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In Pictures: Uppies take on Doonies in bruising ancient ball game

The game of Hand Ba’ is played yearly in the Scottish Borders town of Jedburgh.

Boys tussle for the leather ball during the annual Fastern’s E’en Hand Ba’ event in Jedburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Boys tussle for the leather ball during the annual Fastern’s E’en Hand Ba’ event in Jedburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

An annual traditional game with a macabre beginning has once again brought the streets of Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders to a standstill.

Fastern’s E’en Hand Ba’ is played with leather balls decorated with a tail of ribbons between two teams divided on where in the town they live – the Uppies v the Doonies.

It has moved on from its gruesome beginnings, where instead of a ball the villagers were said to have tossed the head of an Englishman through the streets. The ribbons are said to represent the long hair of the original “ball” in medieval times.

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Tussling for the ball can be brutal at times (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Two areas of the town are designated as goals, with much running and scrummaging in between (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Boys help each other off the ground after one tussle (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Each ball has ribbons attached to represent the hair on the original human head used (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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At least 10 are used throughout the day (Andrew Milliga/PA)
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Lois Porterfield throws one of them in during the competition (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Shops are boarded up to avoid any broken glass (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Butcher Bill Liddle was well prepared (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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But the Sheriff Court House didn’t escape unscathed (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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There was little regard for spectators who got too close to the players (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Or for cars parked close to the course (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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The young people of Jedburgh will be nursing some bruises tonight (Andrew Milligan/PA)
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But are bound to be out again for the festivities next year (Andrew Milligan/PA)

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