Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers - yes, all 6 of you!

It's been pointed out to me that yet again my blog is very out of date, so I've decided that one of my New Year's resolutions has to be to try to update it a bit more often!! Hopefully I'll find the time to do this, and keep it at least a bit more up-to-date. I'll also do a bit of a retrospective on last year and blog about a few things which haven't yet made it onto here.

It seems appropriate that my first blog entry of 2011 should be about the 2011 New Year's Day Ba games in Kirkwall.

The Ba has been going in its present form since around 1850, but the history of it dates back much further. There are 2 games held every Christmas Day and New Year's Day - for boys (under 16) and men. At Christmas 1945 and New Year 1946 there was a Women's Ba as well (I think it was to do with equality after the war.) Apparently it was rather more vicious than the men's game (think fingernails and hair pulling...) and the men didn't like their womenfolk being involved in something that violent. There's never been a women's game again since!

The Boys' Ba is now thrown up at 10am (it used to be at 10.30am), in the hopes that it's finished before the Men's Ba starts at 1pm. On Christmas Day the Boys' Ba didn't finish until after the Men's game had started, and this happened again yesterday. In fact, the boys' game didn't finish until around 3pm, and the fight for the Ba was the longest I've seen, lasting around 1 hour 20 minutes.

We spent most of the afternoon watching the Men's Ba, but the Ba was stuck in one place for quite a while and it got so cold that a walk seemed like a good idea, and when I heard that the Boys' game was still on we decided to go up and watch the finish. The Ba had already touched the wall by then (an Uppie win) but the fight for it was ongoing. Fists were flying, and feet .... and we even saw a flying shoe!

Uppie Aiden Drever is raised aloft with his Ba.

The Men's game started, as always, with the throw up at 1pm. The scrum moved around Broad Street a lot, but unusually didn't go 'up' of the mercat cross; I don't think it even made it as far up at Judith Glue's. It spent a fair bit of time moving between the mercat cross, OTE, in front of the war memorial and Ola Gorie's and was very exciting to watch. We spotted a few 'off the ball' incidents too!

 The most exciting part was when there was a break, and I saw the ba. That's only the 3rd time I've ever seen the Ba during the game - the spectators (and probably most of the players too) only usually see the ba at the throw up and then again at the goal (Mackinson's Corner or Kirkwall harbour.)

I hadn't really intended to get quite this close to the action, but as I was moving back away from it I was snapping away! Unfortunately I then got shoved and went backwards onto the steps of the mercat cross, but I have to say that the bruise was probably worth it, for the photos I got!!

The action then moved down Broad Street towards The Reel, before turnning down Castle Street.

The Ba was stuck behind a wall on Castle Street for a while...

... before ending up going round the back of Tullocks.

At this point we went up to the Boys' game, but when we came back down an hour or so later, it was only just round the corner from here - maybe about 100 metres away.

There was then a break, which I now know was a Doonie break which went up the street! It then went through the bus station and into the water in front of the Ayre. However, such is the nature of the game, that not everyone knew where the Ba was, and most of the spectators and players were still outside the post office, thinking that the Ba was in the middle of the scrum which was still there and that it had been a false break (as there had been a few of those.)

It became clear it wasn't there, and everyone ran down to the harbour, where the Ba was already in the water and the fight for the winner was underway down the Shapinsay slip.

It started snowing - it's a poor photo but the snow is just visible blowing in the light. It was a very wet snow, and didn't lie. Earlier in the afternoon there were hailstones too - perfect Ba watching weather!!!

The winner, Norman Kelday, was soon raised aloft. I was a bit far back to get a good photo (I think I'd already had my fair share of being close to the action!) but if you look closely you can see a lot of hands raised up clapping, and towards the right Norman is up out of the crowd holding his Ba up.

This is the first time I've seen a Doonie win (as I missed the last one, on New Year's Day last year.) In fact, this is only the 3rd Doonie win in the last 26 games, so I'm really pleased to have seen it. It was definitely an exciting, if cold, afternoon and a great way to start the new year.

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