The Ba

Local politics. The Ba taking place outside Orkney Parliamentary Office in 2006.

The Ba is a game of street football with few rules, and an indeterminate number of players, which takes place in Kirkwall on Chrismas Day and New Years’s Day every year. The game is overseen by committee, and tactics are carefully considered by the teams in advance. For the 2020 festive season the Ba committee has made the wise, but no doubt difficult, decision to cancel due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding Covid-19.

Only men can participate in the Ba – women’s games were attempted in the years following WWII, but supposedly deemed too violent to continue. The game is very tribal, with players and spectators divided into two teams representing different sides of Kirkwall – Uppies and Doonies. Each leather Ba is custom made for the occasion, and it is a great honour to win one.

Many Orcadian families are heavily invested in the Ba as a family tradition, and the game can arouses strong emotions.

A little boy is startled by his Granny becoming a frothing monster spectating the Ba.
The Ba. Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.

This cartoon was created to accompany an article by Fiona Grahame for The Orkney News, which was first published in iScot magazine and can now be read online (click link).

Ian Brough’s Ba, which he won in 2002 at the young age of 34.