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What’s More Irish than Beer? West Virginia

By Staff | Mar 11, 2008

It’s indisputable to say the old and wild state of West Virginia has become quite the melting pot in its existence. The hills and valleys have housed many nationalities, genealogies, and has consumed and put out a heavy wave of culture. However, one heritage, one heap of people, spiked our state’s population and are the source for many West Virginian’s genetic code. I’ll give you a couple hints. There’s a reason why we’re famous for moonshine, such a powerful drink that it risks blindness. There’s a reason we like the countryside. And finally, there’s a reason everyone knows where the pub is.

That’s right, we’re all Irish.

OK, not all of us, but it’s safe to say there’ a high probability of it. Back in the 1720s, a handful (a couple hundred thousand) Presbyterians of Scots-Irish decent decided that Britain sucked (which it did) and Ireland and Northern Ireland was really poor (potatoes…enough said) and traveled across the blue Atlantic and settled in West Virginia. The population of Ireland when from 8.2 million in 1841 to 4.7 million in 1891 and while many Irish men and women perished due to famine, many made it to their new home, West Virginia.

You can see evidence of the Irish tradition everywhere in the state. From pubs and venues to activities and festivals, St. Patrick’s day should be a special time for this state.

Irish Spring Festival
As luck would have it, Ireland, W.Va. has its own Ireland Spring Festival. This year marks the 27th festival March 9 and 13-20. With events like the greenery stroll, Irish road bowling, a snake chase, blarney rock and a harping workshop, any festivalgoer is going to be greeted.

Irish Road Bowling
Speaking of Irish road bowling, this ancient game has been played for more than 300 years. Played originally on the old roads of Ireland, this game exists in West Virginia and has for a long time. Also called Irish Long Bullets, Irish road bowling has only three organized clubs in North America: one in Boston, New York, and West Virginia. Originally played in County Armagh in Northern Ireland and in County Cork in Southern Ireland, the game consists of a ball made out of iron and steel (heavy enough to gain speed but small enough for any person to hurl). The object is to roll this 28 ounce “bowl” underhanded down a one or two mile country road to see who can get it farthest. Played like golf, the fewest rolls to the end (or finish line) wins. Usually the player is allowed to run 10 to 15 yards before whipping it down the road. 

Irish Establishments
The Irish Pub on Washington Street in Lewisburg, W.Va. is a great scene to get your Irish on. Open all days except for Wednesdays and Thursdays, The Irish Pub is a great place to get a feel for the old country and a mix of West Virginia spirit.

Located seven miles from Snowshoe Mountain Resort, the Brazen Head Inn is a traditional Irish Inn that offers great lodging, workshops, music, restaurant and pub in the building. Named after the owner’s favorite place in Dublin, The Brazen Head opened in 2000 and has been thick with tradition ever since.

Contact Ben at bspanner@graffitiwv.com