A Family Ba' Reunion
On Saturday 14th August we had a special visitor to the Orkney Museum. Katrina Clitherow is the granddaughter of Barbara Clitherow, nee Yule, the winner of the first Women’s Ba’ on Christmas Day 1945. When Barbara passed away in 1999 it was her wish that her Ba’ should return to Orkney. Her two sons, Ronnie (Katrina’s father) and Brian, made an emotional trip to Orkney the following summer to donate the Ba’ to the Orkney Museum.
It was heart-warming to hear from Katrina just how special that trip was for the two brothers. I remember the occasion very well. The Orcadian did a feature, as did BBC Radio Orkney. The two men were blown-away by the degree of interest and the reception that they received. A display had been created in advance, so they could see where their mother’s Ba’ would be shown.
Sadly, we learned from Katrina that her father, Ronnie, had passed away and that it was his wish for his ashes to be scattered in Orkney. His ancestral islands had obviously made a lasting impression on him. Katrina had travelled north with her boyfriend, Dan Grimstead, to carry out his wishes. Seeing her Nan’s Ba’ once more was also something that she wanted to do.
As a child Katrina remembers her ‘Nan’s’ Ba’ as a special thing, safely shut up in a display cabinet and definitely not for the bairns to play with. Appeals by Katrina to play with it was flatly refused. It was too precious to be thrown around!
Katrina had written an e-mail to our Social History Curator, Ellen Pesci, asking if she would be allowed to hold her Nan’s treasured Ba’. Normally we do not allow people to handle the artefacts, but Ellen decided that in this special circumstance the family connection was too great to say no, as she explains:
“With every object the museum receives, comes a story, and with social history those stories are about people, family and places that we want to remember. Whilst we do our best to preserve and promote them, it can sometimes feel a little abstract to take an item and pop it into a glass case, where it will never again perform its intended purpose. So it’s particularly nice when an opportunity to reconnect an artefact with its story presents itself, as in the case of Barbara Yule’s ba’. When Katrina contacted me, I felt little hesitation in deciding to offer her the chance to hold the Ba’, as I could completely understand how special it would be for Katrina to hold it as her granny would have done 75 years before.”
While the museum was closed to the public the two honoured guests arrived in the courtyard and knocked on the door. They were led upstairs to Ellen’s office where the Ba’ was temporarily held. Her face lit up on seeing the Ba’ once more. Memories of her Nan came flooding back as she took the Ba’ from Ellen. It was the first time in her life that she had actually held it. A very emotional experience for us all, but especially for Katrina.
We chatted happily for a while. I recounted the story of how the men who were opposed to the Women’s game stole the Ba’ and hid it in the cathedral graveyard. I reminisced about her father and uncle’s visit and just how important the Women’s Ba’ is to the story of the game and to the museum. We visited the display where Katrina saw the photo of her Nan as a young woman. I had sent her the photo digitally and Dan had coloured it. After a while they left the museum, to carry on their exploration of Orkney.
We always appreciate the things that are donated to the museum, especially when they have such a strong family story. It is lovely to hear just how much this can mean to a family. We never lose sight of that, but it is lovely to be reminded every now and again. Sometimes it is the little things that mean the most.