Hashtorical Revisionism

Ask hashers about the history of the Hash House Harriers, and most of them will tell you it started in Kuala Lumpur in 1938. Hashers with a deeper understanding of hash history will tell you that “harrier clubs” had been around in Malaysia since the early 1930s, and some will mention the British school tradition of “hare and hounds” and “paper chase” runs, which goes back to at least the mid-1800s. The hash consensus, however, is that A.S. Gispert — “G” — started hashing as we know it today when he founded the Kuala Lumpur HHH in December 1938.

Thanks, MTM, for reminding us on hash-l that hash history goes back further than most of us realize. Responding to a message about the Singapore HHH, she said:

I think there might be a bit of dispute over who was the father of the hash. Johor Bahru (across the causeway, (i.e. just a few minutes walk/drive from Singapore) in Malaysia claims to be the father hash. If I remember correctly, they believe that unofficial hash run (runs?) were held by G and others in 1932 before the regular hash runs in KL. . . .

MTM sent me on a paper chase of my own, tracking down snippets of hashing history from various books and web sites. Here’s some of what I found:

  • The founder of the HASH, A. S. “G” Gispert, in 1937 discovered the Springgit Harriers, one of the paper chase clubs, in Malacca. He introduced Ronald “Torch” Bennett to the concept and the stage was set. When “G” returned to Kuala Lumpur in 1938, he became a member of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Reserves, which trained on Mondays. “G” and many of the other ex-pat Brits were housed in barracks in the Royal Selangor Club where he and “Torch” would often discuss starting a harrier club in KL (Kuala Lumpur). Finally in about December of 1938, “G” convinced about a dozen others to follow his inaugural paper trail. – From “On On! Run #2 Hash House Harriers 1938-1992? by Tim “Magic” Hughes.
  • The first organized Hash chapters . . . appeared in the first years of 1930 — the Kuala Lumpur Harriers, the Kinta Harriers of Ipoh and the Springit Harriers founded in Malacca in the year 1935. These Hash chapters were the first in Malaysia and in the world. Albert Gispert was a member of the Springit Harriers and after being transferred to Kuala Lumpur in 1938, he founded the KLH3. All Clubs ceased operation during the World War II. After the war the KLH3 was called Mother Hash. – Hashing History written by Dick Limann of the Malacca HHH.
  • The idea of Harriers chasing paper was not new to Malaya in 1938, as there had been such clubs before in Kuala Lumpur and Johore Bahru, and there were clubs in existence in Malacca and Ipoh (the Kinta Harriers) at the time. “Horse” Thomson (one of the KLH3 founding fathers) recalled being invited on a run, shortly after his arrival in Johore Bahru in 1932, which chased a paper trail and followed basic Hash rules every week but was so magically organized that it had no name. The club flourished in the early 1930?s but is believed to have died out around 1935. The other branch of our ancestry comes from Malacca, where A. S. (‘G’) Gispert was posted in 1937 and joined a club called the Springgit Harriers, who also operated weekly under Hash rules and are believed to have been formed in 1935. Some months later, ‘Torch’ Bennett visited him and came as a guest on a few runs. – More hashing history, written by Mike Lyons.
  • Talk at lunch turned to Hare and Hounds, the game that many of them had been exposed to and enjoyed as public schoolboys in England. G also talked of the fun he’d had with harrier clubs. Horse Thompson — an office colleague of Gispert with a rather equine face — had r*n paper chases in 1932 when based in Johor Bahru. He then moved to Malacca and started another club there, the Springgit Harriers, a year or so later. Gispert would occasionally pass through on work matters and Horse would invite him to join the r*n. “As a matter of fact, we started the Hash in Johor Bahru in 1932,” said Horse Thompson. “Then we started another one in Malacca a year or two later and, thereafter, we started r*nning in Taiping.” They were mixed groups. Even dogs occasionally ran on these paper trails. . . . These clubs all became progressively extinct sometime around 1934. . . . However, some reports had G taking Torch Bennett on a harrier r*n when on an outstation audit in Malacca in the first few months of 1938. – From “Hare of the Dog” by Stu Lloyd.

When you run a Google search for “harrier club” today, you find links to British cross-country running and walking clubs. Although they describe themselves as social clubs, they are clearly more athletic than the Hash House Harriers. You’ll search in vain for the old Malaysian harrier clubs in Ipoh, Malacca, and Johor Bahru, but I don’t doubt they were flourishing in the 1930s and very much like today’s Hash House Harriers — the fact that Mike Lyons says the Johor Bahru Harriers and Springgit Harriers followed hash rules is particularly telling. It’s also interesting that Stu Lloyd says the precursor hashes in Johor Bahru, Malacca, and Taiping were mixed — one wonders whether by “mixed” he means racially or sexually (either one would have been shockingly radical for British ex-pat society in Malaya in the 1930s) — but that’s an issue for future exploration.

My conclusions? Hashing as we know it today dates back to 1932, not 1938; Johor Bahru Harriers was the first hash; founders were legion and largely unknown; if we’re going to single out individuals, Horse Thompson should get equal billing with G. But that would upset the beer cart, and no one wants that . . . KLHHH has been the acknowledged “mother hash,” and G the acknowledged founder of hashing, for far too long to change now. And when you get right down to it, does the average hasher waiting in line at the keg give a shit?

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