Judge 1872 - 1938
Judge in his early forties, as he appeared on sheet
music around 1915.
Thomas Judge was born at Oldbury in the West Midlands in 1872,
and given the usual family nickname of 'Jack'. He came from humble
beginnings in the Irish community of the town, working at an iron
foundry, taking over the family fish business, writing songs and
verses, becoming a popular music-hall entertainer for a decade in
his forties, and achieving lasting recognition for wriring "Its
a long, long way to Tipperary", which became one of the best-loved
marching songs of the first world war.
was a big man, an irrepressible character with a great sense of
humour, and generous to those in need, but also a man who saw much
sadness and misfortune in his life. His early life was much like
that of most other Oldbury men born at that time, a struggle to
earn sufficient money to keep him and his family. What set him apart
was his talent as an entertainer, and he was well-known locally
long before the unexpected wartime success of 'Tipperary' made his
name known across the world.
success brought controversy over whether he really wrote 'Tipperary',
but the evidence, a hundred years on, suggests that he did. There
are many stories associated with him: everyone over eighty in Oldbury
seems to have a 'true' one, and
each is slightly different!
article tries to set out the well-established facts and events of
his life, and dispel some of the myths.
the late 1840s, when the potato famine struck in Ireland, there
had been a sizeable Irish community in Oldbury, with over 500 people
on the 1851 census, amounting to about 4% of the population. The
Judges, however, did not come to the Midlands until around 1860,
when Rodger Judge left Carrow Beg, County Mayo, in west of Ireland
and settled at Greets Green, West Bromwich. Ten years later, he
was joined by his elder brother John, who brought with him
his two sons John, aged 22, and James, 17.
of St Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, which was
the family church of the Judges. [Langley LHS collection]
and Jane McGuire had arrived in Oldbury from Ireland in the early
1850s, and their eldest child, Mary, was born here in 1853. She
married John Judge Jnr at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Pinfold
Street, Oldbury, in 1871. They moved into Low Town, near to the
Malt Shovel public house, with the Mary's family, and so started
the association of the Judge family with Oldbury. Four years later,
John's brother, James, married Mary's younger sister, Ann.
and Mary Judge had their first child, John Thomas, on 3rd December
1872, and he was given the nickname 'Jack', as were all 'John's
in the Judge family. Jack soon had two sisters, Jane Ann (1874)
and Mary (1875). However, there was almost no Jack Judge story to
tell, since, at the age of four, he fell into the canal that ran
behind the houses of Low Town, and had to the rescued by an older
Town is the street to the left of the distant building,
from Park Lane, about 1925. [Terry Daniels collection]
father was an unskilled labourer, who sought work where he could
find it. He was laid off by Bromford Iron Works in 1877. In the
search for employment, the family left Oldbury, moving first to
Wolverhampton, and later to Moseley in Birmingham, so most of Jack's
education took place at St Patrick's School, Wolverhampton, and
St Anne's School, Moseley.
returned to Oldbury when Bromford Iron Works were taking on labour
again in 1883. Jack was not quite twelve years old, but big enough
to pass for an older lad, and, bluffing his way in, both he and
his father were taken on. After a couple of years, his father left
the iron works, borrowed some money and set himself up as a fish
dealer in 1885. He sold from a stall in front of the 'Wrexham',
the common name for the Junction Vaults, opposite Christchurch,
and next to 'Polly on the fountain', the drinking fountain that
had been erected in 1882. This avoided paying the tolls at the official
Street about 1900. John Judge opened his fish stall where
a stall appears on the picture, and Jack continued to
operate here to avoid market tolls. [Langley LHS collection]
1888, the John and Mary Judge had eight children, including Edward,
who had been informally 'adopted'. That year, the family were struck
a bitter blow, when John Judge became ill with tuberculosis, which
was rife in the poor houses of Oldbury. He died in June that year,
aged only 38, and to keep his fish business going, the whole family
had to become involved. Mary and her daughters fetched the fish,
the children helped to prepare it, and Mary sold it. Jack was still
at the iron works, and Jane Ann, Jack's eldest sister, was working
as a brickmaker. In the evenings, Jack and Jane Ann would take shellfish
around the pubs and music halls of Oldbury. Jack soon decided to
expand the business, so he bought an old, hand-cart and fetched
the fish from Birmingham market, before starting his job at the
iron works. To add to their burdens, in 1889, Mary 'adopted' another
misfortune befell the family in 1891 when the three younger children
all caught measles. Margaret, ('Maggie'), was dangerously ill, but
just survived. Edward and Annie were not so strong, and both were
dead by October.
and difficulties of this nature were not unusual for the poor of
Oldbury who had few safeguards in employment, housing or health.
At this time, the loss of the breadwinner meant that many families
faced a constant struggle to stay out of the workhouse at West Bromwich.
