FOBLC stalwart Mike Guilfoyle’s investigations into the great and good buried in the Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries have uncovered another gem, the founder of ‘Hashing’. Before going any further we should explain that the ‘Hash’ in question is not the illegal substance but The Hash House Harriers whose founder A.S.Gilbert lies buried in the Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries.
The Hash House Harriers are an international group of running clubs whose slogan ‘The Drinking Club with a Running Problem’ sums up their distinctive approach. Their reach has grown to be truly global with 1919 Hash groups located in 1251 cities in 184 countries throughout the world. To quote from the ‘Hash Bible’ ‘The Hash House Harriers is a more social version of Hare and Hounds, where you join the pack of hounds (runners) to chase down the trail set by the hare or hares (other runners), then gather together for a bit of social activity known as the On In or Down Down with refreshment, humor, song and the occasional feast.’
The Constitution of the Hash House Harriers is recorded on a club registration card dated 1950:
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
Their founder, Alberto Esteban Ignacio Gispert, hash name "G", (his surname is pronounced with a soft ‘G’ as in juice), was born on the 31st July 1903 in Brockley at 80 Breakspear Road. The young Alberto, although described in later life by Cecil Lee (one of the other original members of the first hash) as the 'perfect English Gentleman' was brought up by his Spanish Catalan parents in a household that spoke little English. Alberto was educated at the local Catholic school, St Joseph’s Academy in Blackheath where he learnt to run following paper trails as was common in English schools at the time.
After finishing school Gispert joined H S Baker & Co and became a Chartered Accountant in 1928 and applied for an overseas posting with Evatt & Co (later to become Price Waterhouse) who sent him to Kuala Lumpur. In1938 he joined the part-time militia, the Federated Malay States Volunteer Reservists, reaching the rank of Captain. Along with "Torch" Bennett, Cecil Lee and a few others, "G" founded the Hash House Harriers at the Selangor Club in late 1938, the intention being to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend. "G" took the name from the Selangor Club annexe where the men were billeted, and which was known as the ‘Hash House’ for its notoriously monotonous food. As well as the excitement of chasing the hare and finding the trail, harriers reaching the end of the trail would be rewarded with beer and cigarettes.
"G" was on leave in Australia when the Japanese invaded in December 1941. "He rushed back to Malaya and was seconded to the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders regiment as a Second Lieutenant. He was killed in action in the Battle of Singapore on 11th February, 1942. The family memorial shown here is in Brockley Cemetery.
For more on 'G' and the The Hash House Harriers (abbreviated to HHH, H3, or referred to simply as Hashing) go to:
The UK Hash House Harriers Website
The World Hash House Harriers