The traditional games pit two sides selected on the basis of what half of the Borders town they live in against each other, the uppies being born south of the market cross and the doonies north of it.
Rough and tumble aplenty, resulting in occasional bloodshed, is the order of the day.
Play takes place in the town centre, starting in the Market Place with a game for boys, or callants, having got under way at noon, as seen on our Facebook Live page, and the men’s game following at 2pm, with both then running concurrently.
The uppies’ goal is outside the castle jail and the doonies’ is at the Pleasaunce, both a couple of hundred yards away from the starting point.
Several balls are thrown, and the games can last for hours, so the action can continue until well after dark.
Legend has it that the first such game was played with an Englishman’s head, and the ribbons on the balls symbolise the hair of that unfortunate decapitation victim, but it is not known exactly when that was.
The long-standing event, pictured here by Duncan McGlynn, is held on the first Thursday after Shrove Tuesday each year.
Ancrum’s annual hand ba’ game follows this Saturday, February 24, and Denholm’s next Monday, February 26, with a similar event taking place in Duns in the summer.