To begin at the beginning, as they say in all the best yarns, one should go back to 1938 in Kuala Lumpur in what is now Malaysia when a group of ex-patriates associated with the rubber plantations started a modified paper chase in order to work up a decent thirst before retiring to the Selangor Club. There the restaurant was known locally as the “Hash House” so naturally the name was adopted by the Harriers and in contrast to other groups undertaking similar activities the name stuck - Hash House Harriers.
The particular genius of the founding father, A S Gispert, nicknamed “G”, was to make the traditional hare & hounds running more fun by making it non-competitive.
So we will move on quickly to the Second World War and its aftermath in which became known as the Malayan Emergency when British and Australian troops joined in the fun. When posted elsewhere they began new chapters and the Hash House Harriers spread throughout the world rather like the COVID virus spread from it's origin in China. You knew that too? Well, perhaps not the fact that Hashing is an affliction akin to COVID but how’s this for exponential growth:
1938 Kuala Lumpur H3 (Mother Hash) founded
1947 Royal Bordighera H3 founded – first known offshoot, ceased early 1960s
1962 Singapore H3 founded
1962 Brunei H3 founded
1967 Dhekelia H3 – second hash in Europe (Cyprus), after RBH3 above
1967 Sydney H3 – first Hash in Australia
1969 Longmoor H3 founded – the first Hash in UK (Hampshire area)
1971 Fort Eustis H3 – first Hash in the North America
1971 Commando Forces H3 founded – previously thought to be the first Hash in UK
1971 Westcombe Park H3 founded – oldest monthly running Hash in UK
1973 KL H3 1500th run – 35 other Hashes “known” to exist
1974 Bicester H3 founded – oldest weekly running Hash in UK
1975 Surrey H3 founded
1976 London H3 founded
1977 90 Hashes known in 35 countries
1984 Harrier International founded
1986 555 Hashes known in 85 countries
1988 700 Hashes known in 125 countries
2000 1570 Active Hashes known in 184 countries with 200,000 hashers
Both servicemen and diplomats have been largely responsible for the contagion spreading of the hash. Previously it was believed that the first known hash in the UK was the Commando Forces H3 based at Plymouth, founded in 1971 by Col Ray Thornton, but evidence has shown the first was the Longmoor Hash, which Capt Richard McAllister started in May 1969.
These flourished in the early seventies but like many military hashes petered out when postings decimated the membership. Longmoor was the “mother hash” for the Fort Eustis Hash in USA whilst Ray Thornton also went on to found Bicester, Donnington and Looe & Liskeard, all of which still hash today.