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, first held in 1837.
Hare and Hounds as an adult sport began in the autumn 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."
The original hash house
Hashing began in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1938, when a small group of British colonial officials and expatriates, led by A.S Gispert, a British accountant of Catalan descent, founded a running club called the Hash House Harriers. As batchelors, they were billeted in the Selangor Club Annex, known locally as the Hash House, because of its monotonous food.
After running for some months they were approached by the Registrar of Societies, who advised then that, as they were a "group" they would require a Constitution and a name. A.S.Gispert (known as "G") suggested the name. Hash House Harrier runs were patterned after the traditional British paper chase. A hare was given a head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, all the while pursued by a shouting pack of "harriers." Only the hare knew where he was going...the harriers followed his clues to stay on trail.
Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and solving the clues, reaching the end was its own reward...for there, thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced beer.
Hashing died out during World War II after the Japanese invasion of Malayisa, but started again shortly after the war, when the original protagonists, minus "G" who had been killed in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, re-assembled in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from a "one off" chapter, formed in the Italian Riviera, (now the Royal Milan and Bordighera Hash), hashing didn't take off until 1962, when Ian Cumming founded the 2nd kennel in Singapore. From then on, the phenomenon started to grow, spreading through the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Europe and North America. Hashing really exploded in popularity in the mid-1970s.
There are now thousands of Hash House Harrier clubs in all parts of the world, with national and international conventions organised regularly. There are even two HHH groups in Antarctica.
The Wessex Hash House Harriers was started on the 7th January 1979 by Ram Seeger; a veteran of the Singapore Hash. He was interviewed by the Echo shortly before the first Wessex run. The article attracted a range of runners and on the first run, from the High Corner Inn, the pack numbered 20. Early Wessex Hash Pictures.
'How the Wessex branch really started - Brian James (Jammy) was very curious and doubtful about the whole thing per his phone calls prior to the 1st run. He noticed a mysterious ad in the Bournemouth Echo and phoned to find out who this rival Harriers group were! It was Ram Seegar who started the whole idea but it was me (Penny) - who hates running - who had to publicise it and get it going. We had thick snow on the day of the first run at the High Corner Inn with the road into the New Forest 1/4 of its width visible. After very few months, Ram went away and made me promise to keep the hash going and that was when we got people to write up the runs and the authors hid their personalities behind nick names, and so it goes on on - fantastic!' - Penny Fairclough (Seeger)