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  The Kirkwall Ba'

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.

Section Contents
An Introduction to the Ba'
The Origin of the Ba'
Making a Ba'
Pictures of the Ba'

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