Yesterday we saw the return of The Ba to Orkney. This game is played on Christmas Day and New Years Day and is between the Uppies and the Doonies. Now I haven’t got my days wrong, although easily done at this time of the year. As Christmas Day and New Years Day fall on a Sunday this year The Ba is played the day after.

You are classed as an Uppie or Doonie depending on where you are born and live in the county and also family tradition. Those who move here also get an allocated side, come in on the ferry and you’re a Doonie, fly in and you’re an Uppie. Michael was born on Sanday, a north isle and is therefore a Doonie and I came in on the ferry so am a Doonie too. There are split households.

The day starts with the boys Ba in the morning and then the mens Ba kicks off at 1pm. The boys Ba could still be going on! The 2 groups meet up, face to face on the street outside the cathedral, the Doonie pack coming up the street from the shore and the Uppie pack coming down the street. The Ba is thrown into the pack, usually never to be seen again until the end. The game ends when either The Ba is touched on a wall up at the top end of Kirkwall (Uppies) or is thrown into the harbour (Doonies).

It is a thrilling thing to watch, but dress warm as it can be in one place for a long time and can last for hours. It is far more serious than it looks, many meetings and tactics are planned through the year. The winner gets to take the Ba home, a great honour and hosts a huge party. A week to recover before it starts all over again at New Year.

Yesterdays Ba was won by the Doonies 🥳🥳

A daylight picture, sorry it’s a bit blurred

Here you can see the pack with spectators on the outer edge and a closer up shot. It looks as if the Ba is in there by how the guys are, but you can never be sure 😉😂

The moment the Ba went over into the harbour with some of the Doonie boys already in the water to get it. The tide was right giving them this concrete ledge to be on, but to collect the Ba 2 guys had to go right in. It would have been so cold, but they wouldn’t have felt it. Depending on the tide they could all have been swimming in the water.

Now for the slightly stranger part. The Ba is won as soon as it hits the water but now the boys have to fight for who gets it. There’s usual a handful of guys in line for it and the struggle goes on until one holds it aloft. Their supporters help and there is lots of shouting from the spectators. In the 1st picture you cn see one of the guys being horsed in by his supports. In the second picture the successful player takes The Ba down to the water for a dip.

And here he is keeping a tight grip on the prize while being warmly congratulated by everybody, including some Uppies.

If you fancy experiencing the atmosphere, and there is plenty, check out some videos on YouTube

The Orkney Ba

Or have a look on The Radio Orkney Facebook page.

The Ba is general streamed live, usually by Radio Orkney so look out for that next Monday for The New Year Ba.