Essex Hash House Harriers (EH3) was founded in 1984 by ‘Bruce’ Giddings (otherwise MFA, Mr Blobby, Bilko, Detractor and finally Diplomat). As with the founders of other classic UK hashes, Bruce first took up hashing while working as an ex-pat in the Far East- in his case with the Singapore Hash- and then began a local chapter one year after his return home.
The first hash was on June 4th 1984, from the car park at Boreham House, with drinks afterwards in the bar. At the time Boreham House was used by Ford Tractors as their international training centre and the infamous downstairs bar was for some years effectively the hash bar and the site of some fairly inglorious drinking sessions…
On this inaugural run were Bob Eve and Ivan Banister, both Singapore Hashers who were on home leave at the time. The others, about 6 in all, are unrecorded. Early runners were either local to Danbury or else youthful (at the time!) Fordies from the Tractor Plant at Basildon. Initially the club was proposed as the Danbury Hash (Bruce living in Danbury). Run 4 or 5 was set from the Generals Arms in Little Baddow on 5th September and gained coverage in the Essex Chronicle. The photo shows these early hashers most of whom now have slipped into obscurity. At the first AGPU on 2nd December 1984, the club was confirmed as the Essex Hash House Harriers and Bruce was self-elected as Grand Master (for life?!).
From the outset, Essex Hash followed the tried and tested formula of an hour long trail with 4-7 checks and a "circle" with beer at the end with down-downs for the hares, sinners and other miscreants. The norm was, and is, to start and finish at a friendly pub serving good beer. Ridley’s pubs were often favourites, with cheap beer and timeless decor. Old pubs in isolated hamlets tended to have long-established footpaths leading to them from nearby farms and homesteads, allowing plenty of opportunity for trails. In these early days the GM's edict was that a pint should not cost more than 90p!
When the 50th Run celebrations were due in the summer of 1986 the venue of Boreham House was chosen. The GM's notoriety amongst other UK GMs was such that it turned into a major event with 230 in attendance and visitors from throughout the country-from Wessex to Scotland. After George Wilkes was threatened with a chain saw to ensure his good behaviour they were rewarded with sunshine, copious quantities of beer, raucous hash games and a pink tee shirt. It remains the biggest gathering of hashing illuminati ever seen in the county, with a number of founder GMs of original UK hashes in attendance.
The next EH3 celebration run was another memorable one-dayer, the 100th held at North Weald airfield which attracted mini bus loads from Cambridge and London. There was great hilarity when the GM was wheeled away on his trailer in the middle of his speech; Chunder Baker was kidnapped by Cambridge H3 leaving his motor bike in the middle of the airfield for the night and true-to-form a Cambridge Hasher fell out of the bus breaking a collar bone.
Joint runs were held with neighbouring hash clubs. Joint trips with Cambridge hash to the Suffolk coast led to some famous singing sessions at Dunwich. Essex hashers completed the Cambridge King Street Run (a pint in each of 8 pubs within an hour). Joint runs became a regular fixture- other neighbouring clubs we have run with include London, MASH & Herts.
In the early years our GM and founding father whinged incessantly that he was running EH3 single handed as no-one else did anything. A working committee did eventually materialise who after several years of the GM's autocratic rule sought change. The first coup attempt was at an AGM held in the Boreham House basement bar and thwarted by the Cambridge Hash who came en-masse and cast their votes in favour of the GM. The perplexed Essex hashers could only look on with awe. They would have to wait another year to get him out: this time Cambridge Hash were banned from voting. For ever power hungry the deposed GM then went on to found the Essex Alternative Hash.
Murphy was voted in the second ever GM of EH3, followed by a succession of other worthies. Both Zipper’s standard lamp and an inflatable gorilla were voted on to the committee but never made it to the top job. The AGMs morphed into Annual General Piss Ups and led to major confusion when voting was delayed until after copious quantities of ale had been supped. Eventually it was realised that the voting results had to be photographed if they were to be remembered.
