January 29, 2000
"IN MEMORY OF Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, Second Lieutenant, 371854
2nd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders", the headstone reads.
In February 1942, while in charge of a mortar platoon on Dairy Farm Road
in Singapore, Gispert and his men were killed by invading Japanese forces.
What separates this story from the usual sad litany, from a war that took
place over fifty years ago, is the legacy left behind by Gispert; a worldwide
subculture many of us are unfamiliar with.
First Gispert himself, "G" to his friends. 38 when he died. A
chartered accountant, transferred by his company to Kuala Lampur before
the war, he was looking for some way he and fellow Brits there, like Frederick
"Horse" Thomson and Ronald "Torch" Bennet, could keep
fit. Their tastes apparently didn't run to cricket, rugby or polo. Instead
they looked back fondly to a old school sport, Hare and Hounds. Readers
of "Tom Brown's School Days" may remember, "Big-side Hare-and-hounds
meet at White Hall". The sport, combining elements of fox hunting and
cross country, dates back to at least 1837, when a match was held at Rugby
School. Several schoolboys who know the countryside well were designated
the hares. Carrying pouches of torn up paper scraps, they set out ahead
of the others, dropping a scrap of paper a short ways out, another out of
sight further along, then again, continuing until reaching a location typically
six or seven miles out and (no surprise) usually with a pub at the end,
with food and pints for all. The "hounds" then set off in groups
and attempted to follow the paper trail. Hence the alternate name, the paper
chase. In our more environmentally conscious times dabs of baking flour
are substituted for the torn-up paper.
Now, in Malaya, "G" and the lads needed an official name for their
club. Choosing the nickname for Selangor Club, a local boarding house, and
the term for a dog or hawk that chases hares, they called themselves the
Hash House Harriers, sometimes known today as H3. Their 1838 charter spelled
out the purposes of the club. "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". Somehow I think that last might not work as intended
for us fifty-plus-somethings.
After the war, Gispert's club spawned copies around the world. Former Hash
Housers began one in 1947 near Milan, Italy. Another group was formed in
Singapore in 1962. Soon things really took off. Today there are over 1,700
clubs in 180 countries, with around 350 in the U. S. I talked a few weeks
ago about Toronto's unflattering nickname. So, of course, today the city
is the home base for the Hogtown Hash House Harriers. H4, I imagine.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.
© (Copyright) 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte
For more information on the above
subject (history, local chapters, articles) go to the following site,
which I first stumbled upon completely by accident while looking for Hogtown.
After last week's script went out, subscriber Andy Gallup sent along a note
to point out that I mistakenly identified the 1752 raid on the Ohio Valley
trading post at Pickawillany as part of Pontiac's rebellion. That uprising
actually took place about eleven years later. In both cases the French influence
was easily detected.
No Eagles Byte Web Site update this week. Next week is Pledge Week, so I'll
be substituting an older script some of you may have missed.
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