The Hash House Harriers received its humble beginnings in 1938 from a Britisher named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, in what is now Malaysia. Having a fondness for the “paper chase”, he gathered together several expatriates to form a group in Kuala Lumpur that would later become a world-wide legacy. The fraternity received its name from the Selangor Club Chambers, which due to it’s lackluster food was commonly referred to as the ‘Hash House’.
There are currently almost1500 hashes, including groups in almost every major city in the world. Keep in mind when reading the history of hare and hounds, what separates the Hash House Harriers from other harriers groups is as much emphasis on the social camaraderie and non-competitive aspects of the group’s activities, as on the sport of hare and hounds itself. Whereas membership in other harrier groups can be traced by its founding members prior to 1938, it is generally accepted that the sport of Hash House Harriers, in contrast to other
hare and hounds groups, was defined by this particular club and all other groups of the Hash House Harriers can trace their lineage (directly or in concept) back to the Selangor Club Chambers or the Hash House in 1938.
There is evidence chronicled in the nineteenth century of the hares and hounds being a popular sport amongst English boarding or public schools. It was taken from Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes published in 1857. It depicted a meet by the Big-Side Hare and Hounds. Students busily tore up old newspapers, copybooks and magazines into small pieces to fill four large canvas bags with the paper scent. Forty or fifty boys gathered for the run and two good runners were chosen as hares who donned the bags and started across the fields laying trail. There would be a turnaround point at a church to discourage shortcutting, as the finish was known. The object, explained at the start, was to make the turnaround and finish at the pub within fifteen minutes of the hares. The hares were given a six-minute head start, then the pack was off. When scent was located, the member of the pack calls “Forward!” instead of the currently traditional “On On!”, otherwise the description of the trail is a typical cross-country fare familiar to all harriers – meadow, hedgerow, fence crossings, plowed fields, thorns, brooks, shiggy and hills. Members of the pack worked together finding scent and straining to keep up with the FRB’s (Front Running Bastards), as we call them today. The disappointment of the
DFL’s (Dead Fucking Last’s), again a term of today, was depicted as they contemplate short-cutting to the finish and being among the first historical SCB’s (Short Cutting Bastards).
Several harriers groups sprang up in the later part of the nineteenth century. With the advent of other sports, hare and hounds did not have the popularity of its earlier years and later became more of a fringe sport, however it was kept alive, especially as it moved later to the colonies.
The earliest colonial running hunt experience was depicted in a recent movie, where in American colonial days men were used as quarry while the English chased them on horseback with hounds in pursuit. Of course this depiction is one of cruelty, but nevertheless indicates that there was an earlier time when men were substituted in the hunt.
According to Magic’s research, there were hares and hounds groups in Malaysia as far back as 1927, when the Kuala Lumpur Harriers was founded. It is possible there were earlier hounds and hares events. This original K.L. group was a mixed club which went until at least 1932.
The Forming of the Hash House Harriers . . .
Much of what we know about the founding of the Hash House Harriers comes from Alberto Stephano Ignatius Gispert in Greenwich, London, England, he was the youngest of seven children. His parents were Spanish and had immigrated to London prior to his birth, making him an Englishman. When he became an accountant in 1928, he sought employment overseas and was sent to Singapore, then a state of what is now Malaysia.
In 1934, Gispert was sent to meet Ronald Torch Bennett (nicknamed for his red hair and who later became a founding member of the Hash House Harriers) when he arrived as a new member of the firm. They quickly became good friends. Torch was transferred to Kuala Lumpur in 1936 and Gispert was transfered as branch manager in Malacca in 1937.
Later in 1938 on a Friday evening, he finally persuaded his friends to go out and run his inaugural paper trail. The name was chosen from the Selangor Club Chambers nickname, Hash House, where much of the discussion concerning creating the hash developed, thus dubbed the Hash House Harriers. G originally took on duties as the On- Sec, convincing Cecil H. Lee and Frederick “Horse” Thompson to become the first Joint Masters. The first runs averaged a dozen, although attendance could sometimes be counted on one hand. (Take heart you would-be founders out there, as this is a normal beginning.)