The Judge family were particularly inventive and hard working, but
those first years after John's death must have been a very difficult
time for them.
was some improvement when Mary Judge married again in 1893. Her
second husband was William Henry Withey, 'Bill', who had been born
in Clifton, Bristol in 1854. He married Sarah Pow in 1879, and moved
to Chorlton, near Manchester, where they had two children, William
Henry and Frederick George. After Sarah died in 1891, Bill and the
boys moved to Oldbury, and there he met Mary Judge.
the time of their marriage, Mary 'adopted' Edward Withey, who was
usually known as Ted Judge. Who he was remains a mystery, for no
registration of a birth under either name has been traced, and his
death was registered as that of 'Edward Withey'. Ted Judge, like
his 'brother' Jack, became an entertainer: he worked closely with
Jack and performed many of his songs.
for Jack's fish and rabbits from Bone's Oldbury Directory
of 1905 [Terry Daniels collection]
family was now complete, since Mary and Bill had no more children.
Jack's sister Ellen, 'Nellie, who was in service at Dudley, died
of tuberculosis in 1897. Bill Withey died in 1908, leaving Mary
a widow for the second time.
was about to start his own family: in 1895, his eye was caught by
Jane Ann Carroll, known as 'Jinny', who was the laundress for the
Judge family. She was a quiet, petite, blue-eyed girl from the Irish
community in Oldbury, quite a contrast to the big, red-haired, extrovert
Jack. In June 1895, they were married at St Francis Xavier Church.
They had four children, John ('Jackie') in 1897, Jane Anne ('Cissie')
in 1900, Thomas in 1902, and James Patrick ('Jimmy') in 1905. Jinny
was soon drawn into selling the fish, and Jack gave up his job at
the iron works as soon as he could to concentrate on developing
the fish business.
a strange reflection of his own childhood, in 1904, he dived into
the canal to rescue two children after their pram had toppled in.
He was awarded the Royal Humane Society's certificate for his bravery.
the late 1800s, the main organised entertainment in Oldbury was
the music hall, the 'Gaiety' at the top of Birmingham Street opposite
the Bulls Head, and the 'Old White Swan Museum and Concert Hall'
in Church Street, next to the Big House. The latter was known locally
as the 'Bird Show' because of the array of stuffed birds, animals
and curiosities that adorned its wall. It also had a mechanical
organ, and staged concerts and talent shows. Additional entertainment
came from concerts and musical events staged at churches and clubs.
and his sister, Jane Ann, went to evening events at the music hall
in the 1880s to provide a diversion from their busy days. Soon they
started to enter the talent competitions, either as a duo or as
soloists, and began to win prizes. Jack learned how to deal with
hecklers, and the audiences began to appreciate his jokes and humorous
verses, his songs and his whistling. He began to enjoy his time
on stage and the applause he received. Although only in his mid
teens, he was tall, big-framed, and, with his red hair, he must
have had quite a stage presence.
dressed as Pierrot for a performance in 1906. [Terry
his father's death, Jack had less time for performance, but continued
to develop his stage skills when he could. By the late 1890s, he
was becoming well known locally, and he gradually got engagements
in music halls further away from Oldbury. He began to dream of a
semi-professional career, but the family circumstances and the fish
business would not allow him to take the risk.
continued to write songs for his act, but was at the great disadvantage
that he could not read music, so he could not write them down. He
would try out new songs by singing them to the family, and tapping
out the rhythm on a table top, but he had to rely on others to write
out his music.
1903, the Malt Shovel at 21 Low Town was taken over by Benjamin
Williams, and his brother, Henry, 'Harry', lived there also. Harry
was disabled and used a wheelchair, but was a very good piano player.
Jack, who lived next door at number 19, used the Malt Shovel as
his local, and he and Harry became friends. Harry wrote down some
of the songs
that Jack composed at this time, and may well have
arranged and harmonised them
Shovel Inn, Low Town, with Benjamin Williams in the
doorway and Harry Williams at the top window. [Sandwell
from music, they also shared an interest in gambling, and Jack was
soon in debt to Harry. Harry also lent Jack money from time to time.
Jack was not good at holding on to money: he liked a drink and a
smoke, as well as a bet, but he was always generous to those in
need, and many of his appearances were free, for charities. Despite
his income from his music, he was never well off, and never owned
a house. As a result of Harry's help, Jack made him a promise that,
if he ever got a song published, he would add Harry's name to it.
1900 and 1910, Jack was building up his repertoire and gaining experience.
His act consisted of jokes, songs,
whistling, and much interaction with the audience, either to put
down hecklers or to
encourage the audience to join in the choruses. He had a stock of
songs in draft at home,
which he used in his concert and music hall performances.
