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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 Tons
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.
1992 : 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.
1995 : 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 etc.
2018 : On 29th September 2018 it was announced 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 the amount of funding available for that specific round of applications was not sufficient to meet all the claims for support and the Maid losing out to other projects.
2018 : 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 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
This is how the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Fund, which made the grant following successful application by the Loch Lomond Steamship Company described the project :The project, led by the local charity (Loch Lomond Steamship Company) will restore the “Maid of the Loch”, the historic and last UK-built paddle steamer. It will become a fully operational steamship and community asset, providing a range of cruising and events experiences all year round, what will have a positive impact on the local economy. The aim is for the project to be used as a catalyst for economic regeneration and community development in West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) area. A key outcome will be the creation of a dedicated learning space on board to provide the on-going unique learning and educational programmes for schools and visitors of all ages. Works will also include the provision of a new lift to provide access for those with mobility issues and additional support needs. A range of skills and training opportunities will be offered for crew and shore staff. Community facilities will be available for events on board the vessel and within passenger facilities on the pier. The project will, with advice/support from WDC target the disadvantaged communities for the new jobs, training opportunities and learning experiences. This will benefit not only the immediately surrounding areas of Balloch, Haldane and the Vale of Leven, but also the other adjacent SIMD areas in the five remaining WDC wards. In addition, connectivity will be a key part of the Maid’s offer as, for the first time in over 30 years, she will connect six small loch-side rural communities. The project has the ability to deliver sustainable regeneration outcomes in an area badly affected by socio-economic issues, to create a positive change to learning and work, provide a mechanism to address inequality and create an asset that can sustain itself financially.
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.
Below : Maid of the Loch arriving at, berthed at and leaving Inversnaid. Observation deck, main deck, and tied up at Balloch for the evening
In 1982, Maid of the Loch was experiencing her first season of lay-up and Countess Fiona (ex Countess of Bredalbane) was fitting out near the slipway after her overland transfer from the open waters of the Firth of Clyde.
By 1993, enthusiasts were working constantly to stem the deterioration of the Maid which remained tied up at Balloch pier. In the meantime, the Countess had been withdrawn from service and was lying winched up on the slipway where she stayed until dismantled in 1999.
By 1998 hopes for returning the Maid to service were beginning to grow as she had been bought first by the local council then transferred to a charitable trust with this as their objective.
By 2004 it looked almost as if the Maid could cast off for a cruise up to Tarbet. The area around the pier had been improved considerably with a new office, car parking and a slipway for small craft. The steamer slipway and winch house with steam engine were awaiting restoration, which eventually took place in 2007.
2004 : 2009 : 2011
Contributed photos of Maid of the Loch : Click here
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