Hash dinners became memorable occasions. At the Lebanese in Billericay we were treated to belly dancing and then the chef gave us extra ammunition for our food fight. Thanks to Playaway, a number of meals were taken at the Ship in West Hanningfield, where Terry the landlord would let us sleep on the floor of the pub. Another institution has been the Xmas/ New Years Day hashes. For a spell they were hosted in Danbury, then Wickford… Recently they have been at the Smack Inn, Sooty & Lunchbox’s welcoming retreat in Langdon Hills.
The hash undertook the Maldon mud run and participated in the Essex Way relay, an event which, thanks to the herculean efforts of Essex hashers Fergie and Basher, became an annual institution in the Essex running calendar.
Essex has gained an enviable reputation for its celebration events, with attendees from far and wide, good trails and great entertainment. The 200th at Thurrock Rugby Club surprised many of the locals when they found out that hashers could drink faster than rugby players. For the 321, a full metal covers band played on a stage made from pallets laid out on the mud at Laindon Scout Camp; a Ceilidh band played at Melrose stadium in Chelmsford and Redwood struggled to keep playing when faced with the sight of Windsock gyrating semi-naked in front of them at Billericay football club.
The 1000th run returned to Thurrock Rugby Club where highlights included a mini-beer festival and a naked run. Most recently, the Alelympics held in Herongate began with a multi-coloured dress run and introduced a new range of hash games, invented by Pick & Mix. Once again there were attendees from all corners, including a Scottish contingent, the Guernsey Harriettes and a hen party…
Essex hash has never had an official base. Although for a long time the centre of gravity was around Chelmsford/ Danbury, trails tend to be set wherever the hares come from. For a while, there were a number of great trails in the Epping area, thanks to Smartarse and the others he recruited in the North-West of the County. Currently, a majority of hashers live in the South of the county, though numbers in the North-East are increasing…
Essex Hash has always subscribed to the ‘open to all’ tradition and particularly welcomed visitors from other packs. Some have just passed through while others, such as Gobby Stopper, Crackers and Stiff Meat, stayed to become regulars. One result of the influence from other clubs has been the introduction of new songs. Legless & Hard-On brought hash hymns from Hong Kong and livened up many a circle. This trend has been repeated again more recently as Omo and Tinkerbell have introduced new songs to the circle that they learnt from hashing Romania.
Other Essex Hashes
To cater more for those around the original Danbury area and as a reaction to the organisation and politics of the Essex Hash, Bruce began a new back to basics hash club- the Essex Alternative Hash. Fewer rules, no committee but good pubs and good beer. Much of the pack was made up of Essex H3 stalwarts who were happy to have an additional excuse to hash.
Inspired by what he had seen elsewhere, Smartarse also began a new hash- the First UK Full Moon Hash, which had its first trail on Essex soil in March 1990. The club became a labour of love for the hard core of Full Mooners and has celebrated every moon since: the FUKFMH3 ethos and circle antics have now cast their shadow over much of the planet and spawned numerous other Full Moon chapters elsewhere.
A year later, yet completely independently, another hash was formed in Essex- the Mersea Island Hash House Harriers (some locals would argue that Mersea Island is actually an independent state and not a part of Essex or even of the UK). For several years Essex & Mersea Island hashes carried on oblivious to each other’s presence however finally contact was made between Fergie and Jeff & Caroline Sexton and a number of enjoyable joint runs have subsequently been held, often ending with a swim in the Blackwater and a barbecue on the beach.
As time passed, a handful of youngsters began appearing on the scene. Eventually there were sufficient to warrant their own trails and so the Full Moon Horrors was spawned. Leading lights were Digger, Kebab, Guzzler and Pick & Mix. Successful camp outs were held. As the horrors grew older, beer took over from soft drinks and the Horrors Hash gradually wound down though it remains fondly remembered. The aforementioned Horrors are now seasoned hash travellers and are often to be seen propping up the bar during all-nighters at National hash events, with Digger taking over the circle whenever he has the chance.
