Irish: Cill Chaoil
 Kilkeel shown within County Down
Population 6,338 (2001 Census)
DistrictNewry, Mourne and Down
CountyCounty Down
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post town NEWRY
Postcode district BT34
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK ParliamentSouth Down
List of places
Northern Ireland

Coordinates: 54°03′32″N 5°59′31″W / 54.059°N 5.992°W / 54.059; -5.992

Kilkeel (from Irish: Cill Chaoil, meaning "church of the narrow")[1][2] is a small town, civil parish and townland (of 554 acres) in County Down, Northern Ireland. It lies within the historic barony of Mourne.[3] 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.


Kilkeel town sits on a plain south of the Mourne Mountains, west of where the 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:[4]

Altogether there are 69 townlands in the civil parish and barony.[5]


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 Mourne.

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.[6] 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 2008.[7]



2011 Census

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:


The town of Kilkeel has a strong Unionist heritage. But while, in 2001, the ward of Kilkeel Central was recorded as 69% Protestant (21% 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 data

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



Most popular sports in the Kilkeel area include Association football, fishing, Gaelic football, golf, hockey, hurling, and swimming.

Kilkeel 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 League.

G.A.A. clubs include An Riocht, Atticall, Ballymartin, Longstone and Glasdrumman.

There are two local golf courses, Kilkeel Golf Course and Cranfield Pitch and Putt.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kilkeel.


  1. Placenames Database of Ireland
  2. Placenames NI
  3. "Kilkeel". IreAtlas Townlands Database. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  4. "Northern Ireland Placenames Project". Retrieved 12 June 2010.
  5. "Cill Chaoil/Kilkeel". Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  6. O'Sullivan, Aidan; Breen, Colin (2007). Maritime Ireland. An Archaeology of Coastal Communities. Stroud: Tempus. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-7524-2509-2.
  7. Hanna, R.K. (2008). Hanna of the Close - from Scottish Origins to 1798. Sheffield: Self Published.
  8. "B/E Aerospace workers given pledge over US sale plan". Belfast Telegraph. May 7, 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  9. "Information". Gaelscoil na mBeann. 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/2/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.