Denholm Hand Ba'
The Denholm Ba' took place
on the Green every year in late February or early March. The annual Ba' or Hand
Ba' is an ancient custom still held in several Border towns and villages. The ball is said to represent the head of an
Englishman. In Denholm the appointed day is always the Monday after Shrove Tuesday which was known as Fasten E'en or Fasten's Eve. According to an old
saying, 'First comes Candlemas, then the new moon, the following Tuesday is Fastens
E'en, the following Monday is Denholm Ba' Day.'
On the day large crowds of men from the surrounding district would collect around
Leyden's Monument. The single men were known as the
'uppies' and the married men as the 'doonies'. A beribboned leather ball was tradionally
supplied by the men who had married during the year. It was made by the saddler in sections of leather and stuffed with wet moss or newspaper.
The ball was thrown up in the air by the donor and when it fell the ribbons were torn off and it was thrown up again. The
'uppies' then tried to hail the ball to the bridge at Honeyburn and the 'doonies' to the 'Gang' on the
Jedburgh road. There was no prize, only the honour of winning but sometimes the newly wed who supplied the ball would offer a reward for its return.
The apprentices played at 9am and the men at 1pm. Schoolboys had their own ba' on the Friday. Ramsay recalls that a man called Best was killed on the
spikes of the iron railings opposite the Cross Keys Inn and says that the spikes were the cause of many accidents that he can remember.
Nowadays the men's Ba' begins in the afternoon. There is no separate event for the apprentices. Several balls are given and the donors are no longer
confined to the newly married. Sometimes they are couple celebrating a silver or golden anniversary and the owners of the pubs usually give a ball.
The 'doonies' are now the men and youths living in the village and the 'uppies' are the outsiders.