Kilkeel Knitting Mills was established by Edith and Kurt Sekules in 1950. Before World War II the Sekules family had been part of the Jewish community in Vienna, settling in Northern Ireland in 1947 after spending the Second World War in detention camps in Russia.

During the 1950s and 1960s the business continued to expand, developing an international customer base. The factory began by making Argyle socks but went on to knit tartan hose worn by pipe bands and from 1957, cashmere and Aran sweaters. In the 1980s, Edith and Kurt’s son Walter became more involved in the business. Following the death of his parents, Walter continued to run the factory until it eventually closed in the autumn of 2022. He passed away in July 2023.

Artefacts donated to the Museum by Walter Sekules at the time of the factory’s closure include a knitting machine used when the factory opened in 1950, which was still in use in 2022, a wages book from the 1950s and various socks and sweaters. Of particular significance is a cardigan worn by Edith Sekules at her Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations in 1986. This was one of five designs by Irish designer Paul Costelloe, produced by Kilkeel Knitting Mills. As personal designer to Diana, the late Princess of Wales, a cardigan from the range made at Kilkeel was worn by Diana in the same year.

Commenting on the donation and display, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Valerie Harte said, “We are indebted to the late Walter Sekules for his generosity in donating these wonderful artefacts to the Museum. Kilkeel Knitting Mills made a highly valuable contribution to the local economy in providing employment to so many people in the Kilkeel area and I am delighted that the fascinating story of the factory is now preserved in the Museum Collection.”


Newry and Mourne Museum Curator, Dr Ken Abraham, added, “Kilkeel Knitting Mills supplied many top international fashion outlets with knitwear and this donation of examples of the factory’s products is a very important addition to the Museum Collection. It helps us demonstrate the part played by various entrepreneurs in the development of the local economy in recent decades.”

The knitting machine from Kilkeel Knitting Mills is on permanent display while the knitwear is on display until June 2024.