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Eight Questions: Ian Cumming

The following interview was conducted in February 2008.

Ian Cumming, aka Ian Comyn, has been hashing for almost 50 years.  He first ran with the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers in Malaysia in 1959, then went on to found the second-oldest continuously running hash, the Singapore Hash House Harriers, in 1962.  He currently lives in Goldens Bridge, New York, where he hashes with the New York (Weschester County) Hash House Harriers (which, in 1978, he also founded).

ian cumming

Ian, how did you find the hash . . . or did the hash find you?

Dave Scourse and I were members of the Malasian Arts Theater Group. He was stage manager, I sang in the tenor chorus. Dress rehearsals were in the Victoria Theater, near the Selangor Club. To save money, the fans in the theater were turned off. We convinced the proprietor of the lobby, Ah Fatt, that cold beer was essential to survival, so he had a case of Anchor available every evening, which as a matter of principle we managed to finish at every rehearsal. It only required one of us to call out “Ah Fatt!” and the worthy barman would come running down the aisle with two cold ones ready to pour. About the middle of the second week, Dave asked if I was interested in hashing based on the rate at which we finished the beer, without fail. I started the next Monday and have hashed every Monday since.

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When & where was your first away hash?

About a year after the start of the Singapore Hash we caught the train one night and drank it dry. We raided the Selangor Club and got restricted to the men’s bar, which we abused until evening when the Mother Hash set us up in a hilly trackless deathmarch. I don’t remember much after that.

Where are some of the places you’ve hashed?

Anywhere we could get to. The most remarkable was the Philly Americas Hash. Survivors, when they meet, nod and smile. There is nothing [more] to be said about that most fabulous weekend.

What do you most love about hashing?

Being there.

What don’t you love about hashing?

Singing out of tune.

What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you at a hash?

On one of the Mother Hashes’ great celebrations, Dave Scourse invited some of us to enjoy a great feast of Laksa (Malay interpretation of Chinese food). Due to greed and a second helping, I was predictably caught short at the beginning of the afternoon trail. By good fortune the hares had set trail with loads of squares of paper, so I collected a bundle and sat up against a palm tree and had my way. However the pack, lost on trail due to my removing the marks, came upon me and asked which way the trail went. I begged them to be patient, and in due course I was able to guide them where the paper had been before I collected it all.

What are some of your favorite haring techniques?

Lead ‘em, don’t lose ‘em. There is a brilliant style we call a Juhani Loop, in honor of the long-lived Grand Master of Helsinki, who frequently laid a four mile trail within a square mile. Enter a field at one corner, run around three sides, then take off into the woods. The pack condenses beautifully by natural short-cutting.

Are there any core fundamentals you believe all hashes and hashers should embrace?

Believe in NO RULES. Every hash ends up doing the same thing anyway.

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