Today, hashes around the world 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 quoted by Magic 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.”
It was some time before the international phenomena we are familiar with today began spreading around the world. The second Hash House Harriers chapter was formed in 1947 by Captain Gus Mackie in Bordighera, Italy (near Milan). And yes, they are emphatic about being the second Hash House Harriers! S.D.) Despite arguments from Magic and others more close to the Singapore HHH that the Singapore hash receive the second place honors.
It wasn’t until 1962 that the next group was formed in Singapore (that we know of anyway). Ian Cumming, formerly of the original hash, founded the Singapore HHH on 19 February 1962. A number of other hashes followed on the Malay peninsula and in Indonesia.
Another very popular tradition has developed to bestow membership and test the humor of potential members. After a runner has completed six runs (or in the case of some hashes, when one has earned it by doing something stupid, which could take much longer), the Hash membership (all those with hashnames) will determine an appropriate Hash name for the individual. These hashnames may be based upon appearance, ability, advice from “friends”, personality, and/or the whim of the Pack.
Once a hasher is bestowed a hashname, it is usually kept for life. However, many may change it when the opportunity arises as they move to other hashes and fewer still may request a change from the pack for various reasons. If this is allowed by local tradition (remember, it is part of the test for a sense of humor), the pack thinks long and hard for a hashname that will usually be more humiliating or nasty than the last.
A successful mismanagement makes these chores seem transparent to the pack, but it is much work nevertheless. In smaller hashes, two or more of these roles may be done by one individual (if at all) and the titles may follow a different label from hash to hash.
Sense of humor and sociability are more significant than rank or social position in the selection of these individuals. They are responsible for scheduling the runs and planning special events, as well as ensuring an unending Hare Line (roster of locations and [when determined] hares for upcoming events). In the case where the JM’s are expat’ and local, it is customary at some hashes to alternate the hares from expat’ to local from one event to the next and for the respective Joint Master to be primarily in charge of that event.
The Religious Advisor (RA) is the arbiter of hash tradition, master of ceremonies at the Down-Down and chief of hash protocol. When in the circle, the RA is always right, even when wrong. Other than presiding over the Down-Down, RA’s are also known to do “readings” or give “blessings” at the start of hashes (usually during the waiting period in Live Hare). The RA is responsible to ensure that deserving thirsts are quenched and for “baptisms”, or the giving of the hashname. During the naming, the RA assists and encourages the pack to choose an appropriate name, calls for a vote and presides over the baptism ceremony that follows.
Some RA’s take their roles seriously (or blasphemously), donning religious accouterments and concocting humorous parodies of religious ceremonies. The most successful RA’s are the individuals who are good speakers, can give or take a joke well, and are generally well thought of by most of the pack (the latter is important because all the shit the RA dishes out will be better received by a friendly group).
The RA may be assisted by a Hash Monk (Hash Acolyte, Hash Snitch, etc.). The Hash Monk assists the RA by pouring beer and other Down-Down activities. This person also assists the RA in locating infractions of hash traditions or awardable behavior on the trail. There may be two or more of these positions in the larger hashes. They are also the ones who encourage proper participation in the down down (as physically as allowed by local tradition). In smaller hashes, the hares or others in the mismanagement committee assist the RA.
The On-Sec (pluralized On-Sex) keeps track of roster of hashers (their address/telephone info, number runs and other stats), does a periodic mailout of the Hash Trash (hash newsletter), sends out publicity on the hash and events, and acts as the point of contact with interhash sources and periodicals. Considering that the first On-Sec was “G” himself, it can be easily seen that this is a very important position. Choosing an On-Sec can be more difficult, as it is a thankless, time- consuming job that is usually best done by a “volunteer”. Today, candidates who possess a word processor and database capability are more valuable for this position and should be considered.
