Kilkeel (from Irish: Cill Chaoil, meaning "church of the
narrow") is a small town, civil parish and townland (of 554
acres and 6521inh) in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies within
the historic barony of Mourne.
Kilkeel town is the main fishing
port on the Down coast, and its harbour houses one of the largest
fishing fleets in Ireland. It had a population of 6,887 people
according to the 2011 Census. The town contains the ruins of a
14th-century church and fort, winding streets and terraced shops. It
is located in the heart of the Mourne mountains
5 2011 Census
9 See also
Kilkeel town sits on a plain south of the Mourne Mountains, west of
Kilkeel River flows south into the North Channel. The town
is centred in the townland of Magheramurphy (from Irish Machaire
Mhurchaidh, meaning 'Murphy's plain'), and extends into the
neighbouring townlands of:
Derryoge (from Irish Doire Ríóg, meaning 'Ríog's oak wood')
Drumcro (from Irish Druim Cró, meaning 'ridge of the fold/enclosure')
Kilkeel (from Irish Cill Chaoil, meaning 'narrow church/church of the
Altogether there are 69 townlands in the civil parish and barony.
Picture of "Narrow Church"
Kilkeel takes its name from the old church overlooking the town, it
being the anglicised version of the Gaelic 'Cill Chaoil' meaning
"Narrow Church" or "The Church of/in the Narrow Place." The name may
be drawn from the church location on a narrow site above the
town. The church was constructed in 1388 and
dedicated to "St Colman Del Mourne." It was thought to be the
principal Church in a group which included Kilmegan and Kilcoo despite
the fact that
Kilkeel was very sparsely populated in the Middle Ages.
There are references to
Kilkeel as a Christian settlement as far back
as the 11th century.
Kilkeel is the capital of the ancient Kingdom of
The cemetery attached to the church was used for burials until 1916.
The last burials at the cemetery were victims of a collision between
two steamers the Retriever and the
SS Connemara in Carlingford Lough.
On 30 May 1918 a fleet of
Kilkeel fishing boats was sunk by the U-boat
UB-64 under the command of Otto von Schrader. The boats sunk, 12 miles
off the coast of County Down, included the Jane Gordon, Cyprus, Never
Can Tell, St Mary, Sparkling Wave, Lloyds, Marianne Macrum and the
motor vessel Honey Bee. Only two boats, Moss Rose and Mary Joseph,
were not sunk and the crews returned to port on those boats. The
Mary Joseph (N55) is now in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
A Local History Group that covers both the town of
Kilkeel and the
Mourne region was set up in the 1980s producing a set of seven
periodicals called "The 12 Miles of Mourne". A book on Hanna's Close,
a clachan of houses in Aughnahoory townland 1 mile outside of Kilkeel,
that covers the history of the region up to 1798 was self-published in
Fishing is a major industry in Kilkeel, with
Kilkeel Harbour the home
port for the largest fishing fleet in Northern Ireland.
There are fish-processing factories around the port, pleasure angling
off the piers and lobster farming along the coastline.[citation
Whitewater Brewery (established 1996) brews and sells
In recent years
BE Aerospace has become the largest employer in the
Kilkeel facility, which manufactures aircraft seats for a
worldwide customer base, employs over 800 people.
The town is also known as the location where William Hare died.
Robert Hill Hanna
Robert Hill Hanna (1887–1967), born near Hanna's Close, was an
immigrant Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross. He was a Company
Sergeant-Major in the 29th (Vancouver) Bn., Canadian Expeditionary
World War I
World War I when on 21 August 1917, he led a courageous
action at Hill 70 Lens, France.
Gerald O'Donovan, novelist
Robert Nugent, Brigadier General, commander of Union Army's Irish
Brigade, US Civil War.
