Birsay Throws Up for the New Year

The Ba

credit:Adrian Roebuck [GFDL (

Kirkwall has the Ba. Stromness has the Log. And not to be outdone the good people of Birsay have decided to resurrect a more ancient tradition than either of those to celebrate the dawn of the New Year.

Birsay was once the capital of Orkney as residents of that great parish like to remind locals and visitors about whenever they can. Rightly proud of once being the seat of  Scottish Royalty ,Viking Earls and Pictish Kings, Birsay, Fortress of  Orkney is steeped in history.

Once Kirkwall took on the mantle of a Royal Burgh  Birsay lost its way and along with its faded glory its ancient traditions also were relegated to the midden heap.

But local antiquarian Cygnet Swanson has been forensically examining the archives located in the Orkney Library. Cygnet has discovered that long before any log pulling or ba games were invented Birsay residents had their own game which dates back thousands of years. Only remnants of this great game which was once so popular in other parishes in Orkney can be seen today dotted about our landscape.

Chuckie Stanes sorted out the men from the boys in Orkney of yore. It may even have been seen as a rite of passage for the youth of the islands. The larger the stane you could chuck the better the man you were proven to be. The Man who succeeded in chucking the biggest stane would be entitled to all the limpets his woman could carry for a year.

The game, if it could be called that for indeed it was serious stuff, always took place at the dawning of the New Year no matter what day of the week that it fell on for indeed those ancient folks were not encumbered with Sunday closing. The rules were simple: find a big stane and chuck it. The biggest stane wins.

Cygnet Swanson will be meeting up with participants as dawn breaks on 1st January 2018 in the Brough car park .

Cygnet said:

“This was once a great New Year tradition in Birsay and I am proud to be resurrecting it. Interest has been shown in it worldwide and a Japanese film company will be there to record the event.Let’s make Birsay proud.”

Cygnet added that only men can participate and you have to be over 14 years of age. Bring your own stane.


Stenness (photo F Grahame)

Remnants of the massive chuckie stane event that took place in Stenness

Reporter: Fergus Graemsay


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1 reply »

  1. I was wondering what had happened to Fergus Graemsay. Thought that maybe hounding down the local news had all been to much for him, and he’d had to take a sabbatical.
    It’s good to see him back on the trail…………..

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