The Maid of the Loch
Loch Lomond's Last Paddle Steamer
The story of The Maid of the Loch, Loch Lomond’s last paddle steamer, is a blockbuster. Like any good novel, or film there’s a riveting story with a 'happy ever after' conclusion. At the time of writing that happy ending is in no way guaranteed but looking increasingly likely.
Whilst writing this the steamship charity are on the cusp of having successfully raised the necessary funds to get the Maid sailing again on Loch Lomond. If this does happen it will be down to some extraordinary vision and determination by the many volunteers involved in the project.
The Maid of the Loch was the last paddle steamer to be built in Britain. For a few hundred years before she was built in 1953 Britain had prospered under a golden age of steam. This had been vital not only for the success of industry but the growth of tourism. Cutting through Loch Lomond The Maid of the Loch and her predecessors, along with the many other steamers around Scotland’s coastlines, rivers and lochs had carried passengers in an era before the domination of the motor car.
The first achievement for the Loch Lomond Steamship charity had been their ability to save the Maid of the Loch from becoming scrap. This would have been an unseemly end to such a beautiful boat, but sadly she had been neglected after her decommissioning in the early 1980's.
Left abandoned she had been vandalised, with many of the original assets stolen, some of which have recently been returned as the result of an inspired amnesty campaign. The downturn in fortunes had been caused by a combination of the availability of other holiday destinations and the disrepair of a number of the loch side piers.
The Maid of the Loch, Balloch
In recent years thankfully the Maid of the Loch has been protected and preserved at her berth in Balloch, close to Loch Lomond Shores. The fact that she is now a floating museum and enjoyed during many a Loch Lomond visit, might have been enough for the charity and its volunteers. However, the clear aspiration has always been to get her sailing again. An incredibly ambitious dream, that is getting ever closer to reality.
This is a costly project, with millions of pounds required. This is because the Maid doesn't have a boiler and before any public sailings can commence 21st century safety standards would understandably need to be introduced.
HLF Funding Video
Around 5 years ago I was asked to make a film to demonstrate to potential funder – HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) the high level of support within the Loch Lomond community for Maid of the Loch to be fully restored as a passenger carrying vessel.
During the work on that film John Beveridge a director of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company unearthed some incredible old cine footage of the Maid of the Loch from her glory days. The footage even included a royal sailing from the Queen.
The Voyage of the Maid - Documentary
As well as using some of that old footage in the HLF video presentation which you can see above, we discussed making a full length film about the roller-coaster story of the Maid of the Loch. To tell this compelling and powerful story John was the obvious choice of presenter. His excellent presentation told his own personal account of the events, which gave the film great authenticity.
The film – The Voyage of the Maid, was released on DVD and sold many copies, with a share of the profits going to the charity. Sales came in from around the world including Canada, Australia, South Africa and America. The notes that came in with the orders often included personal stories and connections from people who had sailed or worked on the Maid.
Purchase Voyage of The Maid Video
There are still a few copies left of the DVD, you can click below to purchase. Price is £12 which includes postage and packing in UK.
Boiler Crowdfunding Appeal
By 2017 the perseverance of the charity and their successful representations to funding bodies had put them in the strongest position ever to realise their dream. Funding from HLF was reliant though on the charity being able to raise significant sums using their own means. At this point I was asked to produce a Crowd Funding film, to make the project accessible to anyone who had been touched by the story and shared the excitement of the potential benefits of a fully restored and sailing Maid of the Loch.
The Crowdfunding appeal focused on raising funds specifically for the replacement of the ships boiler. A significant part of the overall project.
The team at the charity lined up Scottish musicians Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain to compose and perform the instrumental track for the video. The film itself was presented by famous Scottish actor Bill Paterson. All three have a genuine love for the Maid of the Loch and were a pleasure to work with.
It was exciting to see the results of the film, with monies being pledged to support the project and just as importantly awareness growing for the overall campaign. The final total sum raised has been building, with many approaches and initiatives to help reach the overall targets. You can still lend your support, just click the button below for more information to visit the donate section of the Maid's website.
Whilst writing this article in the summer of 2018 the reality of the Maid sailing again on Loch Lomond is more than just a dream. The organisation are getting very close, the momentum is there and their hard work looks like it will pay off.
So at some point in 2019, or 2020 the Maid of the Loch could begin sailing again. Even if they raise all of the necessary funds there will still be much more work to do. However, the charity has achieved so much and come so far, so very soon hopefully future photographs and video taken of the Maid will have the backdrop of open water and the smiles of happy passengers on board.
Slipping The Maid
In January 2019 the plan was to slip the Maid of the Loch to allow essential investigation under the water line, cleaning and repair. The Maid had only left the water once in the previous 40 years and this event attracted many spectators, not to mention many TV news crews, reporters and press photographers.
Sadly the slipping wasn’t a success and you can read about it in a special See Loch Lomond article at the link below. We were given special access to film and photograph the operation. See the photographs at the link.
This article and accompanying photographs are by Paul Saunders for See Loch Lomond. Visit Paul’s other websites, Paul Saunders Marketing& Paul Saunders Photography, for his marketing, photography & video services in Loch Lomond and beyond.
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