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How the Scots Get Ready to Party . . .

James Jerzy McGoogan
My favourite Scottish holiday tradition has long been The Ba. That’s the lunatic game the Orcadian Scots play at Christmas and New Year’s.  A couple of hundred players, mostly young men, take over the streets of Kirkwall and participate in this rugby-like game that involves carrying a cork-filled leather ball, “the ba,” either up the main street or down it. Each team has dozens of players, no limit, and some of them harbour grudges. But the main difference from rugby is that there are no rules – none. Anything goes.
So maybe I should clarify. I love the idea of someone else participating in The Ba, whose disputed origins are lost in the mists of time. But no, I cannot recommend that tradition to Canadians who wish to embrace the Scottish dimension of the holiday season that is almost upon us.  I am thinking mainly of my one-year-old grandson, James Jerzy McGoogan (pictured above), to whom I dedicated my book How the Scots Invented Canada. Do I want him ever to play in The Ba? No, I do not.
By comparison, Hogmanay is tame. This Scottish celebration starts on New Year’s Eve and runs through the next day and sometimes longer. Scotland’s national poet, Robbie Burns, once revelled in Hogmanay festivities that spun out of control. . . . [Read more by clicking here.]
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.