A PIANO used to compose one of the most famous songs of the First World War has been saved from bushes outside a Warwickshire pub.
Marching anthem ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ helped bolster morale among troops and many believe it was first penned in the Plough Inn – since renamed the Tipperary – near Honiley.
So when Peter Viola discovered the pub’s historic piano rotting outside with a fish tank lodged in the middle, he decided it needed rescuing.
The next four months were spent painstakingly restoring the instrument which will now be put on display.
Peter, manager of Warwick Antiques Centre, 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 it, I had to save it from total destruction, especially in the year that we are marking the centenary of that dreadful war.”
Harry Williams, one of the songs composers, lived at the Plough Inn and it was here in 1909 with partner Jack Judge he wrote a song titled ‘It’s A Long Way to Connemara’.
It wasn’t until three years later it was renamed ‘Tipperary’. Jack had done it to win a bet and Harry was said to be furious, but the pair went on to make thousands of pounds in royalties.
For many years the piano remained at the pub but in 2004 it was put up for auction. Two owners later it was back at the Tipperary where it fell into a terrible state. Restoring it has been a labour of love for Peter.
He added: “When I first moved it it immediately started to fall apart. I put it in the back of my car and left it there overnight. When I checked the next day found it had sweated and the car was covered in water.
“Everything had to come apart. Lots of the ivories were broken and every morning another key had fallen out. It all had to be put back together.”
The rebuilt piano – accompanied by a collection of First World War weapons, armaments and memorabilia – will be on display at the Warwick Antiques Centre on High Street until the end of September.
Following the exhibition Peter is keen to find a good home for the piano. He does not want to sell it but is hoping someone will make a donation to the Royal British Legion. Anyone interested can contact him on 07770 897707.
The piano could not even stand and was falling apart before the restoration. (s)
Left: As it was found outside the Tipperary pub, covered in bushes and with a fish tank in the middle. (s)
The song became a favourite among First World War soldiers. 32.014.002.leam.jm5