A Brief History of the Hash House Harriers
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.
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 HASH IS BORN
The Hash House Harriers as we know it today was founded in Malaya (now Malaysia) by Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, an English chartered accountant.
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.
The group’s name came about primarily because local authorities required legal registration of the club. While the “Kuala Lumpur Harriers” would have appeared a logical choice, “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.”
The philosophy of the original Hash House Harriers from the 1938 charter:
To promote physical fitness among our members.
To get rid of weekend hangovers.
To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer.
To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.
Hashing in Kuala Lumpur was suspended during the World War II occupation by Japanese forces, but then reestablished after peace returned. It wasn’t long before the hash began slowly spreading around the world. Former members of the original Hash House Harriers started a hash in 1947 near Milan, Italy, but it wasn’t until 1962 that the next group was formed in Singapore. The Singapore Hash was gradually followed by others until in 1973 there were approximately 35 hashes in 14 countries.
Subsequently, the hash began spreading like wildfire and the number of hashes soon climbed into the hundreds by the early 1980s. Today (2002) there are some 1,900 active hashes in over 180 countries, including approximately 390 in the United States.
How It Really Got Going – The Official History
as taken from the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers 1500th Run Pamphlet, June 23rd 1973
The Hash House Harriers were founded in a moment of post-prandial inspiration at the Selangor Club Chambers, about 1937/38, by the inmates, who included myself, E.J. Galvin, Malay Mail, H.M. Doig (H&C – killed in an air crash just before the Japanese War) and A.S. Gispert of Evatt & Co. Gispert was the real founder – a man of great wit and charm, who was killed only just returned from leave in Australia to rejoin the Volunteers. I am glad of this opportunity to salute his memory. He was a splendid fellow, and would be happy to know the Harriers are still going strong, and are as merry and bright as ever – or more so. Gispert was not an athlete, and stress was laid as much on the subsequent refreshment etc. as on the pure and austere running. It was non-competitive, and abounded in slow-packs. Life was then conservative rather than competitive.
The name was a mock allusion to the institution that housed and fed us. Later, Torch Bennett returned from leave, and produced order out of chaos – a bank account, balance sheet, and some system. But we prided ourselves on being rather disorganised – or the minimum organisation sufficed. The original joint masters were myself and “Horse” Thompson, still running somewhere – a past-master at short-cuts and the conservation of energy.
Celebrations were held in various places, and the first was in what is now the Legislative Council, then the Volunteer Mess. The oratory, I recall, was much the same as now.
Lew Davidson is an old member. Morris Edgar was one, but apart from Lew and John Wyatt-Smith I do not think there are any more ante-diluvians still running. Philip Wickens was also one who kept us going post-war.
We started up again after the War due to Torch Bennett who discovered a Bank Balance and put in a claim for War Damage on one tin bath, and two dozen mugs, and possibly two old bags (not members). We started by a small run in reduced circumstances round the race-course – then the horses were not much better.
The Emergency cramped our style but did not diminish our activities, and we were even called in for information on various by-ways in Selangor, but our period of usefulness to MI 5 was brief, and our information probably otiose. But the hares ran into two bandits at Cheras, who were later copped.
An Irish Accountant, Kennedy, drew up the Rules when we had to register as a Club, and he seems to have preserved the old traditions just as you do now. Selamat Tinggal H.H.H.
Kuala Lumpur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (C.H. Lee)
24th Octobert (sic) 1958.
The KL Hash During the Emergency
from the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers 1500th Run Pamphlet
Imperial and Foreign News
Paper Trail led to Bandits
Sporting Hazard in Malaya
From our Special Correspondent.
Kuala Lumpur, September 14th 1951
A bandit patrol of 12 men was surprised and attacked on the outskirts of the city early this week by men of the Suffolk Regiment, who had followed a paper trail laid by Harriers. Two bandits were killed and the troops are now tracking the survivors. The paper trail was laid by two “Hares” of the local harriers, who have always refused to allow the presence of bandits to interfere with their evening exercise. On Monday evening they were scattering paper at the edge of the jungle for the following “hounds” when they saw a small shack in the jungle. This they thought rather ominous. They turned down a track and came across three bandits armed with rifles standing in the undergrowth. The bandits appeared to be as surprised as they were, but the “Hares” looked the other way and ran to the nearest police station, after warning the “hounds” to give up the trail. It was followed next morning by troops with profitable results: substantial money awards for the harriers are expected.
The Times, September 1951
“We settled into our ambush positions in the jungle,” the major told me, wiping the beer from his bristle, “automatic weapons trained on the path, and waited for the Communists to come. Suddenly we heard quick light steps up the track and” – he paused, banging his pewter tankard down on his knee with restrained violence – “hang it if fifteen chaps in vests and running shorts from the local harriers club didn’t come trotting past as if they were on Hampstead Heath.”
Dennis Bloodworth – An Eye for the Dragon