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4. Bucket of Blood
 


Social Life in Butte

 
"I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler, I'm a long way from home
And if you don't like me, well, leave me alone
I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry
And the moonshine don't kill me, I'll live 'til I die."
Traditional

As a diversion to the drudgery of daily life, the miners of Butte sought out any and every sort of entertainment when the day’s work was done. Butte was the scene of more bars than almost any city in the United States, with such colourful establishments as The Alley Cat, Bucket of Blood, the Cesspool, the Graveyard, and Pay Day, all beckoning the thirsty miner is search of a good time. Many workers believed that the “standard boilermaker”, a shot of whiskey and glass of beer, helped clean and relax lungs full of smelter gases and smoke. Henry’s son Malachy remembers his father’s exciting tales of time spent in the ‘Bucket of Blood’ saloon which dispensed "buckets o' booze" until the saloon was reeling with inebriates. Unlike the rest of Montana, Butte's bars stayed open 24 hours a day to satisfy miners with cash to spend. Many a miner lost a day's wages over a game of chance. In fact the modern game of Keno was invented to service the gambling fraternity. Luckily for Henry J. he was never a gambling man and although not puritanical in character was not averse to hearing playing cards referred to as “The Devils Calling Cards”.
Henry J. was also an active member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). The order had been established in Butte in 1880 with another lodge The Anaconda formed in 1885. Today the organisation still celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, throughout the World, with colourful pageantry.  In Ireland, no trace remains of Henry J’s branch in Kilkeel (Upper Mourne) but in neighbouring Glassdrummond (Lower Mourne) the lodge with its community hall flourishes and has of course much in its history linking it with the Miners of Butte.  The early AOH in America often provided a monetary stipend to immigrants who arrived as members in good standing from the Irish Order, and also assistance in obtaining jobs and social services. It is likely that Henry J. and others from Mourne benefited from this service.  The Hibernian Hall will have provided a meeting place for Henry J. and his compatriots to enjoy traditional Irish music and dance. Irish interests and politics were fostered and preserved in the AOH Hall, providing for many a home away from home.
The Church was also an important meeting place for Irish miners and provided a social outlet for many. Buttes churches were often paid for by donations from the hard-earned miners’ wages. The Irish brought their fervent Irish Catholicism with them to Butte and wore it proudly, even referring to waste rock as "Protestant ore".

 

Postcard showing churches in Butte, MT.Miners of Mourne, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down, Northern Ireland, mining in Butte, Montana.

 

Up Contents 1. The Arrival 2. The Immigrant 3. Life in Butte 4. Bucket of Blood 5. Life in the Mines 6. 1916 7. Speculator Mine 8. WOBBLIES 9. St. Patrick's Day 10. The Wedding Sources Reader's Comments

 

 

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