|Council:||Newry, Mourne and Down|
Kilkeel is a small town in County Down. It 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 6,338 people according to the 2001. The town contains the ruins of a 14th-century church and fort, winding streets and terraced shops.
A short distance to the northeast lies the much smaller settlement of Maghereagh.
Kilkeel sits on a plain south of the Mourne Mountains. It stretches along the southern coast of County Down, from Carlingford Lough in the west to Annalong in the east. The town is at the foot of a river that flows southwards from the Mournes. Four miles southwest of Kilkeel is Cranfield Point, a small peninsula that marks the southernmost point of the county.
The settlement is named after the townland of Kilkeel, in which it began. Over time, the urban area has grown into the neighbouring townlands. They include:
|Derryoge||(Doire Ríóg: Ríog's oak wood)|
|Drumcro||(Druim Cró: ridge of the fold/enclosure)|
|Kilkeel||(Cill Chaoil: narrow church)|
|Magheramurphy||(Machaire Mhurchaidh: Murphy's plain)|
Kilkeel takes its name from the old church overlooking the town, built 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. 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.
Fishing is a major industry in Kilkeel, with Kilkeel Harbour the home port for the largest fishing fleet in Ulster. There are fish-processing factories around the port, pleasure angling off the piers and lobster farming along the coastline. The relatively young Whitewater Brewery (est 1996) makes what is said to be one of the finest ales in Ireland, called Belfast Ale.
In recent years BE Aerospace has become the largest employer in the area manufacturing aircraft seats for a worldwide customer base.
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).
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 the Mourne area, drawing players from the whole of the Mourne area, with Annalong providing a considerable number of its players.
Local football teams include Ballyvea FC, Kilkeel FC, Valley Rangers FC, Kilkeel Athletic and the Mourne Rovers. With the exception of Kilkeel Athletic, the local football clubs play in the SK Holmes Newcastle League. Gaelic football clubs include An Riocht, Atticall, Ballymartin, Longstone and Glasdrumman.
There are two local golf courses, Kilkeel Golf Course and Cranfield Pitch and Putt.
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