Example of a ball used in the Kirkwall Ba game on display in the National Football Museum, Manchester.

The Ba game is a version of medieval football played in Scotland, primarily in Orkney and the Scottish Borders, around Christmas and New Year.

Ba is basically mob football, or village football, where two parts of a town have to get a ball to goals on their respective sides. The two sides are called the uppies or the downies, depending on which part of town they were born, or otherwise owe allegiance to. The ball must be manhandled, and play often takes the form of a moving scrum. The game moves through the town, at times going up alleyways, into yards and through streets. Shops and houses board up their windows to prevent damage. Unlike traditional mob football, people are generally not hurt from play.[1]

It is thought that at one time there may have been 200 similar games across the UK, with around 15 still being played.[2]

Surviving games

The game of Hand ba played in Jedburgh streets in 1901. The participants are dressed in black, mourning the recent death of Queen Victoria.
Jedburgh shops boarded up below where the game is in play

Ba games are still played in:

The laddies game in Jedburgh in 2020; on the left they reach for the ball and the uppies then take it to the right


  1. ^ Kirkwall Ba game website - History
  2. ^ a b "In pictures: Jedburgh's ba' game battles". BBC News. 27 February 2020. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Jedburgh centre during Ba Game (C) Clint Mann". www.geograph.org.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2018.