The most recent new Essex Hash- the Essex All Saints Hash- is also an Essex Hash spin-off. Running on saints days (fancy dress obligatory), many of the runs are joint trails with other clubs. Their events have included an assault on the county’s highest point on St Bernard’s Day and joint trails with other packs on St Valentine’s Day. An annual highlight is the St Andrew’s Day run which has provided many a hasher with their first taste of haggis…
A youthful party (Murphy, Mooner, Donkey Bollocks and Vicky Vomit) headed east to attend the 1990 Interhash in Manila and brought back an appreciation of how truly international hashing had become. Essex Hashers have since been to many corners of the world, from Canada to China to South Africa to New Zealand. Doolittle and Vomit were surprised to walk into a bar in Phuket to find an Essex Hash tee-shirt mounted on the wall.
1992 saw the first ever Eurohash in Paris. From this point on, Eurohashing really took off and a number of hashers have established themselves as regulars on the circuit. Notable amongst these have been Windsock and Tops, who have hashed throughout the continent- their exploits recognised by being awarded the posts of ‘Cultural Ambassadors’. Thanks to their networking, recent EH3 events have had an excellent attendance from other hashes.
Looking back, many of the most memorable times have been when the miss-management committee has arranged something special. Past EH3 committees have proven their organisational prowess by organising p*ss-ups in breweries, including hash runs from Crouch Vale in South Woodham Ferrers, Mighty Oak in Maldon and an away trip to Shepherd Neame in Faversham.
Away weekends have been very successful. One of the first was to Dublin, where our hosts at Dublin Hash ensured the Guinness kept flowing from breakfast till we crashed sometime in the early hours of the following day. Other destinations have included Devon (scene of Medallion Man, Laces & Zipper’s balloon dance), The Isle of Wight (where our dancing entertained a bus-load of pensioners) and Cumbria. A large contingent went to Cyprus Interhash and there was a popular trip to Spain, running with Mijas Hash.
Special run numbers and dates have inspired pub crawls- Southend and Colchester were good, as was Rayleigh where we commemorated VE day and where, once more, Playaway fell asleep in his pint. For our 25th birthday a celebration run was held from The Generals Arms and a crowd of old hashers rolled up to compare beer guts with newer hashers and to swap tales of past glories…
The Prince Of Wales in Stow Marries, has been the stage for some excellent events. The hospitality (and patience) of landlord Rob has been tremendous, with camping in the backfield, home-cooked food and copious beer. A highlight for me was the sausage eating contest at the ‘Chocks Away’ weekend.
In recent years, an annual highlight has been the springtime hash at the Lion at Lamarsh, masterminded by Casey Jones. The landlord lays on a meal and lively disco and other hashes are made welcome with regular contingents from Norfolk and Mersea Island. The day ends with dancing on the bar and down downs for all the bar staff…
At the time of writing (May 2014), with Heap Of Crap & ’Aven’t Got One at the helm, we are in our thirtieth year. Miss-management meetings are at the Green Man in Herongate on the 1st Wednesday of the month.
Run fees have risen to £2- but remain good value compared to the ridiculous and totally exorbitant and shameful £3.30 it now costs for a typical pint (when the hash began, the fees were £1 but beer was a mere 90p a pint…). We still have food on Monday evenings and raffle prizes are still the same old toot turning up week after week…
In all there have been over 1500 Essex trails; Fergie, Casey Jones and Lunchbox have now all passed their 1000 run milestones. Sadly many of our favourite old pubs have now closed or been turned into gastro pubs, but with new breweries starting up there has been a welcome increase in good local beer and most pubs can pour a decent pint (thanks CAMRA!).
Surprisingly perhaps, Essex Hash are still finding new corners of the county to hash in (the first run in Clacton was only last year). If you are reading this thinking we don’t run enough in your area or have missed out on a top pub or trail location, then there is an easy solution- tell us! (but don’t be surprised if you are handed a bag of flour and asked to set the trail yourself…)
On On EH3!