Orkney Ba’ Game

This Kirkwall Ba’ Game is the traditional mass ball game also known as the Uppies and Doonies, played in the town’s streets on Christmas Day and new Year’s day, starting at 1300 GMT.

Kirkwall Ba' game plaque

Commemorative Ba' game plaque at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

The Uppies attempt to get a leather ball to a wall at the top of Kirkwall town whilst the Doonies do everything in their power to get the ball the Kirkwall harbour. Once the ball reaches one of the ‘goals’ a second battle ensues to see who in the winning team can get posession of the ball and keep it.

The exact origin of the Orkney Ba’ game has been lost in time but records indicate it’s existence is over 300 years old, with folklore suggesting it dates back to the Earldom of the Vikings to commemorate the defeat of a Scottish tyrant called Tusker.  The heads of enemies were said to be the forerunner to the leather football used today.

In recent years, the fun has been tinged with politics, as the local council worry about the threat of injury claims.

Orkney Islands council cover the cost of damage to property and shop windows during the very physical game which is also a huge social event culminating in a big celebration.

The Ba’ game in pictures – Magnus and Charles Tait’s archive of the Ba’ Game on Bagame.com

Ba’ game history on the Orkneyjar website

Ba’ in the press – Ba’ game legal threat fears