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Long way to Tipperary piano on display in Warwick

Maggie Garton, Warwick Antiques Centre, pictured with the original piano which A Long Way to Tipperary was first played, as the troops went out to war.

Maggie Garton, Warwick Antiques Centre, pictured with the original piano which A Long Way to Tipperary was first played, as the troops went out to war.

It’s a long way from Tipperary and its original home – but the piano on which the tune to which thousands of men marched off to the First World War was composed is on display in Warwick.

It has been lovingly restored after being found “in a terrible state” by Peter Viola, who co-owns Warwick Antiques Centre with his wife Helen.

Peter said he and a friend rescued it from the car park of the Tipperary Inn, where It’s A Long Way to Tipperary was written in 1909.

And the song from a pub between Kenilworth and Balsall Common was also a popular marching song for the British Army during the Second World War, as well as a sing-along on the Home Front.

The song was co-composed by Warwickshire man Harry Williams and is believed it sold three million copies in the UK and six million worldwide.

Peter spent months restoring the upright piano, albeit without its musical workings, which perished years ago during its peripatetic life.

He said: ‘It was enormously important to me to preserve this special piano for the nation, knowing that one of the most famous songs that has kept up the spirits of generations of soldiers, families and the public throughout two world wars was composed on this very piano.

“I had to save it from total destruction, especially in the year that we are marking the centenary of that dreadful war.

“So many brave men marched off to war to that song - and so many of them never came back.”

Peter said he believed it was in the pub until about 10 years ago and, following a number of owners after sale at auction, it eventually returned to the pub.

“It was abandoned at the back of the pub and stood outside, rotting and falling apart.

“It was in a terrible state and took three to four weeks for it to dry out. The wood was so softy and soggy. It started to fall apart and I said it was no good, but my wife persuaded me to carry on.”

He said at one time the piano had a fish tank carved into it and his restoration work revealed its serial number.

“I’m 101 per cent convinced that it’s the original piano that the song was composed on.”

Peter said he had no idea why it was left outside at the mercy of the elements.

“We picked it up from the back of the pub after my friend got permission from the landlord.”

He hopes that a museum or historic property will provide a home for it, adding: “I know Great Britain is full of history, but this has so much significance.”

The piano will be part of a First World War display until the end of September at the antiques centre on the corner of High Street-Swan Street, from 10am until 4.30pm, Monday to Saturday.

 

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