Ba game

Ba game is a version of medieval football played in Scotland, primarily in Orkney and the Scottish Borders, around Christmas and New Year.

Ba is basically mob football, or village football, where two parts of a town have to get a ball to goals on their respective sides. The two sides are called the uppies or the downies, depending on which part of town they were born, or otherwise owe allegiance to. The ball must be manhandled, and play often takes the form of a moving scrum. The game moves through the town, at times going up alleyways, into yards and through streets. Shops and houses board up their windows to prevent damage. Unlike traditional mob football, people are generally not hurt from play.[1]

Ba games are played in:

  • Duns: The Ba' games forms part of the Duns Summer Festival. Goals are at opposite corners of the Market Square, by the White Swan hotel and the old Post Office. It is played between the married men and bachelors of the town.
Black Handba poss death of Queen Vicoria
The game of Hand ba' played in Jedburgh streets in 1901. Dressed in black because of the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January
Jedburgh centre during Ba Game (geograph 4368769)
Jedburgh shops boarded up below where the game is in play
  • Jedburgh: Play starts at the Mercat Cross in the centre of the town. The uppies, who first entered the town or were born south of the Mercat Cross, hail (score) the ba at the top of the Castlegate by throwing the ba over a fence at the Castle. The downies, who first entered the town or were born to the north, hail by rolling the ba over a drain (hailing used to be done by throwing the ba over a burn which has now been built over, the drain is directly above the burn) in the road at a street just off the bottom of High Street. The laddies' game starts at midday and the men's game at 2pm. Both games run until the last ba has been hailed. Most years this means that both games are running at the same time. There is no boundary as to where the game is played, with most of the play occurring in the town centre. This can prove awkward for shoppers, trying to avoid getting caught up in the game, and shopkeepers, who put shutters on their doors and windows.[2]
  • Roxburgh
  • Kirkwall (Kirkwall Ba game)
  • Scone: In this version the men of the parish would assemble at the cross, with married men on one side and bachelors on the other. Play went on from 2 o'clock till sunset. Whoever got the ball in his hands would run with it till he was overtaken by one of the opposition. If he was not able to shake himself loose, he would throw the ball to another player unless it was wrestled away by one of the other side. No player was allowed to kick the ball. The object of the married men was to "hang" the ball: to put it three times into a small lid on the moor which was their "dool", or limit; while that of the bachelors was to "drown" or dip the ball in a deep place in the river, which was their limit. The party who achieved either of these objectives won the game; if neither won, the ball was cut into equal parts at sunset.
  • Workington
Ball used in the Ba' game
Example of a ball used in the Kirkwall Ba' game on display in the National Football Museum, Manchester.


  1. ^ Kirkwall Ba game website - History
  2. ^ "Jedburgh centre during Ba Game (C) Clint Mann". Retrieved 2018-03-12.

External links


Duns (historically Scots: Dunse) is a town in the Scottish Borders, Scotland. It was the county town of the historic county of Berwickshire.

Eilean Chearstaidh

Eilean Kearstay (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Chearstaigh) is an uninhabited island in Loch Roag in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

It lies south east of Great Bernera, just across the water from the headland of Callanish.

In 1990 the island was sold by Prince Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees to an Australian. It was sold to new owners three years later.

Eilean Fladday

Eilean Fladday (also Fladda) is a previously populated, tidal island off Raasay, near Skye, Scotland.

Fuaigh Beag

Fuaigh Beag or Vuia Be(a)g is an island in the Outer Hebrides. It is off the west coast of Lewis near Great Bernera in Loch Roag. Its name means "little Fuaigh", and is named in contrast to Fuaigh Mòr nearby.

Geology of Skye

The geology of Skye in Scotland is highly variable and the island's landscape reflects changes in the underlying nature of the rocks. A wide range of rock types are exposed on the island, sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous, ranging in age from the Archaean through to the Quaternary.


Hascosay (Old Norse "Hafskotsey") is a small island lying between Yell and Fetlar in the Shetland Islands, Scotland.

Holm of Grimbister

Holm of Grimbister is an inhabited tidal islet in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. Located in the Bay of Firth near Finstown it is connected to Mainland Orkney by a causeway.

Kirkwall Ba game

The Kirkwall Ba Game (also spelled ba') is one of the main annual events held in the town of Kirkwall, in Orkney, Scotland. It is one of a number of Ba Games played in the streets of towns around Scotland; these are examples of traditional football games which are still played in towns in the United Kingdom and worldwide. Games are played twice a year, normally on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Played in the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall, the two sides are the Uppies and the Doonies, or more correctly, "Up-the-Gates" and "Doon-the-Gates" from Norn gata (path or road), although it is also common in Scots. The tradition belongs to Kirkwall and the surrounding area of St Ola, and has always been played by men from those two areas since before records began. In the past 50 years, mainly due to improved transport, the game's popularity has grown to include players from all areas of Orkney, including some of the outer isles. This has not met with universal approval from those associated with the game as its sheer size is becoming a problem from a safety perspective.

