Under Construction
Rough guide to the Ba
Kirkwall is the furthest north city in the British Isles and is
the capital of the Orkney  Islands and home to the Kirkwall
Ba game . On Christmas Day and New Years Day  the Ba
game takes place unless Christmas Day and New Years day
is a sunday then its played on the monday . The Boys Ba is
thrown up at 10.30 and the Mens Ba is thrown up at 1 oclock.
Sometimes its thrown up a little bit earlier and sometimes a
little bit later than the chime of the St Magnus Cathedral .
The Ba is thrown from the merkat cross onto the middle of
broad street in the center of Kirkwall . The Ba is usually
thrown up by the person who donates the Ba and pays for
the costs involved in the making of the trophy sometimes its
a past player or in memory of a past player . The Ba is hand
made with leather panels sown together and filled with
corkdust then painted it is larger and heavier than a football.
The Ba's are on  display in shop windows and photos can
now be seen on the  internet prior to and during the games .
Around a hundred Boys and over two hundred Men take
part and the games can last several hours  . All the doors
and windows of the shops and houses are barricaded with
wooden planks to prevent  injuries and damage to property
and no cars are parked in the town centre . There are two
goals and there are two teams the uppies and the doonies.  
The uppies are the team that try to get the Ba to the corner a
wall at the gable end of a house at the end of main street on
junction road where a castle used to be . The doonies try to
get the Ba to the harbour anywhere in the sea  is a goal for
the doonies they usually aim for the basin . The Boys Ba is
for players aged fifteen years of age and under  . Girls have
played in the past but its rare nowadays a womens game
was played  just after the war but it was abolished  after two
games it was considered to be far to rough .  Once the goal
is reached the Ba is kept by one of the players on the
winning team and taken home with him as his prize to keep.  
The player who gets to keep the Ba is the player who the
team declare the winner they  lift  the winner into the air
with the Ba or he may run away with it and keep it or give it
to someone  . At the goals players and supporters shout out
names of players who they feel should get to keep the  Ba
based on many years play  for their team . The shouting at
the end of each game is the names of players wanting to
keep the Ba  the struggle or the claim is also known as  the
fight  and is all part of the game  .  The party afterwards at
the winners house is also a part of the game and the Mens
Ba party can last several days  the Boys Ba party can go till
midnight . Players from both sides attend the parties and
many bring bottles and carry outs .  Many players have won
both a Boys and a Mens Ba .  When the Ba is thrown to the
waiting pack on broad street it may be carried kicked or
thrown in any direction it might not be seen again until the
winner is hoisted aloft by his teammates displaying the
trophy at the end of the game . It might be smuggled away
under a jersey or someone might make a run for it up a lane
or throw it over a roof . Often there is two or three packs of
players when no one is sure where the Ba is . There could
be a dummy run or runs in different directions a neep has
been used also a horse and a car almost anything can
happen . The Ba can go over rooftops and end up in a
garden a house or a business its been in the graveyard a
coal bunker and in toilets , once it was in a duck pond but
thats rare and its mainly a street game . The uppies try to
get the Ba up Victoria street and Main street and the
doonies try to get the Ba down Albert street and Bridge
street  . It can go down St Magnus lane onto Junction road
down Castle street or Tankerness lane or even up Palace
road or the Strynd . It can go anywhere in town on its way to
the goals  which are  a mile apart . The Ba may be stuck up a
lane for hours on end and can be thrown from the pack
anytime . Often a player emerges from the pack and makes a
dash for it running into  the crowd or gets knocked down .
Players and spectators are sometimes injured and
ambulances and  stretchers are sometimes called for . The
red cross are always at hand to do  first aid on  the mostly
minor injuries . Although fighting does sometimes take
place the Ba polices itself and fights are stopped quickly by
the players before it gets out of hand  . Much emphasis is
on safe play and helping injured players often players are
shouted to ly off or ly on and sometimes theres shouting
and swearing at other players . The midwinter   weather is at
its darkest and coldest and  sometimes  the snows a foot
deep  or the ice can be inches thick  . Hundreds of
spectators follow the game in the  wind and  rain and
hundreds more when its bright and dry   . The game goes  
on into darkness and it can last for many hours until a goal
is reached   . The game has a long and deep rooted history
there are records of winners of Ba games  going back
several centuries  when the game was formed into its
present state . In  past times games took place all over
Orkney but they have all been abandoned long ago  the
Kirkwall Ba is the only game that has survived .  Once  a
football game played on the kirk green it evolved into the
state of play it now has and its more like rugby than
football. Being an uppie or a doonie was once decided by
birth depending on which side of the merkat cross you were
born . Nowadays its family loyalties or choosing which team
to play for deciding at an early age . There are no written
rules or referees there is a Ba committee made up of eight
past Mens Ba winners four uppies and four doonies who are
responsible for the making , displaying and throwing up of
the Boys and Mens Ba's each Christmas and New year .  
John Robertson chairman of the Ba committee has written a
book on the history of the Ba entitled between the water and
the wall  priced at £25.00 . Order your copy now click buy
now and pay by paypal first class postage is £5.00 in the UK
and delivered free in Kirkwall
Click here to hear
the Ba song