The Hash House Harriers, now more commonly known as the Hash or HHH or H3, received its humble beginnings in 1938 from a Britisher named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert (known to his friends as G), in what is now Malaysia. The fraternity received its name from the Selangor Club Chambers, in Kuala Lumpur, which due to its lackluster food was commonly referred to as the “Hash House”. They (army officers) decided that before dinner they should take some exercise in the form of a run. To make it more interesting they decided that one of them should lay a trail, which the others would follow. And so was born the Hash House Harriers.

Since then Hashing has spread through the Anglophone expatriate community around the world. There are currently almost 1500 hashes, including groups in almost every major city in the world, listed in the World Hash House Harriers Database maintained by Global Trash, the world hash publisher.

Originally back in Malaysia Hash trails were laid by two hares. They used 4-inch square paper cuttings from the Malay Mail. Checks were simply a loss of scent (the paper would run out). “Check!” would be called and runners would then go in all directions in search of more scent (which we now refer to as ‘hash’, or the paper cuttings of that day). On sighting hash, “On!” or “On here! (Oh, boy)” would be heard (“ON – ON!” today). False trails were introduced to confuse the pack of hounds. They allowed the slow runners to catch up with the leaders (termed FRB’s today). There were no markings for checks, arrows, ON IN’s, etc.; all of these would come as the sport developed in later years.

“In those good old days, most of the Hash House members had Malay car drivers – syces. The procedure on the weekly run days was for the two ‘hares’ to go in a car with the haversacks full of torn-up paper in the boot of their car. The car was also loaded up with a large galvanised tin bath packed with ice, bottle beer and ginger beer, to a pre-arranged starting point and then set off to lay the paper trails. The ‘hares’ provided the beer and ginger beer each week at their own expense. The club never had any funds as such and administration was minimal.

“Then the ‘hares’ set off, their driver waited until the ‘hounds’ arrived in their cars and, when all had started, the ‘hares’ driver led the other Malay drivers in their cars to the finishing point of the run, of which he had previously been informed by the ‘hares’. After numerous false trails had been investigated the ‘hounds’ eventually arrived at the finishing point where the ‘hares’ would have already started on the beer and ginger beer. Shandies were found to be more refreshing than beer itself. “The trails ran through rubber plantations, tin tailings and rough country, very rarely on roads.”

In some places around the world, hashes remember G with an Annual Gispert Memorial Hash on or near the anniversary of the day he died, February 11th, 1942. In a regimental history written by Brigadier I. Stewart: “About 0400 hrs (11 Feb) a considerable force of Japanese from track junction 751150 moved up the track for 200 yards to within ten yards of Battalion H. Q. and halted. They surprised and silently caught Captain Gispert, the mortar officer, and three men and killed them.” Cecil Lee later states, “So perished a gallant, kindly, happy soul whose memory the years do not efface. He would be pleased, and I think amused, to know how the HHH have persisted and spread.”

Hashing is best described as an activity for runners with a drinking problem (or is it the other way round) the Hash has grown from its original solely male and military beginnings to include civilians of both genders and all hues and ages.

Today the principal aim of hashes is to enable groups of mixed ability runners to run together by following a trail set by one of their number, a trail confused by lots of false trails so that the faster hounds or front runners get lost and give the rest of the running pack time to catch up. When the real trail is found the call of “ON – ON” must go up so the stragglers know which way to go. There are no rules but it is generally accepted that there is no competition in Hashing and racing is a heinous crime punishable in the obvious way (see below). Short cutting is tolerated (‘SCB’) but only if you are not spotted! The sole arbiter of fact is the HASHMASTER he (or she) alone will decide what is and what is not allowed (if you don’t like that go and play cricket or something, cos that’s the way it is, always has been and always will be).

But beware if you want to offer advice, no Hash Master takes kindly to snitchers or to people who think they know better than him (or her).

At the end of every Hash there is Hash Business when free drinks, to be drunk in one (‘Down down’) without stopping, are given to all those deserving of such for whatever reason the Hash Master may decide. NO arguing and NO speeches! If you can’t drink it you must wear it (pour it over your head!). If you don’t like it don’t come back.

Quite often but not necessarily always after the Hash there will be an ON – ON when all who wish to will do as the original Hash House Harriers did and enjoy a meal and a few drinks in the company of like minded folk.

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