BUTTE — It’s halfway to St. Patrick’s Day and since Butte is the most Irish city in America, they also play the most Irish sport in America—it’s called road bowling and it has deep roots in Ireland and Butte.
“It’s a silly little Irish game where you take a 28-ounce steel ball and you throw it down the road as far as you possibly can and then the next member on your team picks it up and throws it down the road as far as he possibly can,” said road bowler Robert Seccomb of Butte.
The origins of the game are murky, but it’s been played in County Cork since the 16th century.
“There’s a lot of theories about where it started from. I like the one where the Irish decided to steal the cannonballs from the English and throw them home on their way home at midnight,” said Seccomb.
The winner of the game is the team that moves the ball down the long road in the fewest throws.
“You can play your strong player when it’s really rough and play your finesse player when you got the curves and everything, so you got a little bit of strategy going on there and a lot of luck. If got a good path and you can get it down that sweet spot it will roll a long distance,” he said.
Well, I try it. Maybe you can give me some tips. Now, where are the pins?
“They’d be down at the bowling alley down the street,” said Seccomb.
Do you say anything before you begin?
“Clear the way!” he said.
Clear the way!
“Outstanding throw! Are you free Sunday, because I want you on my team,” said Seccomb.
THe Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day event was started in 2019 by the World Museum of Mining.
“People keep coming back. The event keeps growing every year; it’s a casual, fun way to celebrate the Irish and celebrate Butte,” said Jeanette Kopf of the World Museum of Mining.
The event begins with a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. on Sept. 17 followed by bagpipers playing atop the Orphan Girl Headframe at noon—and then road bowling begins. All are welcome.