Scant information is available about the early history but some form of mass football appears to have been practised throughout Scotland and England for at least three centuries. Records from 1797 indicate that "Football is the principal diversion of the common people, which they practise with great dexterity". There is speculation that the game in Kirkwall may have its roots in folklore based on the tale of Sigurd and the Orkneyinga saga.

List of sports

The following is a list of sports/games, divided by category.

According to the World Sports Encyclopedia (2003), there are 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games.

List of types of football

This is a list of various types of football, most variations found as gridiron, rugby, association football.

Medieval football

"Medieval football" is a modern term used for a wide variety of localised football games which were invented and played in Europe during the Middle Ages. Alternative names include folk football, mob football and Shrovetide football. These games may be regarded as the ancestors of modern codes of football, and by comparison with later forms of football, the medieval matches were chaotic and had few rules.

The Middle Ages saw a rise in popularity of games played annually at Shrovetide throughout Europe, particularly in Great Britain. The games played in England at this time may have arrived with the Roman occupation but there is little evidence to indicate this. Certainly the Romans played ball games, in particular Harpastum. There is also one reference to ball games being played in southern Britain prior to the Norman Conquest. In the ninth century Nennius's Historia Britonum tells that a group of boys were playing at ball (pilae ludus). The origin of this account is either Southern England or Wales. References to a ball game played in northern France known as La Soule or Choule, in which the ball was propelled by hands, feet, and sticks, date from the 12th century.These archaic forms of football, typically classified as mob football, would be played between neighbouring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams, who would clash in a heaving mass of people struggling to drag an inflated pig's bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of a town. By some accounts, in some such events any means could be used to move the ball towards the goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder. Sometimes instead of markers, the teams would attempt to kick the bladder into the balcony of the opponents' church. A legend that these games in England evolved from a more ancient and bloody ritual of kicking the "Dane's head" is unlikely to be true. These antiquated games went into sharp decline in the 19th century when the Highway Act 1835 was passed banning the playing of football on public highways. In spite of this, games continued to be played in some parts of the United Kingdom and still survive in a number of towns, notably the Ba game played at Christmas and New Year at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands Scotland, Uppies and Downies over Easter at Workington in Cumbria, and the Royal Shrovetide Football Match on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday at Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England.Few images of medieval football survive. One engraving from the early fourteenth century at Gloucester Cathedral, England, clearly shows two young men running vigorously towards each other with a ball in mid-air between them. There is a hint that the players may be using their hands to strike the ball. A second medieval image in the British Museum, London clearly shows a group of men with a large ball on the ground. The ball clearly has a seam where leather has been sewn together. It is unclear exactly what is happening in this set of three images, although the last image appears to show a man with a broken arm. It is likely that this image highlights the dangers of some medieval football games.Most of the very early references to the game speak simply of "ball play" or "playing at ball". This reinforces the idea that the games played at the time did not necessarily involve a ball being kicked.

Scalpay, Inner Hebrides

Scalpay (; Scottish Gaelic: Sgalpaigh) is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

Scalpay, Outer Hebrides

Scalpay (; Scottish Gaelic: Sgalpaigh or Sgalpaigh na Hearadh; i.e. "Scalpay of Harris" to distinguish it from Scalpay off Skye) is an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Soay, Inner Hebrides

Soay (Scottish Gaelic: Sòdhaigh, pronounced [ˈs̪ɔː.aj]) is an island just off the coast of Skye, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

Tarner Island

Tarner Island is a triangular shaped island in Loch Bracadale just off the coast off the Harlosh peninsula of Skye in Scotland. It is about 28 hectares (69 acres) in extent.

The coastline is largely cliff-lined and rocky and there is a natural arch to the north. Tarner Island is only about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from mainland Skye and there are several skerries including Sgeir Mhòr and Sgeir Bheag that lies just offshore to the north east between the island and Colbost Head. Wiay and the tidal islet of Oronsay lie about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the south.


Trondra is one of the Scalloway Islands, a subgroup of the Shetland Islands in Scotland. It shelters the harbour of Scalloway and has an area of 275 hectares (1.06 sq mi).


Vacsay (Scottish Gaelic: Bhacsaigh from Old Norse "bakkiey" meaning "peat bank island") is one of the Outer Hebrides. It is off the west coast of Lewis in West Loch Roag. It is 41 hectares (0.16 square miles) in size, and 34 metres (112 feet) at its highest point.


Whalsay (Old Norse: Hvalsey or Hvals-øy, meaning 'Whale Island') is the sixth largest of the Shetland Islands in Scotland.

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