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PS Maid of the Loch  :     Balloch, Loch Lomond, United Kingdom.

maid of the Loch 2011.jpg

Above : Maid of the Loch at Balloch Pier on July 9th 2011.
Status : Free public access to look around and visit the cafe and shop. Work progressing in the hope of returning her for service on Loch Lomond
Areas of the ship are also available for hire for private functions. See website (link below) for the current opening times.

Built in 1953 by A & J Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow

Engines : Compound Diagonal ( 24 and 48 inch x 51 inch) by Rankin and Blackmore of Greenock.

Dimensions: 191 feet (208 ft overall) x 28.1 ft

555 Gross Registered Tonnes

Built by A & J Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow, builders of the famous PS Waverley, she was sent the short distance to her home port of Balloch on Loch Lomond in pieces by rail and reassembled on the slip on the southern end of the UK's most famous lake. She was launched on 5th March, 1953 and made her first scheduled sailing on 25th May.

Replacing two smaller, older steamers, the Maid was the last traditional paddle steamer built for use in the UK. A two cylinder compound engine was specified as she did not need the power and speed of the ships which had been built for the nearby Firth of Clyde in the 1930s, for which three-cylinder trip expansion machinery was the norm.

Painted all white with an all-buff funnel and green boot-topping, her appearance reminded of the Swiss lake steamers as she plied from Balloch to the northern head of the Loch. In later years, calls were limited to Inversnaid, for a bus connection to Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine to meet SS Sir Walter Scott, and Tarbet. At Tarbet passengers were collected for the Loch Lomond leg of the Three Lochs Tour, having disembarked a Clyde steamer, usually PS Waverley, at Arrochar at the head of Loch Long and reaching Tarbet by a short bus ride or brisk walk.

After her last public cruise on August 30th 1981, the Maid was put up for sale. The offer of the Alloa Brewery Company in association with the local motor launch and marina operators Verigen Ltd, which had plans to restore her to service was accepted. For varying reasons these plans failed and between 1982 and 1989, services were provided by the MV Countess Fiona, the former Clyde motor vessel Countess of Bredalbane.

New owners for the Maid and the Countess in 1989 were the Australian Sea Management Corporation in association with the shipowners James Fisher & Sons, whose ambitious plans to restore the Maid and bring an Australian-built catamaran to the Loch were cut short when Sea management went into liquidation before the start of the 1990 season. Maid of the Loch Ltd was the name of the subsidiary which operated Countess Fiona during the 1989 season

The Francis Hotel Group based in Newcastle, UK purchased the Maid, the Countess and Balloch Pier from the receivers. Planning to develop the tourist potential of the Balloch site, it was unclear whether the Maid featured in the new owner's plans. Little progress was made and this company also went into liquidation in early 1992 and in this period a number of fixtures and brass fittings were removed from the ship.

The local Dumbarton District Council became the next owners when they took control of the land associated with the Maid in December 1992. Countess Fiona was scrapped as no buyer could be found for her, despite initial interest, as the slipway she had been on collapsed making her return to the water problematic and expensive.

Backed by the efforts of local enthusiasts, the Maid was, in 1995, transferred to the ownership of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a charitable organisation who now look after the vessel, restoring her fabric from an what once was extremely delapidated condition as resources permit. She is open to visitors as a static attraction with an on-board tearoom and with plans for an expanded dining service. She is available for hire for functions, weddings, concerts and such like.

On 29th September 2018 it was advised that the UK's National Lottery Heritage Fund (HLF) had not approved a major grant which would have enabled work to have progressed to allow the ship to sail in 2019. This was at the final approval stage after several years work, passing various qualifying stages and receiving HLF grants for work in progressing the application. Around 3.5 m was committed by the fund, subject to the project raising 1.7 m in match funding and fulfilling all the conditions required. The failure to get the grant was on account of competing bids being regarded as stronger in meeting the Fund's objectives. This does not mean that the Maid's chances of funding are over. A resubmission of a strengthened bid for consideration at a future round of funding is expected.

In December 2018 it was announced that the grant of 950 k which was awarded by the Scottish Governements Communities Regeneration Fund as part of the match-funding would still be available and as free cash. The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society also confirmed the same with regard to their 50 k pledge. This has allowed the LLSC to plan for major improvements to the vessel in her current role as a static attraction. The ship is expected to be slipped in January 2019 and any necessary repairs to the hull undertaken. The engine is to be fully refurbished and made operational so that it can be turned with steam supplied by a mobile shore-side boiler. Two saloons will be fully refurbished and an educational facility established aboard. These improvements should be complete within 2019   

Maid of the Loch party 2011 KW.jpg

Maid of the Loch is generating revenues by opening up for parties, discos and gigs by local bands. This was put in doubt because of exit arrangements from the ship, but for 2011, a second gangway has been installed and other arrangements made to satisfy the licensing authorities. Thanks for Kenny Whyte for this photograph.

Click here to see a copy of the Maid of the Loch's publicity leaflet for 2013 (the format has been a tried and tested one for many years)

An appeal was launched in 2013 on the occasion of the Maid's 60th birthday for funds to restore her to service in advance of a lottery funding application (the first of which was rejected on the grounds that the project would require certain amendments and improvements). The appeal only raised a modest amount of money. 

However, the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund put the matter into sharp focus and approximately 1.7 m was raised (or pledged) in 2017-18 in respect of match funding required for the lottery grant. 

MAID OF THE LOCH IN THE LATE 1970s - by Ian Stewart

Below : Maid of the Loch arriving at, berthed at and leaving Inversnaid. Observation deck, main deck, and tied up at Balloch for the evening


From dereliction to restoration : 1982 - 2004

Maid of the Loch in 2004  :  2009  :  2011

Contributed photos of Maid of the Loch : Click here

27th June 2006 : An important day

With the slipway alongside the pier at Balloch and its steam machinery renovated and returned to operational condition, Maid of the Loch was winched out of the water for a few hours to test the slipway and inspect the hull. The hull was found to be in excellent condition. 
This photo by Lairich Rig was posted on the geograph website and shows her on the historic day. It is reproduced here with thanks as it has been made available under the following Creative Commons licence.

Associated attraction alongside :
Balloch Steam Slipway and Winding Gear Steam Engine : taken on 27th September 2009

The renovation of the slipway, apart from creating a major local attraction in its own right, now allows the Maid of the Loch to be slipped for attention in the future - an essential element of bringing her back into service

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