History of the Hash House Harriers


Ancient Harriers

Hash House Harrier roots extend back to the old English schoolboy game of "Hares and Hounds," in which some players, called "hounds," chase others, called "hares," who have left a trail of paper scraps along their route across fields, hedges, streams, bogs, and hills. One of the earliest Hares and Hounds events on record was the "Crick Run" at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, first held in 1837.

Hare and Hounds as an adult sport began in the fall of 1867 with a group of London oarsmen who wanted to keep fit during the winter. Also called "Paper Chasing" or the "Paper Chase," the game became very popular after its introduction on Wimbledon Common in 1868 by the Thames Hare and Hounds. Early clubs called themselves "Hare and Hounds" or simply "Harriers."

Early Harriers

The idea of Harriers chasing paper was not new to Malaya (now Malaysia) 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 organised 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 by Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, an English chartered accountant (known to his friends as 'G') was posted in 1937. He joined a club called the Springgit Harriers, who also operated weekly under Hash rules and which is believed to have been formed in 1935. Some months later, 'Torch' Bennett visited him and came as a guest on a few runs.

The Hash House

The Original Hash House (Kuala Lumpur) Circa 1938

The 'Hash House' was the mildly derogative nickname given (for its unimaginative, monotonous food) to the Selangor Club Chambers, by the British Civil Servants and businessman who lived and dined there. Originally, the ground floor housed the main Selangor Club dining room, and between the two World Wars it became a social center of the times, used regularly for lunch time meals by the members who worked in the immediate vicinity.

Situated close to and behind the present Selangor Club, it's function changed after independence and it became a key office for the local Water Board, as it was the place where all Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) residents came to pay their water bills. Sadly, it gave way to the relentless march of time around 1964, being bulldozed to the ground under the north-bound lane Jalan Kuching. The buildings housing the original stables and servants quarters are still in existence.

Hash House Harriers

By 1938, Thomson, Lee, and Gispert had all moved to K.L. and founded their own club, following the rules they had learnt elsewhere. The principal original members were:


A. S. ('G') Gispert
Cecil Lee
'Horse' Thomson
Torch' Bennett
Eric Galvin
H.M. Doig
Soon joined by others, including:

Frank Woodward
Philip Wickens
Lew Davidson
John Wyatt-Smith
M. C. Hay

The philosophy of the original Hash House Harriers from the 1938 charter:

-To promote physical fitness among our members
-To get rid of weekend hangovers
-To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
-To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel

It is not clear that the club actually had a name at the very beginning, but Gispert is credited with proposing the 'Hash House Harriers' when the Registrar of Societies required the gathering to be legally registered.

'Torch' Bennett technically missed being a founder member, because he was then on leave, but on his return he introduced the first necessary organisation - a bank account, a balance sheet and some system. More importantly, he seems, with Philip Wickens who joined later in 1939, to have helped to keep things going immediately after the war.

Sadly, Gispert had only a short time with his extraordinary creation, being killed in the fighting on Singapore Island on February 11th, 1942, whilst serving with the Argylls. But with the exception of Philip Wickens who died in 1981, and Lew Davidson who died very recently, the rest of the hardy band of hashers hare still with us and the KL hash House Harriers keeps in touch with them all. [Editor's note: Torch died soon after this was prepared in 1992]

The founding members were all British, although Gispert was actually Spanish in origin, his parents having migrated to London some time before he was born. Extraordinarily both he and Bennett were accountants, as were Paul Barnard and Jack Bridewell who made a significant contribution to our activities of later years. Some Hash psychiatrist should investigate where this work leads to extreme forms of escapism.

The HHH duly celebrated it 100th run on 15 August 1941, but only 17 runs later was forced into temporary hibernation by the arrival of the Japanese.

Post-war Rebirth

Post World War II, it was nearly 12 months before the survivors reassembled. 'Torch' Bennett put in a claim for the lost hash mugs, a tin bath and two old bags, on the fund set up with the proceeds from confiscated Japanese property and run No. 1 was a trot around the racecourse in August, 1946. Subsequent to the 1,000th post war run the celebrations surround it were considered to be such a success that the 117 official pre-war runs were added to the total as we could celebrate the 2,000th run as soon as possible.

With the advent of the Emergency in 1948, the Hash was automatically in bad official odour, as their activities were generally illegal in terms of the curfew imposed on most of the areas surround Kuala Lumpur and in the years 1948-51, they maintained a precarious existence at best. The turn round came with the famous bandit incident at Cheras.

This has been widely misreported, but what actually happened was that below where the Lady Templer Hospital is now, in an area that was then rubber and belukar, the Hares on a darkening and rainy evening came across some men wrapped in ground sheets sleeping on the ground. The following pack found the bandits on their feet but someone, in the general confusion nobody got hurt. One member ran to Cheras Police Station and raised the alarm; the army laid ambushes on tracks leading out of the area and first thing the following morning bagged three bandits trying to break out. One of them was found to have a substantial price on his head and the bounty was shared among the non-government employees on the run (government servants were not allowed to participate in such rewards).

Other colourful incidents related by Cecil Lee, include how 'Torch' Bennett once nearly drowned in quicksand, and how on one memorable occasion the erstwhile unathletic 'G' was actually leading the pack: sadly his moment of glory was short lived as the paper trail turned to be false. Swimming would seem to be an unofficial prerequisite to all Hashmen too, for Cecil remembers having had to swim across a mining pool in order to get home after being lost on one occasion, and on another it is reported that several Hashmen ran in to a stream where bathed some unsuspecting Malay maidens. The girls screamed; their menfolk came hurtling to the rescue with the unsheathed parangs flashing, and the errant Hashmen broke land speed records in the eagerness to clear the scene.

