3 September 2012.
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