Hash House Harrier roots extend back to the old English schoolboy game of “Hares and Hounds,” in which some players, called “hounds,” chase others, called “hares,” who have left a trail of paper scraps along their route across fields, hedges, streams, bogs, and hills. One of the earliest Hares and Hounds events on record was the “Crick Run” at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, first held in 1837.
GOALS OF THE HASH
From the 1938 charter of the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers
THE HASH IS BORN
The Hash House Harriers as we know it today was founded in Malaya (now Malaysia). The orginal members have credited Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, an English chartered accountant, as the instigator.
It was sometime during 1937 when Gispert (or simply “G” as he was known to his friends) acquired a taste for the paper chase with the Springgit Harriers in Malacca (also in Malaya). Shortly after being transferred by his accounting firm to Kuala Lumpur, he gathered together a number of fellow expatriate businessmen to form a harrier group. The first run was held in in December 1938 and the founding members included Cecil H. Lee, Frederick “Horse” Thomson, Eric Galvin, H.M. Doig, and Ronald “Torch” Bennet.
It is not clear that the club actually had a name at the very beginning, but Gispert is credited with proposing ‘The Hash House Harriers’ when the Registrar of Societies required the gathering to be legally registered. “Kuala Lumpur Harriers” would have appeared a logical choice, but “G” decided instead to use the nickname for the Selangor Club where a number of the local harriers both lived and took their meals. It seems that due to its lackluster food, the dining room was commonly referred to as the “Hash House.” As it turned out, the government backed down when they realized that these clubs would not be able to pay the tax
‘Torch’ Bennett technically missed being a founder member, because he was then on leave, but on his return he introduced the first necessary organization – a bank account, a balance sheet and some system. More importantly, he seems, with Philip Wickens who joined later in 1939, to have helped to keep things going immediately after the war.
Hare and Hounds as an adult sport began in the fall of 1867 with a group of London oarsmen who wanted to keep fit during the winter. Also called “Paper Chasing” or the “Paper Chase,” the game became very popular after its introduction on Wimbledon Common in 1868 by the Thames Hare and Hounds. Early clubs called themselves “Hare and Hounds” or simply “Harriers.”
The HHH duly celebrated its 100th run on 15 August 1941, but only 17 runs later was forced into temporary hibernation with the advent of the Japanese invasion of Malaya, in which several hashers distinguished themselves. Captain Gispert died in the Battle of Singapore.
MODERN HARRIERS – Postwar Rebirth
Post World War II, it was nearly 12 months before the survivors reassembled. ‘Torch’ Bennett put in a claim for the lost hash mugs, a tin bath and two old bags, on the fund set up with the proceeds from confiscated Japanese property and run No. 1 was a trot around the race course in August, 1946. Subsequent to the 1,000th post war run the celebrations surround it were considered to be such a success that the 117 official pre-war runs were added to the total they could celebrate the 2,000th run as soon as possible.
With the advent of the Emergency in 1948, the Hash was automatically in bad official odor, as their activities were generally illegal in terms of the curfew imposed on most of the areas surround Kuala Lumpur and in the years 1948-51, they maintained a precarious existence at best.
The turn round came with the famous “Bandit Incident” at Cheras. Near where the Lady Templer Hospital is now, in an area that was then rubber and secondary jungle, the pack were following trail in the rain at dusk, when they came across a number of men sleeping on the ground wrapped in ground sheets. The pack scattered, and one ran to Cheras Police Station to raise the alarm; the army (men of the Suffolk Regiment) did not follow the paper trail, as reported in The Times, but more correctly surrounded the area with a series of ambushes and in the morning bagged two bandits trying to break out. One of these was found to have a substantial price on his head, and as Government servants were not allowed to participate in such rewards, the non-Government employees among the Hash divided the bounty between them. (The Harriers led by Andrew Tarry subsequently held a party to celebrate at the Harper Gilgillan mess in Ampang Road.)
Other colorful incidents related by Cecil Lee, include how ‘Torch’ Bennett once nearly drowned in quicksand, and how on one memorable occasion the erstwhile unathletic ‘G’ was actually leading the pack: sadly his moment of glory was short lived as the paper trail turned to be false. Swimming would seem to be an unofficial prerequisite to all Hashmen too, for Cecil remembers having had to swim across a mining pool in order to get home after being lost on one occasion, and on another it is reported that several Hashmen ran in to a stream where bathed some unsuspecting Malay maidens. The girls screamed; their menfolk came hurtling to the rescue with the unsheathed parangs flashing, and the errant Hashmen broke land speed records in the eagerness to clear the scene.
The Hash Spreads Out
The second Hash Chapter was founded in Singapore in 1962, [Editor’s note: The Royal Italian Bordighera Hash was begun in the late ’40s but died by the late ’50s. It was later resurrected by members of the Milan H3] followed by Kuching in 1963, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu and Ipoh in 1964, Penang in 1965, and Perth was the first outside Malaysia and Singapore in 1967. Even by the time of K.L. 1,500th run in 1974 the total was only 35, so the subsequent explosion has been spectacular indeed. The 1992 international list will total around 1,100 clubs in over 135 countries and all continents (including Antarctica) where the hash format is often adapted to environments very different from the near rows of Malaysian rubber trees mongst which it was conceived. Kabul HHH understandably foundered, but what can it be like to hash in Sinai, Peking, Addis Ababa or the Falkland Islands?
The first attempt at an Interhash get-together was the K.L. 1,000th post-war run in 1966, and the spectacular 1500th run in 1973 when attendance was something over 300. Interhash 1978 in Hong Kong broke new ground with an attendance around 800; Interhashes 1980 and 1982 were credited with 1,200 – 1,300; Interhash 1984 with rather more Interhash 1986 broke the 2,000 barrier with 2,143.
Attendance at Bali for Interhash 1988 was reported to be between 2,600 and 2,700. Interhash 1990 in Manila was affected by the then current state of emergency in the country, but nevertheless some 1,600 intrepid Hashers were let loose in Manila and survived to tell the tale.
Interhash 1992 in Phuket, Thailand does not seem to be affected by the recent unhappy turmoil in Bangkok and, judging by reported registrations the numbers are set to pass 3,000. [Editor’s note: Interhash 1994 in New Zealand drew nearly 4,000, Interhash 1996 in Cyprus drew 6,000 and Interhash 1998 in Kuala Lumpur had over 7,000 participants]
* Taken from Hash House Harriers Press kit
Written in 1992 by Mike Lyons from the copious research material prepared by John Duncan. Transcribed in 1994 by Tom “Self-Executing Officer” Moore, On-Sec, Boston H3, and edited by Chas. “ZiPpY tC” Baumerich, On-Sec, Pikes Peak H4.