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Road bowling rolls to town in Sept.

By Staff | Jun 11, 2010

Thomas Neville, of Shepherdstown, participates in the Strawberry Festival Irish Road Bowling Match.

The game is Irish Road Bowling and, yes, you play in the road.

It’s called “bowling,” but there are no pins to hit.

It’s scored like golf, but you chase a little heavy dark gray ball instead of a white one (unless you paint it so you can find it when it runs off the roadway).

Before football, soccer, and basketball, before baseball and golf, was thegame of Irish road bowling.

Played for more than 300 years on the rural country roads in Ireland, it is now being brought to the green hills of West Virginia. It became popular in the Mountain State some 15 years ago in a little town called Ireland, where during their St. Patrick’s Day Festival they have an Irish Road Bowling matches. Some 200 people appear out of nowhere to play this fascinating game. Absolutely no experience needed to play the game.

Thesport is for men and women from 9 to 90 and is extremely easy to learn while being highly competitive.All you do is hurl this 28-ounce “bowl” with an underhand motion over a 1- to 2-mile country road and see how far it goes!

All that’s needed for the game is a quiet country road, a small iron ball, a piece of chalk and some friends who enjoy a leisurely walk.

Because there was no organized Irish road bowling in the Panhandle area, Mary Wolfe started one at Cacapon State Park. That Match this year will be held July 24. The WVIRB Association believes the game was played by Irish soldiers who helped build Ft. Mulligan near Petersburg. It is assumed these soldiers played the game here with small cannon balls through the Civil War. And since Shepherdstown has a rich Civil War history, what better place to have a match? Ms. Wolfe along with Don Neville recently started putting one together.

David Powell, one of the Founders of the Irish Road Bowling in Ireland, was impressed with a pre-match practice done in March on the Trough Road, call it “a fine power-bowling road.”

This is the road that Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson withdrew into Virginia from the Antietam, Md., Battlefield, the largest single day battle of the Civil War. The Battle of Shepherdstown was at the river crossing, Pack Horse Ford, and along Trough Road, historians say.

Pack Horse Ford, a key Potomac River crossing for Lee’s troops in September 1862, lies at the end of Trough Road, the venue for the upsoming WVIRBA event. Trough Road is a “power course” and the downhill approach to the historic Shepherdstown Battlefield, where Confederate and Union troops engaged on Sept.19 and 20, just two days after the bloody battle at Antietam.



Irish Road Bowling competition will be held in Shepherdstown Saturday, Sept. 18, at 1:30 p.m. on Trough Road near Shepherdstown.

Come join the fun of this inaugural competition on Saturday, Sept. 18, for a weekend rich in history and entertainment all situated amidst the enchanting natural surroundings of Shepherdstown.

To be a part of history contact Road Master Mary Wolfe at (304) 258-4958, e-mail mwolfe1@earthlink.net.

For more information on the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown go to the link www.battleofshepherdstown.org.

Only four-member teams will compete for 1st and 2nd Place prizes, donated by Trophy’s Plus in Hedgesville and from O’Hurleys General Store here in Shepherdstown. So set the date and time on your calendar and come bowl in the road with us on Trough Road. Anyone can play the game or spectate.