En­gines fired up on his­toric pad­dle steamer

● Maid of the Loch one step nearer re­turn to cruis­ing

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS GREEN

The en­gines of the last pad­dle steamer to be built in Bri­tain have been fired up for the first time in al­most 40 years, rais­ing hopes that it might yet set sail on Loch Lomond again.

The Maid of the Loch has re­opened to vis­i­tors fol­low­ing an ex­ten­sive £1.1 mil­lion restora­tion project which in­cluded a to­tal over­haul of the en­gine room.

First launched on the loch in March 1953, the Maid hosted royal guests, celebri­ties and around three mil­lion day-trip­pers dur­ing her 28 years on the wa­ter.

The en­gines of the last pad­dle steamer to be built in Bri­tain have been fired up for the first time in al­most 40 years, rais­ing hopes that it might yet set sail on Loch Lomond again.

The Maid of the Loch has re­opened to vis­i­tors fol­low­ing an ex­ten­sive £1.1 mil­lion restora­tion project which in­cluded a to­tal over­haul of the orig­i­nal en­gine room.

With the ship now op­er­at­ing as a static tourist at­trac­tion, the char­ity re­spon­si­ble for its up­keep said see­ing the ship’s pad­dles turn­ing again was a “sig­nif­i­cant” mile­stone.

First launched on the loch in March 1953 with a li­cence to carry 1,000 pas­sen­gers, the Maid hosted royal guests, celebri­ties and around three mil­lion day-trip­pers dur­ing her 28 years on the wa­ter.

Ad­ver­tised as hav­ing “com­modi­ous sa­loons” and serv­ing “lunches and teas of the high­est qual­ity at pop­u­lar prices” she was the last and largest pad­dle steamer to sail on Loch Lomond.

But as more Scots turned to for­eign travel, pas­sen­ger num­bers waned and rev­enue dwin­dled. The ship was de­com­mis­sioned in 1981 and quickly fell into dis­re­pair af­ter be­ing ne­glected.

It is now cared for by vol­un­teers who se­cured a grant of al­most £1m from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment as they sought to re­turn the ves­sel to some­thing ap­proach­ing its for­mer glory.

The project has seen the Maid’s ap­pear­ance re­turned to her orig­i­nal 1950s style by ren­o­vat­ing the deck bar, which can now host school vis­its, func­tions and events.

As well as bring­ing the ship up to date with 21st cen­tury marine safety stan­dards, the restora­tion also fo­cused on the en­gine room, with new pipework and two new pumps be­ing in­stalled.

John Bev­eridge, chair­man of the Loch Lomond Steamship Com­pany, said: “We are thrilled to have our pa­tron, Lord Smith of Kelvin, fire up the en­gines for the first time in nearly four decades and to cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of our won­der­ful £1.1m re­fit.

“We are still some way from achiev­ing our aim of her sail­ing again but are more de­ter­mined than ever to suc­ceed.

“Our fundrais­ing ef­forts will con­tinue, and, in the mean­time, vis­i­tors can come and see the Maid in her for­mer glory and en­joy the spec­ta­cle of see­ing the ship in steam once again.”

Lord Smith said: “Since 1996 the Loch Lomond Steamship Com­pany has worked tire­lessly to save and main­tain this beau­ti­ful ship, and ev­ery­one in­volved de­serves huge con­grat­u­la­tions in what they have man­aged to achieve.

“I know there have been many dis­ap­point­ments along the way, in­clud­ing the re­jec­tion of the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund bid a year ago, but now to have a real ‘live’ at­trac­tion and newly re­fur­bished rooms is a real achieve­ment. Equally im­por­tant, is the legacy which this ship can of­fer.

“Keep­ing tra­di­tional skills alive, train­ing and em­ploy­ing fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, and at­tract­ing in­ward in­vest­ment to the area.

“Scot­land needs icons like the Maid of the Loch, and I share the char­ity’s hopes that we will even­tu­ally see this won­der­ful ship sail­ing again.”

The Maid of the Loch in her glory in 1972. Be­low left, Lord Smith of Kelvin and John Bev­eridge fire up the en­gines. Be­low right, crew mem­ber Ros­alind Breath­wood in 1961

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