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Eighteen Questions: Bill Panton

The following interview was conducted in June 2008.

Tumbling Bill Panton is, like Ian Cumming, a living legend of hashing. Now in his 80s, he’s still hashing, dividing his time between his home hash (Mother herself, the Kuala Lumpur Hash House Harriers), a tiny and unimportant hash he founded back in 1972 (Washington DC HHH), and the HHH Genealogy Project.

good_mates

I consider myself fortunate to know Bill and to have him as a hashing mentor. He probably thought nothing of it, but the proudest moment of my hashing life was the day Bill came to Tucson, Arizona, ran with the men’s hash I founded there, and pronounced it good.

Bill’s British, from the Yorkshire-Durham border in the northeast of the UK. He has two homes, one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and one in Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA. His current hash kennels are the Washington DC HHH, Kuala Lumpur HHH, Royal Selangor Club HHH, Kuala Lumpur Harriettes, and Petaling HHH.

He’s been hashing for 54 years, and in addition to founding the Washington DC HHH in 1972, founded the Bangkok HHH in 1977. As you might imagine his outlook on hashing is traditional, but surprisingly flexible. Here’s how he answered my short list of hashing tradition questions:

  • Kegs or cans?  Up to the hare or the hash.
  • Live hare or dead hare?  As you like it. In my view the hare must not appear at the run site before the pack.
  • A-to-A trails or A-to-B trails?  Either.
  • Singing at the circle or not?  Not necessary; all depends on popular feeling.

A little more about Bill, from a 2006 Colombia News Service article by Megan O’Neill:

In the United States, nary a city is without a hashing group. William “Tumbling Bill” Panton, although British, is the grandfather of American hashing. After 20 years in Kuala Lumpur as a soil scientist for the British Agricultural Department, Panton, who ran with the original Hash House Harriers club, started the United States’ second-oldest chapter in Washington in 1972. At 78, the retired Panton still hashes once or twice a week and travels around the world compiling a genealogy of the hash. To his knowledge there is a chapter in every large country except Chad and North Korea.

“That’s the way I waste my retirement,” Panton joked from his home in Chevy Chase, Md., “but it keeps me fit and it’s better than having Alzheimer’s.”

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Bill, when & where was your first hash?

In mid-1954 in KL, as a one-time visitor. I didn’t officially join until 1958, when I stopped jungle exploration.

How did you find the hash?

I was a member of the Royal Selangor Club, which had many club members in the original HHH, KL.

How did you get the nickname Tumbling Bill?

By frequently falling over on hash runs.

When & where was your first away hash?

Singapore HHH, around 1963.

Where have you hashed?

Many, many places, on every continent except Antarctica.

Are there places you haven’t hashed but would like to?

Yes, or course – the world is a very big place!

Are there places where you wouldn’t consider hashing?

I don’t particularly like hashing in very busy traffic with frequent lightening strikes.

Do you have any favorite haring techniques?

Setting back checks to confuse the FRBs in particular.

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

Being recognized as an octogenarian hashman at two of my favourite hash chapters recently.

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

Dislocating my right shoulder on a run around the Selangor in the ‘70s.

What is the most dangerous trail you’ve done?

Running along a bare ridge top during a severe electrical storm.

If you could pick the location of a future Interhash, where would it be, and why?

I’m not fussy.

What do you most love about hashing? What keeps you coming back?

The easygoing comradeship.

What part of hashing could you do without?

Occasional excessive vulgarity.

Have your attitudes toward hashing or hashers changed over the years?

I’m becoming increasingly annoyed at the long, noisy circles that are becoming commonplace in some hash chapters, led by long-winded, noisy, foul-mouthed individuals.

Do you tell everyone you meet about the hash, or only people you think might become good hashers?

Only those who might be interested.

What have you contributed to hashing?

My work on the genealogy of hashdom was, and continues to be, the most satisfying.

What’s in your hashing future?

Continue as long as I can – I am now an octogenarian hasher, so time is of the essence!

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