Return To Steam Appeal On 60th Anniversary Of MAID OF THE LOCH

Return To Steam Appeal On 60th Anniversary Of MAID OF THE LOCH

By Shawn J. Dake

MAID OF THE LOCH photographed at Balloch, Loch Lomond on July 9, 2011.  http://www.paddlesteamers.info/
MAID OF THE LOCH photographed at Balloch, Loch Lomond on July 9, 2011. http://www.paddlesteamers.info/

“On The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks Of Loch Lomond,” a major fundraising effort has begun to return the paddle steamer MAID OF THE LOCH to service on the waters of Scotland’s most famous lake – Under steam!  The ship was built on the Clydeside at A&J Inglis shipyard at Pointhouse, Glasgow; the same builder as the PS WAVERLEY.  It was then transported by train, in bits and pieces the short distance to Loch Lomond where it was re-assembled on the slipway at Balloch.   She was launched on 5th March 1953 and had her maiden voyage on 25th May.  In 2013,  the MAID OF THE LOCH is celebrating her 60th year on Loch Lomond.  The current owners are the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a charitable organization relying completely on volunteers, who hope to return the “Maid” to her former glory with the help of a major fundraising campaign designed to coincide with the anniversary.  The appeal is planned to raise £3.3 million required for restoration work including a new boiler to allow her to sail once again under steam, additional refitting, and new navigational and safety equipment to bring her up to date with 2013 rules and regulations.

Phil Preston, Chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company said “Our charity was established in 1996 to save this historic ship from being broken up. Since then our dedicated volunteers have spent over 72,000 hours on her restoration. We have already raised and reinvested £1.7 million in her, and on rebuilding the 1902 Balloch Steam Slipway complex. Our aim has always been to get her into steam operation again to create new jobs, preserve Scotland’s historic heritage, and give visitors added value to their visitor experience.”  The MAID OF THE LOCH is part of the National Historic Fleet and one of only 200 vessels to be designated as being of regional and national importance to the U.K.  Being in fresh water her entire career, the  hull is in good condition.   All compartments from bow to stern have been refurbished and the group has approval in principle from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency that the she can be certified to sail again.

Stern view of MAID OF THE LOCH leaving Tarbet on July 3, 1960.  Courtesy of Gillon Ferguson http://www.paddlesteamers.info/
Stern view of MAID OF THE LOCH leaving Tarbet on July 3, 1960. Courtesy of Gillon Ferguson http://www.paddlesteamers.info/

The MAID OF THE LOCH closely resembles the excursion steamers that once plied the river Clyde.  Her design was in the style of those steamers built in the 1930’s although her two-cylinder engine, primarily used due to her operation in fresh water, is more typical of Clyde steamers from the turn of the previous century  She sailed for28 years on her intended service.  For most of her career she was painted all white with a buff funnel and green boot-topping.  Today, she is handsomely repainted with a black hull, white structure, topped by a red funnel with a black band at the top.  Over the years the paddle steamer has hosted royalty, first carrying Queen Salote of Tonga in 1953, and later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on two occasions, in 1965 and 1971.  After her last public cruise on August 30th 1981, the Maid was taken out of service and put up for sale.  One scheme after another failed to return the vessel to service and she has been moored at Balloch Pier ever since.  The local Dumbarton District Council took over control in December, 1992 becoming the vessel’s owners.  In 1995, negotiations got underway to transfer ownership to the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a charitable group with no paid staff.  After years of neglect this group of dedicated volunteers set about restoring the pretty little vessel.

MAID OF THE LOCH on restored slipway at Balloch
MAID OF THE LOCH on restored slipway at Balloch. Creative common license 2.0

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company has already had great success not only in returning the steamer to excellent condition inside and out, but also in rebuilding the Balloch Pier and the Balloch Steam Slipway which they had the honor of having officially reopened by The Princess Royal in 2006.  This year the aim is to “return the Maid to steam operation on the loch as soon as funding permits.”  The project includes building an all-year-round visitor center at Balloch Pier to support the ship, and make improvements to other loch piers.  The MAID OF THE LOCH is a true Scottish icon that is an integral element to the enjoyment of a visit to Loch Lomond.  If you would like to show your support you can make a donation to the MAID OF THE LOCH appeal by visiting www.maidoftheloch.com and clicking the “Donate” button on the right.

A great source of additional information can be found at http://www.paddlesteamers.info/MaidoftheLoch1953.htm

Thanks to Gordon Stewart and Gillon Ferguson.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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