SHE has been tied up by the quayside for more than 30 decades, but now the Maid of the Loch could once again sail the waters of Loch Lomond after enthusiasts working on her restoration vowed to have her shipshape by next summer.
The paddle steamer - the last one made in Britain - first entered service in 1953, the year of the Queen’s coronation.
But after passenger numbers dwindled, she made her last cruise on Scotland’s biggest loch and was mothballed at Balloch in 1981.
Now it is hoped that £1.7m can be by the autumn, possibly unlocking twice as much again in lottery funding and setting the course for the maid to sail again.
Former diplomat Robin Naysmith, chairs the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC), who are restoring the boat.
He said: “Our aim is to restore it to how it was when it was launched in 1953, which would be with a white hull and a cream to yellow funnel.
“Which will give it, we think, not just a more authentic but a more elegant look.”
The restoration team have their work cut out for them - with the maid having suffered at the hands of looters in the years it sat idle, as well as the depredations of time.
Mr Naysmith added: “There was no security, it just sat next next to the pier, it was tied up a bit like a car left in a car park, and not surprisingly anything that was worth stealing disappeared.
“But as the campaign has gathered momentum, surprisingly some quite interesting artefacts have started to reappear. The ship’s bell is a good example.”
Dubbed an ‘up and downer, the maid was built to be dismantled and transported to her destination across land. This technique was used to take ships from the Clyde all over the world.
Conservation expert Jim Mitchell said that this has made restoration easier.
“We have been extremely lucky in that lots of the builders’ drawings have survived,” he explained. “So we have things like pipework layout drawings so we can put all the copper pipe back in the engine room pretty much as it was, because we have the great gift of those drawings.”
Engineers on that other famous Clyde paddle steamer, the Waverley, have offered technical support.
If the fundraising drive over the spring and summer is successful, that would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash.
If all goes to plan, the Maid could be sailing by late summer next year.