He was greatly appreciated
by the Oldbury Volunteers [1st Volunteer Battalion, 'K' Company],
and accompanied them on their annual camps, helping to provide entertainment
for the company. Doubtless, Jack tried out all his new material
as he appeared at the 'Encore' variety competition in
1910 [News of the World cartoon]
great breakthrough came in 1910, when he entered a variety competition
organised by the stage magazine 'Encore' in London. He performed
one of his most popular songs, 'How are Yer?' in a bright
check suit with a striped waistcoat. The audience was not very friendly
to the artists, but Jack won them over and got them joining in the
chorus. Jack only came third in the competition, but took much of
the publicity in the reviews, and suddenly he was wanted at music
halls and theatres throughout the country. The professional stage
was open to him.
there were more hands to help with the fish business, he was able
to go on a tour of the country, taking his stock of songs from the
previous decade with him, and polishing them up for his act.
had free time between the performances, and would usually find a
suitable public house to while away the hours. One of his favourite
tricks in a bar was to steer the conversation around to his song-writing,
and get someone to challenge him towrite a new song over-night for
a bet, knowing that there were still unused songs in his old stock!
January 1912 Jack was performing at the Grand Theatre, Stalybridge,
just east of Manchester. In the Newmarket Inn, Jack ran the 'song
overnight trick', and performed his 'new' song on 31st January,
and won his bet for five shillings. It was called 'It's a long
way to Tipperary', and it was well received by the audience
at the Grand.
is significant doubt over just how 'new' the song really was. Many
Oldbury people claim to have heard the song before this date: some
say that it was written at the Malt Shovel; some of Jack's family
claim that he tried it over at his sister Jane Ann's house at Brades
Village, Oldbury; there are claims that it was first sung by a ten-year-old
Oldbury girl, Alice Franklyn, who performed as 'Baby Franklyn',
after Jack showed it to her. There are claims that the inspiration
for 'Tipperary' was the phrase 'It's a long way to ...', which was
overheard by Jack at Stalybridge, or at Oldbury, or at Smethwick,
or several other places. There are even claims that it was sung
to the Oldbury Volunteers, or the Oldbury Territorials who replaced
them, at their annual camps.
all this evidence, it is likely that a version of 'Tipperary' existed
in some form before its composition at Stalybridge. It may even
have been thedraft of a song, 'It's a long way to Connemara'.
Jack probably used this as a basis for 'It's a long way to Tipperary'
which was, indeed, first written in its final form at Stalybridge.
Jack, himself, in a newspaper interview in 1933, said that he wrote
it at Stalybridge in response to a bet, but he did not comment on
its inspiration. A hundred years on, we cannot be certain of the
origin of the song.
of song-sheet of 'It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary',
from a later edition after it was adopted as a marching
song [Published by B Feldman & Co]
the success at Stalybridge, Jack advertised 'Tipperary' for sale
in the stage press. It was noticed by the music publisher and impresario
Bert Feldman in London, who was interested in the song for Florrie
Forde, a leading music hall artiste of the day. Feldmann, Jack and
Florrie Forde met at London, and Bert Feldman agreed to publish
two of Jack's songs, 'Its a long way to Tipperary' and
'Mona from Barcelona'. He did insist on one change to 'Tipperary',
the inclusion of a second 'long' in the chorus and the title, so
it became 'It's a long, long way to Tipperary'. A royalty
agreement was signed by Jack and Bert Feldman on 18th September
1912. Jack remembered his promise to Harry Williams and included
Harry's name as co-author of both songs.
Forde took the song into her act in 1913, and it was well received.
The sheet music sold steadily, and Bert Feldman published more of
Jack's songs as a result, six in 1913, including 'The Way the
Wind Blows', and eleven in 1914. All of these had the name of
Harry Williams as co-author. John McCormack made the first recording
of 'Tipperary' in 1914.
sang 'Tipperary' all round the country to enthusiastic audiences.
One of the places where it was well received was Dublin, where it
was heard by a contingent of the Irish Connaught Rangers. It touched
a chord with them, and they must have gone away singing the song.
This was critical for the fame of 'Tipperary'.
information in this article has been taken from 'Jack Judge, the
Tipperary Man' by Verna Hale Gibbons, from articles by Leslie Frost
in the Oldbury Weekly News in 1962, from contemporary newspaper
articles, from Gillian Nicklin (Jack's only great-granddaughter),
from research and family papers of the Stanley family (descendants
of Jack's sister, Jane Ann), and from personal research. Dates of
births, marriages and deaths have been taken from these sources
and the birth, marriage and death indices available online at freebmd.rootsweb.com,
and from the on-line databases of ancestry.co.uk and familysearch.org.
and family tree in this format: © Dr Terry Daniels, 2011
and illustrations: © Various, as stated in captions
for permission to reproduce
you have objects, photographs, records or other items associated
with Jack Judge, please contact this website, since the local
history societies of Oldbury are building up as complete an archive
on Jack Judge as possible, and would like to add copies of anyitems
to it. We
are particularly interested in copyinging recordings of Jack's music.