Harry Tate, whose real name was Ronald Hutchison, was born in 1872 and was a music hall performer who began as an impressionist, imitating well-known performers such as Dan Leno, George Robey and Eugene Stratton.

His first big success came with his ‘Motoring’ sketch, in which he, a chauffeur and his idiotic son completely failed to get the car started to take the son to college. The son sat in the back of the car making inane comments such as “It’s amazing, pa-pa”, and “Goodbye-eee”. This became Tate’s best-known catchphrase and was the inspiration for the popular World War I song.

Here is a video of that famous sketch:

 

 

The songwriter, Robert Patrick Weston, collaborated with Bert Lee to write many songs, providing material for famous stars of yesteryear like Stanley Holloway, Gracie Fields and The Crazy Gang.

The song contains many slang expressions from the 1900s. These were not phrases that ordinary ‘Tommies’ would use, but rather popular idioms adopted by young men from the upper classes (e.g. Na poo means ‘the end’). It was a kind of joke for the non-commissioned men to sing these unfamiliar ‘posh’ words, mocking their ‘betters’!

Weston’s son, Harris, took over his father’s role and produced some enduring Cockney classics:  “Knees up! Mother Brown”, “What a mouth, what a mouth!”,

“I’m Henerey the Eighth, I am” and “When Father papered the parlour”.

 

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