West Virginia Irish Road Bowling


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Irish Spring Festival, Ireland, West Virginia

Each spring the families of Ireland, West Virginia hold an Irish Spring Festival which includes St. Patrick's Day and the time of the Vernal Equinox. It is a celebration of their Scots - Irish heritage, but just as much a celebration of awakening, the Appalachian Spring. Festival themes each year are drawn from the plants and animals living on the hillsides and in the narrow valleys of their land, which awaken from the winter cold in late March. The Crocus, Robins, the Spring Peeper (a tiny frog), Dandelions, Bluebirds, all have had their day and add color to the Saturday parade through town. Warm sun, rain, wind, or snow can  be expected, sometimes all on the same day.   

Above the town a rugged cliff, the Blarney Rock, looms over the celebration. At the moment of the Vernal Equinox, whether 3:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m., a crowd hikes up to the Blarney Rock, stands an egg on end,  the churchbell rings, the dogs bark, and the festival is complete.

The town of Ireland was settled in the early 1800s by Andrew Wilson, who was nicknamed "Old Ireland," because he recently had immigrated from the country of Ireland to America, and because, when he died in November 1843, he was 114 years old.   



                                                                              Ireland, WV

 West Virginia Irish Road Bowling

In 1994 Marie (Burns) Powell, who had been raised on Green Hill above Ireland, WV, traveled with her son David to the Country of Ireland. There, in Cork City at Sheehan's Hardware Store, they purchased six Irish road bowls to bring back to West Virginia for the next year's Irish Spring Festival. A practice match on February 19, 1995, played by "Buzz" Denton King, Sharrey Craig, Beckey Posey, Don Gain, Ken Wood and other Irish Spring Festival volunteers, confirmed that this strange sport was a lot of fun. The course, Wildcat Road to Duffy Bridge, was 2.2 miles long. Fourteen more road bowls were imported from Ireland.

On March 18, 1995, the first official Irish road bowling "score" (match) was played in West Virginia since the American Civil War.  Four teams competed, and nine road bowls were lost that first match. The first champions were the mighty Salem Shooters, Aaron Helmick, Bob Blagg, David Powell and Brad Carmichael. These heroes soon became legendary figures in the history of West Virginia Irish road bowling. So thoroughly did they demolish their opponents ... to be continued.                  


Mabel Mick, Queen of the Irish Spring Festival, throws first bowl, (a long shot!) on Wildcat Road, Ireland, WV