Category Archives: SSSA @ 70

SSSA in 70 Objects: Borders Ba’ Games

‘They do it yet!’: The surprise of Borders ba’.
Dr Emily Lyle

When I was talking with an old man in Denholm about customs, I had been reading about the ball game there and I asked him if he remembered them playing. I was totally surprised when he told me ‘They do it yet!’, and that was the beginning of the recording for the archive of this living tradition of the Borders for, next time the game was played at Denholm, I was there with the archive photographer, Lesley Davenport. Before the game, she took photos of the balls that were displayed in the windows, and the surprise here was that the game was played with multiple balls which were decorated with ribbons. The balls were provided by couples who were married or had celebrated an anniversary in the previous year.

 

1 A silver wedding ball with white ribbons at Denholm.

The game is handball and when each ball is thrown up to start play, the person throwing announces the sum that will be paid when the ball is returned, like ‘There’s £5 on it!’. We watched the first ball being thrown up in Denholm that day and then observed the players lying in a heap (the ‘strow’) for half an hour or so until we had to leave for an evening engagement in Edinburgh.

 

2. . The opening of play at Denholm.

 

3. The strow at Denholm.  This shows a heap of men on the ground with others standing round them.

The game does not require daylight but can continue after dark.

4. Playing in the twilight at Hobkirk.

 

The players are not distinguished by team colours. They are divided by geographical halves into ‘Uppies’ and ‘Doonies’ and they know each other. The goals, called ‘hails’, are natural or built features that can be more than a mile apart. The players do not drive the ball into the opposite hail but bring it into their own hail

 

 

5. A Doonie player at Ancrum returning after hailing the ba’ over the dyke that forms the Doonie hail.

After a ball is hailed, another is thrown up, but not all balls reach the hails during play for they can be hidden (‘smuggled’) in such places as a milk churn, a rabbit burrow, or the player’s clothing, deliberately worn loose for this purpose.

6. A player at Hobkirk being searched for a smuggled ba’.

 

When a player successfully smuggles a ba’, he is expected to take it to a hail before claiming the payment put on it and he does this when the action of the game is elsewhere.

7. A player at Jedburgh hailing a smuggled ba’ at the Uppie hail.

 

In Jedburgh, the game is played in the streets of the town and the windows are barricaded to prevent damage.

8. Players in a street in Jedburgh.

9. A boarded-up window in Jedburgh.

 

10: A Strow in Jedburgh

Sometimes there is a separate boys’ game before the men’s game.

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11. Boys playing at Ancrum

 

In Lilliesleaf  the game is played in the fields by school children.

12. Children playing at Lilliesleaf in the snow.

Visitors can take part in these games and are Uppies or Doonies depending on the direction from which they come.

 

The cluster of games in these locations takes place on various dates following the first new moon after Candlemas (2 February) and it is always very cold. The game that was played at Duns ceased in the nineteenth century when there was a snowstorm one year and, when it was resumed in the 1940s, it was as part of the town’s summer festival with barrels in the town square as hails.

13. One of the hails in Duns.

14. Players running through the square in Duns.

The game is generally played at a specific time of year but its early connection with weddings is preserved at Melrose where the game is played after the marriage ceremony. The ball has been updated to a Rugby ball.

15.  An announcement of a wedding ba’ in a shop window in Melrose.

 

If you didn’t already know about the Borders ba’ game, you may have found all this as surprising as I did!

 

Dr Emily Lyle is an Honorary Fellow in Celtic and Scottish Studies and has been with the department since 1970. Her main areas of research have been Scottish songs and customs and Indo-European mythology.

 

Photograph credits  
Please do not reproduce without permission

All images held at (C) The School of Scottish Studies Archives.

Images 1-3 Lesley Davenport

Images 4, 6-8, 11-14 Ian MacKenzie

Image 5 Gisela Stuart

Image 9 Neill Martin

Image 10 Tom McKean

Image 15 Emily Lyle

 

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Queering the Archive: An Announcement of a New Initiative

We are excited to announce the work on our new Queering the Archive initiative. This initiative aims to increase representation of LGBT+ records within our collections. 

Queering the Archive will hope to investigate the gaps in our collections and cataloging to improve LGBT+ representation with aims for further development and active archiving in the future. The initiative is a part of our 70th Anniversary plans and will be included in a series of events over the rest of the year. The initiative will allow us to go forward in improving marginalised and underrepresented voices and material. 

 

An image of progress pride. It Includes the rainbow flag design, with arrows to the left of the trans flag and representation of people of colour in pride and the community.

Progress Pride Flag


There are unfortunately little accounts of LGBT+ histories and recordings in the School of Scottish Studies Archives. 
In particular, there is little representation on queer folklore, folk narratives, or songs in a wider historical and archival setting. LGBT+ histories are sometimes ‘hidden’ histories, either through historical context on discussion of LGBT+ identity and topics, lack of archiving or archival interest, or a lack of appropriate and inclusive search-terms and cataloging that reflects queer identities.

 

Queering the Archive will begin with an intervention and discussion workshop.

 

The workshop will provide a starting point to actively work with the community to discuss our collections, representation, as well as crowd-source search-terms for improvement of cataloging developed by and for the LGBT+ community. 

Workshops will allow participants to engage with our records and active intervention through crowd-sourcing and discussion. It is our aim to work with the community, skill-share, and offer meaningful collaboration and discussion as much as possible throughout the initiative. It will introduce you to our collections, queer theory, and investigations into our LGBT+ and related records.

Workshops will be completely free and led remotely via Zoom, and will utilise other platforms.

Dates are to be announced. 

 

 

We will also be producing a series of blogs exploring the initiative and application of queer theory to our collections with further discussion. 

The next blog will explore queering the collections through the popular and infamous ‘cross-dressing’ ballads and exploring the queerness and issues of LGBT+ representation in the context of the selected ballads and traditions.

We will also be exploring the work ‘behind the scenes’ of Queering the Archive through our blogs and we will include other exciting material and updates!

 

 

If you are interested in taking part in the workshops, researching LGBT+ recordsusing our collections for your work, depositing your work and records, or working with us for Queering the Archive, please contact Elliot.Holmes@ed.ac.uk  

 

Written by Elliot Holmes. 

Elliot is one of the Archives and Library Assistants at the School of Scottish Studies Archives and uses He/They pronouns. You can also find him on twitter @elliotlholmes  

Follow @EU_SSSA on twitter for updates on the 70th Anniversary, Queering the Archive, and sharing our collections. 

#SSSA70 #QueeringSSSA

 

 

 

The term Queering has been used by many across the Gallery, Library, Archive, and Museum, (GLAM), sector with many launching queering initiatives to expand and represent LGBT+ histories. We will be using the term Queer as a catch-all term, and the term Queering in regards to application of queer theory and approaches. We will also be using the term LGBT+ throughout the initiative. 

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SSSA @ 70

 

In 2021 the School of Scottish Studies Archives celebrates our 70th Anniversary and we look forward to sharing exciting content, news and events with you this year.

We are also eager to hear from you, if you have any memories of The School of Scottish Studies, which you would like to share with us.

You can email us at scottish.studies.archives@ed.ac.uk and you can also find us on twitter: www.twitter.com/eu_SSSA.

We will be adding more to the blog soon, so please bookmark our URL or subscribe via email to receive new posts straight to your inbox.

 

For more information about The School of Scottish Studies collections, you can visit www.ed.ac.uk/is/sssa 

 

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