Carterhaugh Ba’

The Great Foot-Ball Match on the Field of Carterhaugh and the Birth of Rugby

By Ian W Landles, Hugh Hornby, and Billy Gillies. Foreword by the Duke of Buccleuch Letter from the Edinburgh Borderers by Rodger Thom, and additional contributions by Brian Renwick, Ian 'Tut' Johnson, Jo Clark and Linda Lawson of the Bill McLaren Foundation

Published by Bellendaine Books

£16.95 / $21.59 / €20.08
($/€ approx)

Hardback, 119 pages, published November 2021
Proceeds to the Bill McLaren Foundation
Additional Images

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Book Description



On December 4, 1815, 750 ba’ players came together in a mighty contest on the field of Carterhaugh, near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, for ‘a Great Foot-Ball Match’. On December 4, 2015, two bands of dedicated ba’ players descended on Carterhaugh to celebrate the bicentenary of the match by joining battle in another no-holds-barred contest.

For anyone interested in the true origins of the game of rugby in the centuries-old mass ba’ games of the Scottish Borders and the North of England – still alive and kicking to this day – here are tales wonderfully told by historians and players of the game.

Cracked crowns, furious duckings, acts of never-to-be-forgotten heroism and unforgivable betrayal – Ian W Landles relives the dramas of the original 1815 Carterhaugh Ba’ match, recalls Sir Walter Scott’s pivotal role in organising it, and in the process rewrites the early history of rugby.

The late Hugh Hornby describes the enduring appeal of mass football games today and Billy Gillies gives a blow-by-blow account of the 2015 re-enactment and explains why the Border ba’ game is absolutely not just a game!

This book tells a story which has waited two centuries to be told.

Carterhaugh Ba’ was published in memory of Hugh Hornby, museum curator, historian and ba’ player 1970–2021.


  • Foreword
    Richard, Duke of Buccleuch
  • Letter from the Edinburgh Borderers
    Rodger Thom
  • Carterhaugh Ba’: The birth of rugby?
    Ian W Landles
  • Two special occasions
    Hugh Hornby
  • The Border Ba’: Efter A’ It’s Only A Game
    Billy Gillies
  • The Big Day
    Brian Renwick
  • A Dream Come True
    Billy Gillies
  • A letter from Workington
    Ian ‘Tut’ Johnson and Joe Clark
  • Afterword 
    Linda Lawson of the Bill McLaren Foundation



  • ‘For the Furtherance of Fun’
    Letters to the 4th Duke of Buccleuch from Sir Walter Scott and Dr Ebenezer Clarkson on plans for the ‘Great Foot-Ball Match’
  • The Ettricke Garland
    Two rabble-rousing songs by Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd
  • The Fir and the Heather, Or, the Souter and the Shepherd
    A song attributed to the Rev. John Marriott
  • Carterhaugh Ba’
    Wearing a sprig of fir in his bonnet, a Hawick ba’ player marches off to Selkirk
  • Selkirk’s Burgess Cup
    Sir Walter Scott designs a silver trophy
  • The Blast of Wind
    A song by Charles, 4th Duke of Buccleuch
  • The Bicentenary Players
    The Border and Workington teams
  • A Tribute to Hugh Hornby
    Billy Gillies on a ba’-playing friend and chronicler of the mass football games of Britain
  • Credits and Contributors



Callum Bennetts / Maverick Photo Agency >>
Walter Dalkeith  >>
Lesley Fraser / ILF Imaging >>
James Glossop >>
Andrea Jones / Garden Exposures Photo Library >>
Dougie Johnston Photography >>
Eric McCowat >>
Jeff J Mitchell >>
Mark Runnacles >>
Phoenix Photography Scotland >>
Fritz von der Schulenburg >>


The Abbotsford Trust >>
The Buccleuch Collection >>
Dundee Art Galleries and Museums (Bridgeman Images) >>
FIFA World Football Museum, Zurich >>
Peter Holme 
The Hornby family
Ian Lowes collection 
Jedforest Historical Society >>
National Galleries of Scotland >>

Reviews for Carterhaugh Ba’


‘One of the highlights of this year’s Ballie Gifford Borders Book Festival was the tale of the Carterhaugh Ba (writes John Hislop)… Billy Gillies ‘explained why the Border ba’ game is absolutely not just a game but a serious business, and gave a blow-by-blow account of the 2015 re-enactment. Billy concluded by revealing that he intends having his ashes sewn into a ball so that he can keep playing the game. Their coffee table book contains historic images, verses and letters, alongside photographs by leading Scottish photographers.’

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