HISTORY OF THE HASH HOUSE HARRIERS
G" Gispert established the Hash House Harriers in colonial K.L. in 1938. This is an account of how it all began.
Alberto Stephano Ignatius Gispert was born in July 31st, 1903. He was the youngest of seven children, four brothers and two sisters. His Catalan Spaniard parents maintained homes in both native Barcelona and London, immigrated to the U.K. before his birth, thus making him an Englishman.
He was educated mainly in London, before training as an accountant with H.S. Baker & Co. In 1928 he applied for admission to the Institute of Chartered Accountants and was accepted. With the letters A.C.A. behind his name, he applied for a position abroad. Interviewed in London, he was accepted for a position in the Far East with Evatt & Co. He packed his trunk and embarked for Singapore, then one of the Federated States of Malaya.
There was no swift passage to Singapore, the journey was 28 days by sea. Gispert signed a normal first contract for four years, followed by eight months leave. Second and subsequent contracts covered three years and six months leave.
Playing tennis or swimming were the main recreation unless one was inclined towards rugby or cricket.
In August 1934, Gispert was assigned to meet another new recruit, a Mr. Ronald Bennett. "G" and "Torch" (as he became to be called because of his shock of flaming red hair) were to become the best of pals.
The accounting business was expanding so in 1936 "Torch" was moved to K.L. Later to take some pressure off the K.L. office a branch was opened in Malacca. In 1937, "G" was appointed Branch Manager.
That same year, in July, "G" became a father. His son, Simon, arrived during his U.K. home leave. The marriage came later. His bride-to-be was then still awaiting the finalisation of divorce proceedings from a certain Mr. Nobby Land, another old Malaya hand. Putting Nobby's wife in the family way cost "G" a placatory payment of 200 pounds (Stg).
During his posting in Malacca, he discovered, to his relish, the local Springgit Harriers. Mostly men, but a few women, they ran in and around the nearby rubber estates. "G" introduced "Torch" to these hare and hound paper chases in 1938. This non-competitive running sport was right up "G's" street. That same year, "G" transferred to the Kuala Lumpur office. He sorely missed his outings with the Malacca Harriers group and began making several enquiries.
He had heard from Cecil Lee that the former popular K.L. Harriers had faded into obscurity. "G" concluded that he both could and should revive it. He quickly set about sowing the Springgit seeds in the Malaysian capital. "Torch" gave tremendous support for his idea. They frequently discussed the project over a bottle of Tiger beer, beneath the twirling ceiling fans at the famous Long Bar of the Selangor Club. The Harrier topic was often raised at dinner too, in the adjacent Selangor Chambers.
Asking around further in his now expanding circle of friends and acquaintances, "G" found Frederick Thomson (who was known as "Tommy" but later came to be called "Horse" due to his equine features).
One early Friday evening, towards the end of 1938, "G's" persistence finally paid off. He at least managed to coerce some of his friends to go out and run on his inaugural paper trail. They were: “Horse" Thomson, Cecil H. Lee, Eric Galvin, M.C. Hay, Arthur Westrop, Morris Edgar, John Barrett, Harry Doig and later were joined by Frank Woodward, Philip Wickens, Lew Davidson and John Wyatt-Smith. One absentee from this run was "Torch" Bennett who was on leave in the U.K. at the time.
Young bachelor expatriates and those temporarily separated from their wives had their own messes where they were billeted. The Selangor Club Chambers, situated within the environs of the Selangor Club was one such mess. The food served downstairs in the dining room was quite palatable but some meals could perhaps have been improved upon and less repetitious. The mild disapproval and criticism led to it being tagged "Hash House".
After "G's" inaugural run and he cast around for a name for this group, they quickly dubbed it
"The Hash House Harriers"
The "Hash" became popular with the group and Friday runs continued. The average turnout was a low 12. Sometimes attendance could be counted on one hand! Hash trails were laid by two hares. They used 4" square white paper offcuts. Paper simply stopped abruptly to represent lost scent. "Check!". It began again within a defined radius depending on the terrain. Calls were simple. "On!" or "On here!" False trails were also used to confuse the pack of hounds. They acted as back-checks allowing the slow runners to catch up with the leaders. The Hares carried in their car boots large galvanised tin baths packed with ice, bottled beer and ginger beer. The beer and ginger beer were provided by the "Hares" each week at their own expense. The Club never had any funds as such and administration was minimal. The "Hash House Harriers" postponed their runs on No. 117 on December 12, 1941, one week after the Japanese landed on Singapore Island.
In 1946, "Torch" Bennett re-established the "Hash House Harriers" on Mondays after the war. The first post-war run was held in August 1946. The "Hash" went on from there. Singapore became the second "Hash" in the world in 1962. The "Brunei Hen House Harriers" were the first all women group to form in 1966 and in 1968 the "Ipoh Harriets" were credited with introducing the word "Harriette" into the "Hash" vocabulary. By 1973, there were 35 clubs worldwide and four years later there were 91.
Sadly, Gispert was never to see the fruits of his creation. While in K.L. "G" was Captain Gispert, Officer in Charge, "A" Company, Selangor Battalion in the Federated Malay States Volunteers. By 1941, the group was largely disbanded. When "G" returned from leave in Australia he joined the 'ARGYLLS'. "G" was the Mortar Officer and in February 1942, he was killed in an ambush thus denying him the opportunity to experience his vision of a global group of piss heads who enjoy running.
Today a "Hash" T-shirt is a good passport. It allows its wearer to enjoy a run and a few beers in 160 countries. There are almost 1500 clubs listed on the computer. Of this total over 1200 are active, involving over 90,000 men and women of like mind. Or should that be half a mind? In fact it was Phil Kirkland of the Hong Kong Hash who in 1978 coined;
"IF YOU'VE HALF A MIND
TO JOIN HASH
THAT'S ALL YOU'LL NEED!"