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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HAND-BA, n. Also -ball. A game played between two teams with a small ball thrown with the hands, esp. in traditional contests in the south of Scotland (Rxb. 1956). See also Ba', n.1 and han-an-hail, s.v. Hand, I., 9.Rxb. 1861 T. Somerville Life 345:
Many of our national games, as handball, football, ninepins, golf, curling, though not discontinued, are less generally practised than when I was a younger man.
Sc. 1885 E. J. Guthrie Old Sc. Customs 27:
Handball was more popular in the southern districts, the most celebrated match of this last mentioned game which took place in modern times was played at Carterhaugh in the year 1815, the promoter of the match being the Earl of Home.
Rxb. 1912 Border Mag. XVII. 75:
When the change from football to handball [in Jedburgh] took place is not on record, but it must have been prior to last century. About 70 years ago the burgh authorities endeavoured to put down the annual game of “handball.”
Sc. 1955 Scotsman (3 Feb.):
The first of Jedburgh's time-honoured street games, “Candlemas Handba,” was played in the main streets of the Royal Burgh yesterday.

Comb.: Hand Ba Day Rxb. 1997 Herald 8 Mar 8:
For centuries Hand Ba' Day was a high point of the year at the Borders village of Ancrum, with teams that could total hundreds rampaging through the streets and common land in pursuit of a ball made of leather packed with chopped hay.

[O.Sc. hand ball, 1549, id.]

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"Hand-ba n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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