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. Two parts of a town have to get a ball to their respective sides. For instance 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 is very often a moving scrum. The game moves through the town, and can go up alleyways, into yards and up streets. Shops and houses board up their windows to prevent damage. Unlike traditional mob football, generally people are not hurt.
Ba games are played in
- 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 can be 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 in case (as has happened on many occasions) they are pushed in by the ruck.
- Kirkwall (Kirkwall Ba game)
- Scone. In this version the men of the parish would assemble at the cross, the married on one side, the bachelors on the other, the play continuing 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 from him, unless it was wrestled 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; 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.
Kirkwall Ba game website - History