In a centuries-old tradition, Kirkwall was transformed into a full-size sports field as residents came out in full force yesterday for the 2019 Kirkwall Ba’.
The mass-football game is played out in the streets of the town every Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
It pits the Uppies and the Doonies against each other, with the Uppie goal to touch the ba’ against a wall in the south end of Kirkwall,and the Doonies tasked with getting the ba’ into the water of Kirkwall Bay to the north.
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, and tourists flock to watch the unusual spectacle.
This is Christmas Day in Orkney – the Kirkwall Ba' is back!This ancient tradition sees the Uppies and Doonies battle through the streets of the town every Christmas and New Year's Day.Follow The Orcadian for updates on today's games!
Posted by orkney.com on Tuesday, 25 December 2018
Yesterday Kirkwall took on the appearance of a siege during the match, with shutters and barricades on all the shops and houses on possible Ba’ routes.
The New Year’s Mens Ba’ was thrown up by Benny Thomson at 1pm, and the ba itself was made be George Drever , with leather donated by Thorfinn Craigie and Ali Flett.
In a fiercely competitive match, the Uppies won out – and Steven Spence from Halley in Deerness took the Ba’.
Kirkwall today to see the Ba’: a ball being hurled into 100s of blokes trying to knock it in opposite directions. It’s a slow moving thing, might still be going. We left at 13.30 and it had moved 30m.. #Orkney pic.twitter.com/fVHvvlFasy
— Shaun Treweek (@shauntreweek) January 1, 2019
The 40-year-old started to take part in the boys Ba’ when he was just seven years old, and joined the men’s game at 14.
Since then he has missed just one game, when a broken rib took him out of action.
Speaking to the Ocardian newspaper yesterday he spoke of his delight at scooping the prize.
— Garry Cooper (@garrygcooper) January 1, 2019
He said : “You play this game all these days as a young man and its what you dream of but you never think it will happen to you.
“We had a game plan yesterday and it’s a dream come true to win.
“New Year’s Day is usually a better game as people have had Christmas to put in practice.”
While most of #Scotland has a chilled out #NewYearsDay, in Kirkwall hundreds of people take to the streets to watch The Ba, a traditional game of mass football played in the streets of the town between the Uppies and the Doonies #Orkney pic.twitter.com/iaWjvKYx8R
— Susanne Arbuckle (@ScotAdventures) January 1, 2019
Yesterday’s success by Mr Spence and the Uppies followed a Doonies win on Christmas Day.
Earlier in the morning, the boys’ Ba’ was thrown up at 10.30am, and boys under the age of 16 fought to win.
On Christmas & New Years Day, men & boys from each side of the Orcadian town of Kirkwall, the Doonies & the Uppies, play in the Ba'. It starts at St. Magnus Cathedral & each side must get the ball to their goal to win. With no rules it's not for the faint hearted #ScottishHistory pic.twitter.com/KKVWIjyu2m
— Scottish History 🏴 (@fieryfacejames) December 29, 2018
After a fast-paced game Aiden Foubister claimed the boys’ ba, and the Uppies again were triumphant.