The individual who tracks the all important hash funds is known as the Hash Cash. The Hash Cash collects the fees and provides reimbursement for the food or refreshments used at the hash. The position becomes even more important when the hash hosts an interhash, as the monies collected can be considerable. Therefore, you want to select a trustworthy individual for this position who can be a bit ‘anal’ about tracking funds, while at the same time being friendly in dealings with hashers.
The Hash Scribe (Hash Words, Hash Bard, etc.) does the writeup of each run and provides it to the On-Sec for the Hash Trash. In some cases, the Hash Scribe does the entire Hash Trash, mailing with labels provided by the On-Sec. Other hashes appoint a different Hash Scribe at each hash to write up the run, to provide a different style and viewpoint each week, lightening the load of the On-Sec.
A Haberdasher (Hash Rags, Hasherdabber, etc.) may be chosen to design, purchase and look after the hash inventory of shirts, whistles, decals, and other hash paraphernalia. This position is usually done by the Hash Cash in the smaller hashes.
The Song Master (Hash Music, Music Master, Master of Music, Choir Master, etc.) leads the hash in song and teaches new songs to the pack as they become available. Showmanship, rather than voice, is the most important attribute for this position. This task is performed by the RA or Hash Master in smaller hashes. The Hash Hymnal is without a doubt the best resource for this position.
The Biermeister (Beer Master, Brew Master, Hash Drunk, Hash Grog, Hash Piss, etc.) provides refreshments and snacks for the hashes. This person is usually a volunteer (you never see anyone fighting over the position, as it is another thankless job!), with a truck or the means to get the beer to the hash. In smaller hashes, it is traditional to have the hares provide the beer. In a rare number of hashes, it is mandatory for the haring responsibility to alternate to each hasher from time to time and the hares must provide the refreshments and snacks at their own expense. Other
Other optional positions include the Hash Horn, who is the best (most active or only) bugler in the group. There is the Hash Flash, who captures each event for posterity and maintains the hash scrapbook. In the larger hashes, there is a dedicated Hare Raiser (or Trail Master) who keeps the hare line up and trains new hares. As stated before, the Hash Master is usually responsible for this if there is no dedicated Hare Raiser. There is sometimes a dedicated Interhash On-Sec that maintains correspondence with other hashes, keeps publications abreast of contact/mismanagement changes and coordinates “away hashes” for the pack. These duties fall to the HM or On-Sec, as befits them, in smaller hashes.
These individuals make up the Mismanagement Committee. They are elected periodically by the pack. For the packs which have a quick turnover (such as one with many expat’s), an election every six months is wise and allows ‘short-timers’ an opportunity to serve. Other hashes elect their misfits once a year. It is suggested that longer terms make it very difficult to get rid of a bastard who lets it go to his or her head or does a poor job, so keep these terms as brief as possible. The optimum appears to be a year, so that the mismanagement can plan for the next year’s events, without making lame duck decisions that heap responsibilities on the new mismanagement. Again, this is another “Whim of the Pack” type decision. The “election” (or erection – the intimidating, threatening, pleading, groveling, etc. process that it is) is normally announced at least one month in advance so than members and old mismanagement can have time to convince (coerce) hashers to participate, since hashers, by their very nature, are competitive only to the extent of getting to the finish (beer, etc.).
The run itself is marked by different volunteer hares each hash. The Hash Master (or sometimes Hare Raiser) keeps track of upcoming runs and assigns hares based on experience, matching new hares with a more experienced one. Each hash member is expected to set a hash periodically. Runs should change geographical locations regularly to avoid overlapping previous trails.
