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  The Kirkwall Ba'

The development of the Kirkwall Ba'

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.

Changing style

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.