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The Northern Iron

The Northern Iron

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Immerse yourself in the past and learn more about the roots of the struggle between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. in this engrossing historical novel from George A. Birmingham. The Northern Iron is set in Ireland during the tumultuous period of transition between the eighteenth and nine ...more

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The road which connects Portrush with Ballycastle skirts, so far as any road can and dare, the sea coast. Sometimes it is driven inland a mile or so by the impossibility of crossing tracts of sandhills. The mounds and hollows of these dunes are for ever shifting and changing. The loose sand is blown into new fantastic heights and valleys by the winter gales. No road could be built on such insecure foundation. Elsewhere the road shrinks back among the shelterless fields for fear of mighty cliffs by which this northern Antrim coast is defended from the Atlantic. No engineer in the eighteenth century, when the road was made, dared lay his metal close to the Causeway cliffs or the awful precipice of Pleaskin Head. Still, now and then, in places where there are no sandhills and the cliffs are not appalling, the road ventures, for a mile or two, to run within a few hundred yards of the sea, before it is swept, like a cord bent by the wind, further inland. Thus, after passing the ruins of Dunseveric Castle, the traveller sees close beneath him the white limestone rocks and broad yellow stretch of Ballintoy Strand. Here, when northerly gales are blowing, he may, if he is not swept off his feet, cling desperately to his garments and watch the great waves curl their feathered crests as they rush shorewards. He may listen, awestruck, to the ocean’s roar of amazement when it batters in vain the hard north coast, the rocks and sand which defy even the strength of the Atlantic.
A quarter of a mile back from this piece of road there stood, in 1798, the meeting-house of the Presbyterians and their minister’s manse. The house stands on the site of a bare, shelterless hill. It is three storeys high—a narrow, gaunt building, grey walled, black-slated. Its only entrance is at the back, and on the shoreward side. This house has disdained the shelter which might have been found further inland or among its fellow-houses in the street of Ballintoy. It faces due north, preferring an outlook upon the sea to the warmth and light of a southern aspect. It is bare of all architectural ornament. Its windows are few and small. The rooms within are gloomy, even in early summer. Its architect seems to have feared this gloominess, for he planned great bay windows for three rooms, one above the other. He built the bay. It juts out for the whole height of the house, breaking the flatness of the northern wall. But his heart failed him in the end. He dared not put such a window in the house. He walled up the whole flat front of the bay. Only in its sides did he place windows. Through these there is a side view of the sea and a side view of the main wall of the house. They are comparatively safe. The full force of the tempest does not strike them fair.