Let’s look at the clues. She took her first steps on 5th March 1953. She has been immobilised since 1981. Now in very poor health, she has a last chance of recovery. The good news is that if it works, she’ll get a new lease active life. The opportunity for challenge is that it will cost.
So who is she?
You’ll find her at Balloch on Loch Lomond, her innate beauty still distinguishable in spite of everything.
She’s the Maid of the Loch, the last paddle-steamer to be built in the Clyde at the A&J Inglis yard. On Tuesday 5th March 2013, Jean Inglis was in Balloch to celebrate the old Maid’s birthday and help to launch the fund raising campaign to raise£4.9 million to restore her to sail again; and develop visitor facilities at her berth on Pier Road.
She is what was known as a ‘knock down’ ship – meaning that after she was built, she was unbuilt again, trained in sections to Balloch and reassembled o a slip built to take her.
Her steam engine is less sophisticated than the Waverley’s and means that she is more restricted than the still-working paddler in what she can do.
In her heyday she sailed for Balloch to Ardlui at the head of the loch but later reduced the passage to terminate at Inversnaid, a few miles to the south.
She has seen a range of owners in her life to date, passed on as each failed to resolve the twin problems of the cost of maintaining and running a historic paddler and the state of the piers in Loch Lomond which became progressively unable to receive her. Silting at and in the approaches to many of the piers also increased th rick of her running aground.
In 1995, her then owner, Dumbarton District Council, agreed a deal to transfer ownership of the Maid to the charitable Loch Lomond Steamship Company, who were to restore her.
They were eventually awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant and were able to get the Maid lifted out of the water at the end of June 2006.
In her static state, she is open to visitors, with varying frequency throughout the year – but the campaign born on Tuesday should see her back working on the loch, under steam again.
These are beautiful and willful boats, characterful, elegant – and the Maid of the Loch carries a lineage of Clyde shipbuilding that is worth preserving.
There is also no doubt that her moving presence on the loch, from onboard or from the shores, would enhance the experience of visiting Loch Lomond and is fully appropriate for its setting in our first National Park.
Note: The photograph above, of the Maid of the Loch at her berth in Balloch, is © David Souza, reproduced here under the Creative Commons licensed.