A SHORT HISTORY OF THE HASH HOUSE HARRIERS
Hare and Hounds style chases have been around for centuries in one form or another. The original concept was to mimic the original hunting sport during times or in locations where sporting game was sparse. It was a normal transition to substitute the hounds with runners. Men, not as well endowed with the sense of smell, required a trail of paper to find their quarry. This sport was well entrenched long before these sportsmen became known as 'hashers' and the sport was referred to as Hounds and Hares or the Paper Chase.
The Hash House Harriers received its humble beginnings in 1938 from a British expatriate named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, in what is now Malaysia.
Having a fondness for the "paper chase', he gathered together a group of expatriates in Kuala Lumpur that would later become a worldwide legacy. The fraternity received its name from the Selangor Club Chambers.
The "Hash House" was the mildly derogatory nickname given (for its unimaginative, monotonous food) to the Royal Selangor Club Chambers in Kuala Lumpur by the British civil servants and businessmen who lived and dined there between the two World Wars, when it had become something of a social centre of the times. Situated close to and behind the present Selangor Club, its function changed after independence and it became an office for the Water Board. Sadly, the "Hash House" was demolished around 1964 to make way for a new highway, Jalan Kuching, although the buildings housing the original stables and servants quarters are still in existence.
A "hare" would be given a short head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, soon to be pursued by a shouting pack of "harriers." Only the hare knew where he was going . . . the harriers followed his marks to stay on the trail. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare, reaching the end was its own reward, for there, thirsty harriers would find a tub of ice-cooled beer.
Known as "G", Mr. Gispert originally took on duties as the On-Sec, convincing Cecil H. Lee and Frederick "Horse" Thompson to become the first Joint Masters. The first runs averaged a dozen, although attendance could sometimes be counted on one hand.
This relatively peaceful endeavour was cut short with the advent of the Japanese invasion, during which several hashers distinguished themselves. Gispert died in the Battle of Singapore and has s marked grave. However, his name appears on one of the commemoration walls at Kranji War Cemetery
However, Torch Bennett re-established the hash after the war and also successfully sought war reparations for 24 enamel mugs, an old galvanized fin bath and two old bags. It took nearly 12 months after the war for the survivors of the Kuala Lumpur HHH to reassemble and post-war Run No. 1 was a trot around the racecourse in August 1946.
Strangely, it took another 16 years for the second HHH chapter to be founded, in Singapore in 1962, followed by Kuching in 1963, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, and 1poh in 1964, Penang and Malacca in 1965. Perth, in Western Australia was the first "overseas" chapter, formed in 1967. Even in 1974, when KLHHH had Run No. 1500, the HHH had only 35 chapters worldwide. Now the Hash world has over 1200 active chapters, in some 160 countries, and this despite the total absence of any central organization. We are unique!
A now defunct publication, Harrier International, claimed over 1700 hashes in their listing. However, closer scrutiny found hundreds of outdated contacts or dead hashes, so it is still difficult to make an informed guess. With less accuracy, it could be said that there are indeed about 1500 to 2000 hashes out there, as many were started by hashers who do not have contacts with hash publications or simply don't care to register. Occasionally, there is a hash that finds out, usually by the accident of running into other hashers, that they, indeed, aren't the only one in the world.