The Hash Spreads Out

The second Hash Chapter was founded in Singapore in 1962, [Editor's note: The Royal Italian Bordighera Hash was begun in the late '40s but died by the late '50s. It was later resurrected by members of the Milan H3] followed by Kuching in 1963, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu and Ipoh in 1964, Penang in 1965, and Perth was the first outside Malaysia and Singapore in 1967.

1974 the total was only 35 clubs (The time of K.L. 1,500th run)
1992 the total was around 1,100 clubs in over 135 countries & all continents (including Antarctica)
1999 the total was around 1,700 clubs in over 180 countries

So the expansion of the HHH has been spectacular indeed. Kabul HHH understandably foundered, but what can it be like to hash in Sinai, Peking, Addis Ababa or the Falkland Islands? [Editor's note: The aforementioned second hash dating back to 1962 was founded in Singapore by Ian Cumming who is still actively hashing with the New York H3. He is also a primary contributor to every hash songbook].


The first attempt at an Interhash get-together was the K.L. 1,000th post-war run in 1966, and the spectacular 1500th run in 1973 when attendance was something over 300. Interhash 1978 in Hong Kong broke new ground with an attendance around 800; Interhashes 1980 and 1982 were credited with 1,200 - 1,300; Interhash 1984 with rather more Interhash 1986 broke the 2,000 barrier with 2,143.

Attendance at Bali for Interhash 1988 was reported to bet between 2,600 and 2,700. Interhash 1990 in Manila was affected by the then current state of emergency in the country, but nevertheless some 1,600 intrepid Hashers were let loose in Manila and survived to tell the tale.

Interhash 1992 in Phuket, Thailand does not seem to be affected by the recent unhappy turmoil in Bangkok and, judging by reported registrations the numbers are set to pass 3,000. [Editor's note: Interhash 1994 in New Zealand drew nearly 4,000, Interhash 1996 in Cyprus drew 6,000 and Interhash 1998 in Kuala Lumpur had over 7,000 participants]



Combined from sources including: notes written in 1992 by Mike Lyons from the copious research material prepared by John Duncan. Transcribed in 1994 by Tom "Self-Executing Officer" Moore, On-Sec, Boston H3, and edited by Chas. "ZiPpY tC" Baumerich, On-Sec, Pikes Peak H4.


This 'version' of the history is disputed by RMBHHH.

One of the originals, Gus McKay, left KL for military service in the war
and ended up liberating Italy. He eventually married an Italian woman that
he had liberated and settled with her at Bordighera on the Med. Shortly
after or during his wedding he was visited by old timers from KL and, of
course, they hashed.

The Bordighera hash was infrequent but recruited locals and military
during the post war years - including the son of the then king of Italy
who was studying nearby, hence "Royal" Bordighera HHH. Gus died in the
60's leaving a widow, and the hash lapsed.

Many years later a hash was founded in Milan (about 1990) by Rob 'Bwana'
Walker. Making contact with KL hashers he was informed of the history (by
'Magic' Johnson) and suggested to try to make contact with any survivors.
Mrs McKay was still alive and one or two others and so a 'joint hash' was
held where it was decided to merge the two hashes and take over the number
of runs from RBHHH. Hence 'Royal Milan and Bordighera HHH'. Mrs McKay,
though not active, became the most venerated Grand Matress and attended
once a year for some years.

Every year the RMBHHH returns to the coastal area near Bordighera for the
'Ghost on the Coast' hash where the ghost of Gus McKay frequently

Singapore (and others) dispute RMBHHH's claim to be the second oldest hash
apparantly on the grounds that the hash has not been continuous. However
even the mother hash KL was suspended during the war.

I have the distinction of being the worst hash cash RMBHHH ever had.
Becoming rapidly and frequently pissed (it is largely a wine drinking
hash) my numeracy skills deserted me most times I was required to actually
'do something' (all those big numbers - thousands and thousands of Lira).
Especially difficult as the hash fee included the Trattoria meal.





The Lady In Red with Flying Booger

Most hashers know that the San Diego HHH started the annual Red Dress Run tradition in 1988. Most hashers also know there actually was a “lady in a red dress” behind it all. Some time in 1987 a member of the Long Beach HHH brought a virgin to the hash. The young lady ran trail wearing high heels and a red dress, and later that night went hot tubbing with her new friends, in (or out of?) that same little red dress. The Lady in Red still hashes, and attends Red Dress Runs whenever she can. I was fortunate enough to meet her at the jHavelina Hash House Harriers’ Red Dress Run in Tucson, Arizona, where she gave me her own write-up on the events of that night in 1987, the night that started one of the great hashing traditions, the annual Red Dress Run. Here, in her own words, is the history of the Red Dress Run.
- Flying Booger

Continued: See half mind website for full text >>>>


Extract: The Lady in Red:

"Ah, where to begin the tale of the legend of The Lady in Red and the original run? Well, way back in 1987, a friend that I had known since high school days convinced me to come to Long Beach, California for a “visit, some beers, and to meet a few friends.” I needed a break and it sounded relaxing, so I packed a toothbrush and not much more as I grabbed a flight to the Coast for the visit. "


"I watched the start of the run from the edge of the group. There was horn blowing, yelling, whistles blowing, and in an instant they were all gone, leaving me to watch the cloud of dust settle. I stood there looking at the chalk still in my hand. I had signed the forms, had been promised beer, and I was going to run. So, in a red dress and heels, I did just that. "


The Lady in Red carried on to say:

"The following year I had moved to Houston, Texas, where the San Diego Hash House Harriers tracked me down, sent me plane tickets, and demanded that I attend the first annual Red Dress Run being held in my honor! Word had spread up and down the Coast and hashers from all over California attended. Men and women alike were required to wear red dresses. I was later told that hundreds attended. California newspapers and TV news serviced covered the event"