A Down-Down is the chug-a-lug of a (usually twelve ounce, pint or half-liter) beer or carbonated beverage from the Hash Mug, accompanied by the local Hash drinking song. With the fear of diseases now prevalent, disposable cups are now being substituted as desired. When the signal is given to begin (or the song reaches “Drinking down, down, down, down…”), hashers who are “awarded” will drink until the mug leaves the lips, after which the mug immediately goes over the head to demonstrate to the pack the quantity of the remaining contents. The following is one scenario which may be used to promote a social, humorous and friendly atmosphere. The sequence and steps vary from Hash to Hash and this is certainly not written in concrete. Once you have found what works best for your hash, develop your own tradition: One Tradition
After the last runner has finished, not to include those who are Dead on Trail (DOT), the Hash Master will signal the beginning of the Down-Down Ceremony and welcome any visiting hashers with a down-down. The hares take over the issuance of down-downs for landmark runs (1st, 5th, 6th, 25th, etc.), calling in the RA on the 6th to conduct the naming of any hashers reaching that plateau. They conduct the ceremony until all landmarks are called for then call for a whistle check (see list that follows this paragraph). In the case of shyness, the HM, RA or some other member of the mismanagement may be appointed to conduct the first portion of the Down-Down. Using the hares for the first part allows for others to lead the down-down, relieves the monotony of having the same boring person (RA) in the circle all the time, and allows the pack to recognize potential mismanagement for future elections. The hares present the Down-Downs in the following order: 1st run
6th run (the hares call over the RA for the naming at this run number, if a person originally had a name and decided to keep it, they do not have to celebrate with a down down.)
50th run (and every 25 runs thereafter)
69th run (and every run ending in “69”)
75th, 100th, 125th, 150th, 169th, etc.
Last run (someone leaving the area)
Then, the hares call for a “Whistle-Check!”, which begins about a minute-long, loud cacophony of whistles, horns, bugles, etc. Down-down awards are given to all named hashers without such a device. Should a device not be loud enough for the Pack, it could be brought to question by any hasher and voted on.
The hares then turn the ceremony over to the RA, who first calls for a vote on the suitability of the trail. One good method is to award zero beers for a perfect trail (seldom awarded and a goal to be achieved) and four beers if less than half the pack accidentally found the On-In. One to three beers are awarded for mistakes in marking tradition, poor marking, etc. Remember, mud (shiggy), rough terrain, challenging trails, etc., are good things in hashing and not to be considered when doling out awards. Anything over four beers (four pints or two liters) is considered a waste of good brew. If the hares were caught, that is a separate down-down, which will include one beer for each catch to be done as one. Down-downs for hares are like “no-fault” insurance- “the sins of one hare are the sins of the other”. If one laid a bad trail or got caught, all hares drink. They are also judged on their conduct in running the down-down. If they screw up the sequence or forget something, then another beer is in order.
In many Hashes, the hares are always awarded a Down-Down. However, providing awards to hares only for bad trails, getting caught, screwing up the down-downs or thoroughly “pissing off” the Pack (sometimes one beer for each violation), will do much to encourage well-marked trails. Again, the rule is the “Whim of the Pack”. The Religious Advisor is then called to the circle by the hares. The RA asks the Pack if there were any others deserving an award (poor trail courtesy, new shoes, color-coordinated or designer running outfits, etc., otherwise known as “Ah Shits”). A runner may question any award, except a landmark run. In the case of a Hasher contesting an award, a kangaroo court will ensue with a prosecutor and defense attorney appointed by the Religious Advisor. The Pack is the Jury and the Religious Advisor calls the vote “Hash vote? Ready…!” Thumbs-up and silence indicates a positive reaction from the Pack. The usual response is a thumbs-down and a loud “Huah!”, indicating that the award will stand. On rare occasions, extenuating circumstances will move the Pack to drop the award or seek a proxy for the Down-Down. Simultaneous, two or more beer awards may be given for the questioning of a Down-Down (“Quibbling” or “Whining!”), upsetting the Pack, or gross violations of the Hash traditions (such as pre-marking live hare trails or using a motorized conveyance on the trail).
Sometimes it seems a little presumptuous to presume that a physical activity could be an art, but to a hasher, the design and deployment of a successful Hare and Hounds trail is like the completion of a masterpiece. It is a work beheld and appreciated by the pack, who are more demanding than any art critics you will ever meet. Of course, you will never please all the hashers, but on rare occasions you can obtain, in the circle, an overwhelming consensus of a job well done. That is what makes the scouting, practice and hard work worth the effort.
