The development of the Kirkwall
From the mid-17th century,
Kirkwall's mass football games were played on area of ground known
as the Ba' Lea - a playing field stretching roughly from the present-day
East Kirk to the area known as Warrenfield.
This early game bore little
resemblance to today's ba' games because the ball was kicked and
never picked up or carried. This is in common with the traditional
football games carried out across the islands and parishes of Orkney - usually at weddings and at Yule.
In later years, the Kirkwall
football game moved from the Ba' Lea down onto the Kirk Green, before
making a final move onto Broad Street in 1800. It was after the short move on to Broad Street that the format of the Ba' game began to change.
Over the next 50 years, the manner of play began
to change and grappling and holding the ball became more commonplace. By 1850, the Ba' had more or less assumed its present
form - although it still involved a considerable amount of kicking.
It has been suggested that this change in playing style was due
to the increasing number of players and spectators and the resultant
lack of space.
The different style of
play also meant that the ba' itself had to change.
Instead of a
light, inflated ball, the ba' eventually became the heavier, more
durable, leather orbs still used today. Click
here for more details.