Foresters Hall

The Irish National Foresters’ Benefit Society (Coillteoirí Náisiúnta na hÉireann) began in 1877 as a breakaway from the Ancient Order of Foresters. The Society was founded as a mutual benevolent association and became known primarily for providing insurance schemes for members. The I.N.F. grew rapidly and soon became the largest friendly society in Ireland. It supported Irish nationalism and its constitution called for “government for Ireland by the Irish people in accordance with Irish ideas and Irish aspirations”. Membership of the organisation increased significantly in the wake of the 1911 National Insurance Act. By 1914 the order had spread worldwide and had a quarter of a million members in over 1,000 branches. At about this time, the Foresters became closely bound up with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).

Between 1904 and 1926 the Irish National Foresters Friendly Society built twenty halls throughout Ireland. In 1913 the organisation opened three Wicklow halls: in Bray, Aughrim and Kilcoole.

With the establishment of the Irish Free State and the gradual expansion of the social welfare system, the I.N.F. went into decline. However the Kilcoole hall continued to be used by the community for Sunday matinee film showings, concerts, dances, and meetings. The Foresters had a fife and drum band, and starting in 1970 the North Wicklow Country Market met in the hall every Saturday (the market later moved to Greystones and then Newcastle). Today the Forester’s Hall is still used for many classes and community events, including the annual Kilcoole Music Festival. The Forester’s Hall is also known as St Patrick’s Hall.