Tastes vary widely in trail design and features and I am the last person to try and understand it, even when I am successful. Sometimes you tend to be your own worst critic. Even after a well received trail, I tend to think of areas that could have been done better.
In my hash tradition there is a zero to four beer award for trails given from best to worst appropriately. On the vary rare occasion that I have received a zero beer award, it has usually come as a surprise. But even more important, there are times when I thought I had laid the perfect trail only to get a beer or three due to the capricious nature of the pack. The pack can be somewhat of a guide as to your success, but don’t always depend on your hashing peers for an objective view.
Every Hash House Harriers group should have a Trailmaster. In smaller hashes, this is usually the Hash Master (HM) or Joint Hash Master (JM) (although some hashes only have a Grand Master, due to size or differing terminology in the local tradition). The larger hashes have a person dedicated to the development and training of hares, as well as keeping the Hareline (or scheduled runs with hares) full. This Trailmaster (sometimes called Hare Raiser) should be one of the more experienced hares in the group, have an ability to teach others (with some amount of tact) and keep the most important aspect of the hash healthy and well-scheduled – the trails.
I know, any hasher will humorously state that beer is the most important aspect of a Hash House Harriers, but this is simply not true. Trail does not make a hash and may be viewed as a means of getting to the beer by many of us, however, without the trail, you are simply a drinking club – not a Hash House Harriers. I think a lot of hashers seem to have lost sight of this, judging from their poor trails, pub crawls without any defined trail and the clamor from the fat and lazy at interhashes: “Never leave camp!” You only want to party? Join a fraternity. Hashers are first and foremost sportsmen (or sportspersons so as not to offend the harriettes). The first hash and everyone thereafter were formed to chase the paper or follow the trail. The drinking, singing and other social activity were simply what set us apart from other Hare and Hounds groups – we like to relax after our trails and enjoy ourselves.
All that said, this work is for those who take seriously the main point of the sport – the laying of the trail and in most cases the chasing of the hare. As hares, we take great pride in our efforts to thwart the pack, deceiving them within the boundaries of our local tradition, yet laying a well-defined and easily followed trail. It is a tough balancing act and one that takes a lot of effort and time to perfect. As Trailmasters, we get great satisfaction out of seeing well-done trails set by our students.
A well set hash trail is a work of art – held in highest esteem by our peers and a source of great pride. It is hoped that this humble work will give you ideas on how to improve your own art – from marking ideas to strategy suggestions to the other bits of experience passed on here. May your trails always bring the pack into the beer and may you always keep alive that excitement from your first haring to your next.
The simplest answer, of course, is that the newsletters of the social hounds and hares group called the Hash House Harriers are commonly referred to as Hash Trash. ‘Hash’, obviously for the group it represents, and ‘Trash’, because the contents are usually not worth consideration by the literary elite, much less by polite society. The irreverence of the sport and its members is well illustrated by the humorous depiction of events and the colorful jokes and other material in its pages.
Getting past this pedantic description, the Hash Trash has become as much a part of the frivolous nature of the Hash House Harriers as beer, bawdy song and mooning. A well-done trash is entertaining and read, not just laid aside like an ad leaflet. Hashers heartily await the next edition and there are some personal expectations – especially as hash names are humorously introduced in the writeups of previous runs. Common to most trashes are three basic components – humor, writeup and calendar.
Permeating all of the Hash Trash is humor, just as it is an integral part of the hashing life itself. Most hashers seek the Hash House Harriers not for sport, but for that release it gives to the drudgery of everyday life as doctors and nurses, lawyers and lawmakers, management and labor, consulate officials and guards, officers and enlisted, engineers and technicians, professors and teachers, etc. They seek that same release in their hash literature. It is seen in the treatment of the hash writeup, in bazaar notes of interest to hashers, in jokes in poems and lyrics and in cartoons. That is why it is mentioned first as a basic element of any trash and why it is an important goal for any hash scribe. It can be the old and trite to the newly created bit of humor. Nothing livens up an old joke than for a scribe to put a local hashing slant on it, especially if it is personalized with local characters:
“My mother-in-law is impossible!” Exclaimed Shorts Checker at the On-In. “She broke up our marriage.”