Kilkeel is classified as a small town by the Northern Ireland
Statistics and Research Agency (i.e. with population between 4,500 and
14,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2011), there were 6,887 people
living in Kilkeel. Of these:
26.2% were aged under 16 years and 18.2% were aged 60 and over;
48.4% of the population were male and 51.6% were female; and
3.5% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.
41.0% were from a
Catholic background and 54.0% were from a Protestant
The town of
Kilkeel has a strong Unionist heritage. But while, in
2001, the ward of
Kilkeel Central was recorded as 69%
Catholic, 10% other), the ward of
Kilkeel South was only 37%
Protestant (55% Catholic, 7% other).
Religious breakdown of wards in and around
Kilkeel -from 2001 census
Kilkeel now sits within the administrative area of
Newry and Mourne,
which is recorded in the 2001 census as being 80.6% Catholic. For more
details see: NI Neighbourhood Information Service
Gaelscoil na mBeann is a bilingual primary school that uses the Irish
language as its primary medium of instruction while English is
introduced at Primary 3. The school teaches the Northern Ireland
curriculum. It was established in 2010 by a group of local people and
parents who wanted Gaelic-medium education for their children. The
school gained recognition and funding from the Department of Education
Naíscoil na mBeann is an Irish-medium Pre-school which takes children
aged 3+ years to prepare them to enter primary school. It was founded
in 2008 and lead to the inception of
Gaelscoil na mBeann, the
Irish-medium Primary school in Kilkeel.
Brackenagh West Primary School
Grange Primary School
Holy Cross Primary School
Kilkeel High School
Kilkeel Primary School
Mourne Independent Christian School
St Colman's Primary School
St. Columban's College
St. Louis Grammar School
Mourne Grange Village School
Most popular sports in the
Kilkeel area include Gaelic football,
soccer, fishing, golf, hockey, hurling, and swimming.
There are five G.A.A. clubs in the local area which include An
Ríocht, Longstone, Atticall, Ballymartin, and Glasdrumman. Each club
boast impressive facilities including playing fields, sports halls,
fitness suites, bar facilities and cater for a wide range of cross
community activities above and beyond GAA sporting activities. These
include Youth clubs, Mens Sheds (Pensioners), Walking clubs, Yoga,
Kilkeel Elks' home court is in An Ríocht Hall) and many
more. All five teams have a strong presence in the Down GAA calendar
through the various leagues and field teams at every age group from U6
through to senior level.
Hockey Club plays at McAuley Park, fielding three men's teams
and two ladies' teams.
Kilkeel is the only hockey club in Mourne,
drawing players from the whole of the Mourne area, with Annalong
providing a considerable number of its players.
The most senior football team is
Valley Rangers F.C. of the Mid-Ulster
Football League. Other local teams include Ballyvea, Kilkeel, Kilkeel
Athletic and the Mourne Rovers. With the exception of Kilkeel
Athletic, the local football clubs play in the SK Holmes Newcastle
There are two local golf courses,
Kilkeel Golf Course and Cranfield
Pitch and Putt.
Kilkeel (civil parish)
List of towns and villages in Northern Ireland
List of RNLI stations
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kilkeel.
^ "Kilkeel, County Down".
^ Placenames Database of Ireland
^ Placenames NI
^ "Kilkeel". IreAtlas Townlands Database. Retrieved 15 April
Northern Ireland Placenames Project". Archived from the original on
1 October 2010. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
^ "Cill Chaoil/Kilkeel". Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 10
^ O'Sullivan, Aidan; Breen, Colin (2007). Maritime Ireland. An
Archaeology of Coastal Communities. Stroud: Tempus. p. 232.
^ Hanna, R.K. (2008). Hanna of the Close - from Scottish Origins to
1798. Sheffield: Self Published.
^ "B/E Aerospace workers given pledge over US sale plan". Belfast
Telegraph. May 7, 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
Gaelscoil na mBeann. 2012. Retrieved 5 February
Places in County Down
List of places in County Down
Lough Island Reavy
Lordship of Newry
WikiProject Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Portal
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