Scotland

Stars sing the praises of the Maid of the Loch

Maid of the Loch

Top musicians are to sing the praises of one of Scotland's most famous paddle steamers this weekend in a bid to raise funds to get it sailing again.

The Maid of the Loch has not sailed since 1981 and has been moored at Balloch Pier on Loch Lomond for more than two decades.

Campaigners need to raise another £1m by the summer to release £3.8m from the National Lottery.

If the cash is raised, the steamer could take to the loch again next year.

Image caption Phil Cunningham said he was fascinated by the steamer

Sunday's concert at Celtic Connections will feature artists such as Phil Cunningham, Eddi Reader and Jimmie Macgregor.

Musical director Siobhan Miller has been collecting songs and poetry relating to the famous ship, the last paddle steamer built in Britain.

The 63m (208ft) Maid of the Loch entered service in 1953, the same year as the Queen's coronation.

The ship was built in Glasgow in sections by A&J Inglis before being transported by rail to the slipway at Balloch to be reassembled.

The ship navigated the waters of the loch for a number of different commercial operators until passenger numbers dwindled and it was eventually mothballed in 1981.

Image caption Eddi Reader is one of the artists performing at The Celtic Connections concert

The steamer remained watertight while moored at Balloch but much of the interior, such as copper piping and artefacts disappeared.

Its current owners The Loch Lomond Steam Ship Company took over in 1996 and set about renovating it.

After 22 years of constant fundraising and repairs, investing about £2m, they are almost ready for the final attempt to make the steamer fit once again to take to the water.

John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steam Ship Company, said the whole project would cost £5.5m but £4.5m had already been raised, including £3.8m from the lottery fund which will be released if they can find the final £1m.

He said there was now a "big push" to raise the last of the money by the summer deadline.

Mr Beveridge said: "A ship is meant to sail. It is meant to go up and down and enjoy the scenery."

He said the Maid of The loch was a "beautiful ship" and its location on Loch Lomond was "unique".

"The two things together make it a complete winner," he said.

Veteran folk musician and composer Phil Cunningham said he was "fascinated by the story and the possibility it could sail again".

"I hate seeing a musical instrument sat on a wall, I like it to be in somebody's hands doing what it was made for and it is the same with this."

The accordionist said the image of the ship was "iconic".

"I think people yearn for that kind of majesty again," he said.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites