The origin of The Ba' - the viking connection
Rough ball games were particularly enjoyed by the Norsemen. One example is detailed within the Icelandic Saga of Gisli the Outlaw.
Whether there is any connection between
the Orcadian Ba' and these ancient games is unclear, but there is
certainly a resemblance between the Icelandic knattleikr (ball game)
and the modern Orcadian one.
“Those brothers-in-law, Thorgrim and Gisli
were very often, matched against each other, and men could not
make up their minds which was the stronger, but most thought Gisli
had most strength. They were playing at the ball on the tarn called
Sedge tarn. On it there was ever a crowd. It fell one day when
there was a great gathering that Gisli bade them share the sides
as evenly as they could for a game.
“That we will with all our hearts!”
said Thorkel, “but we also wish thee not to spare thy strength
against Thorgrim, for the story runs that thou sparest, him, but
as for me, I love thee well enough to wish that thou shouldest
get all the more honour if thou art the stronger?”
Now they began the game, and Thorgrim could not
hold his own. Gisli threw him and bore away the ball. Again Gisli
wished to catch the ball, but Thorgrim runs and holds him, and
will not let him get near it. Then Gisli turned and threw Thorgrim
such a fall on the slippery ice that he could scarce rise. The
skin came off his knuckles, and the flesh off his knees, and the
blood gushed from his nostrils. Thorgrim was very slow in rising.
As he did so he looked to Vestein’s house and chanted:
“Right through his ribs
My spearpoint went crashing; Why should I worry?
‘Twas well worth this thrashing.”
Gisli caught the ball on the bound, and hurled
it between Thorgrim's shoulders, so that he tumbled forward, and
threw his heels up in the air, and Gisli chanted:
“Bump on the back
My big ball went dashing:
Why should I worry?
'Twas I gave the thrashing.”
Thorkel jumps up and says: “Now we can see
who is the strongest or the best player. Let us break off the
game ?” and so they did.