Puzzled over this, Stray Dog takes a sip of beer, then asks, “I’ll buy. Why’s that?”
Shorts Checker grins and answers, “My wife came home one evening and found us in bed together!”
A usually brief writeup of previous hashing events allows the scribe of the trash to play to the egos of participants, entertain those who were not mentioned, as well as inform those who missed out. Some trashes are longer and may include more detailed accounts. Some styles expose the mistakes and humorous deeds of participants. In a club that has for its only prerequisite a sense of humor, the occasional ribbing is a natural result. Unlike a sports writeup extolling the virtues of the swift and the competitive, the trash shuns competitors and, like a grocery store tabloid, seeks to expose the dirt on those who are more colorful or make mistakes in the sometimes varying and elusive traditions of the local hash.
On the other hand, those who follow local traditions are praised; hares who set good and imaginative trails are applauded. More exotic competitions may be award praise, such as the speedy chug of a beer.
Scribes have the power to reinforce local tradition by this means of stick and carrot. “The On Sec”, I was told once by an older, more experienced hasher than myself, “is the real power in the hash.” True, On Sec is a thankless and time consuming position, but there is much to be said about the “power of the pen”. The writeup is a significant force in keeping the local hash traditions in line. Putting in writing, humorously as it may be, what is or is not a screwup of these traditions is a sacred trust that should not be abused and should follow the general Whim of the Pack or RA or GM or Founder in whatever combination decides the local tradition. The scribe of these local traditions should be chosen well and should be one of the more experienced members of the group. The On Sec, who either does double duty as Hash Scribe or as editor of the trash, likewise must perform with the traditions of the group in mind.
As a founder of several hashes, I know it is difficult to turn over the reins to a new mismanagement and I have seen some founders who refused to do this and became Dictator for Life or the equivalent. This is not healthy for the hash as you need to allow it to take on its own traditions to fit the nature of the membership. One solution, and one I have taken many times, is to become the first On Sec and scribe, then you can gently guide tradition through the trash without appearing to take responsibilities away from the new mismanagement. The writeup is a good tool for training hares as well as the conduct of the pack, especially if done in humor, keeping the traditions within local bounds.
Humor does not have to be a separate part of the trash, but integrated within the writeup. A funny writeup is a goal to be obtained – as well as taking the edge off any hidden criticism you may have as mentioned above. It doesn’t have to be hilarious and subtlety has its place in hash humor, as does exaggeration, witty sarcasm, and other tools of humor.
In earlier days of the hash, the trash need only contain a hareline, or a list of upcoming runs, which usually included dates and locations. However, with the size of the hash growing, with larger cities containing more than one hash, it is useful to include an Interhash Calendar as well. The On-Sec or Scribe should include this to broaden the horizons of the local hashers by exposing them to hash events outside the local group. A calendar of these events is simple and can be chosen from or copied entirely from the Global Trash Future Tortures calendar or other sources available in publications and on-line at web sites. At the very least, a mention should be make of any special events neighboring hashes may be hosting, as well as national and continental events directly related to you and, of course, the Interhash world event.
Some hashes make a separation between calendars. For example, scribe Prof of Bicester HHH places three calendars in the pages of The Word, the local trash. There is the list of upcoming Bicester hashes called the Receding Hareline always located in the inside front cover. A calendar of UK interhash events usually placed on the back cover is called Hash Away Weekends. World-Wide Hash Thrashes is a calendar of other world events outside the UK, usually placed on the inside back cover. Prof and other hash scribes also place copies or reduced copies of interhash fliers and registration forms in the pages of the trash as they are passed to him from other hashes. This added service is valuable to many who have no other source for such material. Your pack is relying on you to keep them informed about the hash world as well as the local goings-on.