Butte and Allihies form an Irish alliance | Local

Too little time with so much to see was the consensus from the four men and women of the Allihies Copper Mine Museum visiting Butte this week.

Many of Butte’s Irish immigrants came from the village of Allihies in Ireland’s Beara Peninsula. Butte and Allihies share a rich history of copper mining. The Allihies area was once home to the mines known as Dooneen, Caminches, Coom, Kealogue and Mountain.

Tadhg O’Sullivan, Anne McNally, Niall O’Sullivan and Tara Hanley have been on a whirlwind Butte tour. They hit the ground running since arriving early Wednesday and now hate to see their visit come to an end.

Tadgh O’Sullivan, Anne McNally, Tara Hanley, and Niall O’Sullivan are photographed in front of one of the quotes from an immigrant on the façade of the Butte Silver-Bow County Archives. The group represents a mining museum in Allihies, Ireland, that brought Irish immigrants to Butte in the 1800s to work in the copper mines. Over the past week the group formed a “twin cities” alliance with Butte.

Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard

The group representing the museum, which is housed in a one-time Methodist chapel built in 1845, was here to formalize a “twin cities” agreement between Butte and Allihies.

During their visit, both sides were presented with proclamations outlining the commitment between both parties to foster their relationship by educating school-age students on both sides of the Atlantic on the importance of their connection.

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For Tadhg O’Sullivan, museum chairman, the visit to Butte exceeded all his expectations.

“It was fantastic,” he said.

Impressed with all he saw, Tadhg was particularly thrilled with the underground tour at the Orphan Girl Mine.

“The tour gave us an idea of ​​life underground,” he said. “Our tour guide Jim Keane was fantastic.”

Anne McNally grew up hearing stories about the “Beara to Butte” connection and described this trip as poignant.

“Butte was etched in our imaginations since we were children,” she said.

The reality exceeded her dreams. McNally was blown away by the Butte welcome her group has received.

“We need to go back home for a holiday,” she said, with a laugh. “It was all very emotional and lots of fun.”

Like McNally, Niall O’Sullivan grew up hearing stories about Butte and he viewed his visit as a fulfillment of other people’s dreams — people, including his late father, who wanted to visit Butte but did not get the chance.

“The first American place we heard of growing up was Butte,” said Niall. “This is a dream come true.”

Niall, like his fellow travelers, has been amazed by Butte’s hospitality.

“The welcome we got — words cannot describe it,” said Niall.

He was again taken aback when he witnessed, time and time again, the continued Irish felt by the descendants of Butte’s early-day immigrants.

“There is something really powerful about the Irish here,” said Niall. “The heritage is very much alive.”

Tara Hanley was “so very glad” to have made the trip.

“Everyone we met, from the airport on, has been amazing,” she said. “This has been such a fantastic connection.”

From Allihies to Butte

A group representing the Allihies Copper Mine Museum wave to the crowd on Montana Street on March 17 as they ride in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Butte.

Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard

Now that Butte and Allihies are officially intertwined, the group is certain that the initiative will bring the relationship to a whole different level and forge an even stronger connection.

“The bond will just progress from here,” said Tadhg.

Hanley is in total agreement.

“The tie will grow and get stronger,” she said.

For Niall, a primary school teacher, students from Beara and Butte will be linked through their prospective schools. In Beara, that teacher will be Padraig Bernie O’Sullivan — in Butte, Jim O’Neill, a curriculum director for Butte School District No. 1 will oversee the education.

“This is just the beginning,” Niall said.


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