Kilkeel is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, which shares its name with an adjacent townland and the surrounding civil parish. 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 6,338 people according to the 2001 Census. The town contains the ruins of a 14th-century church and fort, winding streets and terraced shops.
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. The Mary Joseph (N55) is now in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.