Our History
Benevolent Irish Society - 1806-2020

The Benevolent Irish Society (BIS) was founded on 17 February 1806, a month before the Feast of St. Patrick, at a meeting held at the London Tavern in St. John’s.

Membership was open to adult male residents of Newfoundland who were of Irish birth, or, ancestry, regardless of religious persuasion. The BIS was a non-secret, charitable, fraternal and social organization founded on the principles of “benevolence and philanthropy”, and had as its objective, helping the growing numbers of poor in St. John’s.  The BIS took direct action in providing aid to the poor and also built a school for Orphans in 1820’s.

The Irish who formed the BIS were among the first inhabitants of Newfoundland to consider themselves permanent residents with, as they often claimed, “a stake in the place.” At that time, most of the English Merchants over wintered in England returning in the spring with their fishing fleets.  During the early 1800’s, more and more of the participants in the fishery became permanent residents.

The early BIS executive members were mainly Protestants, and more than a few had military connections. The Irish merchant James MacBraire is credited as the driving force in establishing the BIS, while Captain Winckworth Tonge was its first president, and Lieutenant-Colonel John Murray, John MacKellop, Joseph Church, and Captain William Haly were on the executive. The only Roman Catholic executive member was its secretary, Henry Shea.  Brother Patrick Tasker, a District Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland was also integral to the establishment of the BIS

To this day, the Constitution of the BIS requires members “To avoid all controversy on religious, or, political subjects at meetings of the Society or its Committees.


The Benevolent Irish Society has many events throughout the year. Check our calendar!

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The Irish Hall

The Irish Hall is located on 30 Harvey Road and is available for rent for special occasions.