Wednesday 26 December 2012
The Kirkwall Ba'
In Orkney there is a long tradition of playing the ba' on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The Kirkwall Ba' is one of the oldest forms of street football with no rules. There is the boys ba' followed by the men's game which starts at 1pm. This year was a record of 7 hours 10 minutes with the doonies finally winning byt getting the ba in the harbour at 8pm! Indeed it seemed to take hours to move just a few feet!. There are two teams - the uppies and the doonies. The uppies were traditionally the farmers and were from "up the way" and the doonies were traditionally fishermen coming from "down the way" at the harbour. Nowadays it follows traditional rivalries or is based on where the men live in the town.
Centuries of tradition surround the game, passing on from father to son. The ba' is lovingly made each year by a local craftsman and is a treasured prize. You can see it in the centre of the window of the photo above. Former winners will throw up the ba' at the start of the game, which always begins at the Market Cross outside St Magnus Cathedral. As well as there being hundreds in the "pack" there will be hundreds of spectators following them. Though spectators have to be careful they don't end up as part of the pack as there is little space on the street!
The Christmas Day Ba' 2012, courtesy of BBC Radio Orkney (who post on Facebook throughout the game so ex-pat Orcdians can still follow).
On Christmas Eve doorways and windows are boarded up in the town to protect them from the moving pack of humanity that surges through the streets.
Even home doorways will be protected
There's a detailed and evocative explanation of the Kirkwall Ba' here (explained by an Orcadian man who understands these things better than a "southern wifey"!)
And for an amazingly atmospheric piece of film (to form part of a documentary) then take a look at this "Bounce" Everytime I watch it sends shivers down my spine and me a southern wifey (a woman from South of Orkney).
So that's one Ba' passed for this year - the next one is on New Year's Day Jan 2013......