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Buyout will save soul of Mull of Galloway

IN THE meandering course of my bewildering life, I've twice been offered advice about fish.

The first, from my good friend Ally, consisted of the following: "Never stuff a ling." I see. It was said with such deadly portentousness that, ever since that day, I have never stuffed a ling. I should add, however, that as I had never stuffed a ling beforehand, and had no intention of stuffing one at the time of being advised against it, the warning was largely academic.

Perhaps my friend was taking the piscatorial. Nevertheless, I archived the intelligence, lest I should ever be presented with a ling, some stuffing and the peculiar temptation to marry the two.

The second message appeared on a red warning sign. It said: "No fishing below foghorn." Fishing? Foghorn? What could it all mean?

A second reading brought the illumination that this was not advice but a warning. The message added curtly by way of explanation: "Breeding birds." It could have been a signature, right enough.

The foghorn was at the Mull of Galloway, one of my favourite places in the world, by which I mean Scotland. This week, the prospect of the foghorn bawling blithely to the sea was raised, perhaps to celebrate a community buyout of the surrounding 30 acres of land.

That land has been put up for sale by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), and the Mull of Galloway Trust (MGT) hopes to lead a successful buyout. I wish them success.

The board will still own the lighthouse tower, and I'm glad of that too. Let you into a little secret: I've a wee thing about the Northern Lighthouse Board. Even just the three words do it for me.

Northern. I've a northern soul. My moral compass points north. Lighthouse. Strong, solitary, earnest, useful. Just like me. Board. Glorious images of patrician guardians sitting round a stout wood table. A clock ticks heavily and reliably as the board ponders its noble business.

The whole effect is quite Victorian, complete with shiny brass. Perhaps the reality is nothing like that. But I've a vague memory of visiting the NLB as a reporter and, while I forget the story, I recall enjoying the visit. Perhaps it was just the feeling one often got that other people's work had a grounded specialism that journalism ("today I am an expert in -") lacked.

The main thing is that the Mull doesn't fall into the grasping hands of private landowners. Private ownership of masses of land is absurd and immoral. To start life on land that you're told is "owned" by someone else seems to me heinous.

The trust is well aware of the danger. "We want to ensure we don't get some outside body in who decide to make it a fun park," said MGT secretary Steve Hardy. "There are going to be no fantastic changes – we are not going to build a Ferris wheel or a helter-skelter."

Who needs a Ferris wheel when you've got a foghorn? The foghorn is a big red bawler that broods above the restless sea. I love visiting it. The folk one sometimes bumps into there seem similarly philosophical. Something about being by the sea brings that out in a fellow.

If you're more ornithological than philosophical, you can fill your boots at the Mull. Thousands of seabirds call the place home, and their wild, melancholy wails haunt the air.

It's like being on an island, but shorn of the self-regard. Here, in Scotland's most southerly place, you could easily be in the far north. In the British Isles you need never visit an "island" to experience birds, sea, seals and coastline. They're on your doorstep.

I've no vested interest in the Mull of Galloway. Nor would I have it commercially exploited as "Scotland's Land's End". The lighthouse museum and RSPB Scotland's visitor centre are just enough and so just right.

So I tell you this in ones and twos purely for the good of your souls. Visit the Mull of Galloway, philosophise till you feel the futility, then let your head clear. Stand proud. Look out to sea. And, in celebration of saving the land, let your inner foghorn sound for glory.

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