The Skinny on the Ba’

The 2005 New Years Ba’, Kirwall, Orkney Islands. An innumerable mass of sweaty men throwing fists and covering their privates as they slowly push the ball (the ba’) towards their goal. Its a brutal, vicious game with no rules and a long tradition. Having no idea what the game was about, I decided the best way to learn was to put on my rugby jersey and throw my lot in with the men. I am still not sure why I jumped in, and it may not been the smartest thing to do, but i am glad I did. Our team, the Doonies (those south of kirkwall) lost again against the nasty, pagan Uppies, for the 14th year. Next year, I should invite the New Zealand rugby team to help us out.


The best photos are at In this photo, taken nearly 2 hours into the game, I am bottom left, wearing a bumble-bee rugby jersy, sandwiched between a concrete wall and a hundred bodies. We were pinned in this position for about 25 minutes without moving an inch. The ball was just a few feet from me, but was well hidden underneath the swarm.

I played for a few hours before sustaining a minor injury to my right arm – a sprain that knocked me out of the game which went on for a few more hours, in freezing rain and a wicked cold gale.

The skinny on the Ba? Its great. A good and healthy release of energy and rage and a tradition worth keeping.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • bea says:

    you’re a crazy loon – this post confirms it! sounds great – just as insane as the cheese-rolling event they have near cheltenham every may bank holiday. we are heading there this year we hope – want to be insane with us?!!

  • Nice to know where ever in the world men gather together, we find innovative ways to justify hurting each other 🙂 In Canada it is hockey, in Orkney it is Ba.

  • Liam Byrnes says:

    Thats very cool Andrew, wish I could have been there, but im getting over jet lag in cornwall, what a great celtic nation! Ill be back in the area around the 7th, maybe one day we’ll actually sucessfully co-ordinate coffee meeting!

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