The lights are going out on a whole way of life

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The Independent Online
It is the lighthouse at the top of Britain, one of the last of the manned beacons on the nation's coast, and today it goes automatic.

After 11 years manning Duncansby Head, at a spot a little to the north of John O'Groats on the north coast of Scotland, Bruce and Hazel Brown are moving out.

Duncansby Head was one of the last manned lighthouses in Britain. Since the 1960s, the Northern Lighthouse Board and its English counterpart, Trinity House, have been automating Britain's lights.

Instead of relying on people, they are turning to computers to switch the lights on and off.

Bruce Brown and his wife are retiring. "It's a way of life that's dying out," Mr Brown said. There are now only a handful of lighthouse keepers left compared with more than 600 in the Northern Lighthouse Board alone in the 19th century.

He came into the service 38 years ago, and it has been a life for both man and wife. The couple will now have to adjust to living as others do - paying their own rent and electricity and fuel bills. Questioned as they were preparing to leave Duncansby Head, Mrs Brown said: "It's better than the forces. And we'll miss it."

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