JUST over two months ago, the charity aiming to refloat the historic Loch Lomond paddle-steamer, Maid of the Loch, was "devastated" to learn that its bid for £3.7 million of Heritage Lottery funding had been rejected.

“It is going to take some time to absorb this news and the reasons behind it", said John Beveridge, chairman of Loch Lomond Steamship Company, which has been restoring the vessel since 1996.

The charity, however, promised that the decision “is not the end of the road” and said it still firmly believed in the project.

Yesterday it learned that a £950,000 capital grant funding award by the Scottish Government had been confirmed, meaning that the goal of returning the ship to sail lives on.

The package from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF), awarded earlier this year, hung in the balance following the "disappointing" news from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The charity said the Scottish Government announcement meant that the Maid could look forward to 2019 "with a renewed focus, with work already confirmed including repairs to the ship’s hull, creation of an on-board education facility, refurbishing the main function suite, and overhauling the engines to enable them to turn with steam."

Mr Beveridge said: “This is a huge boost to the project and will transform the Maid’s attraction to visitors. After the shock of HLF rejecting our bid, this gives the charity real hope to continue with our efforts.

“Our next step will see the ship brought out of the water in January onto the Balloch Steam Slipway to allow us to carry out an essential ultrasound test of the entire hull to check its condition. Any repairs will then be carried out, including replacing the ship’s port side belting, the wooden fender that protects the hull at the pier.

"Slipping the ship will be a 'must-see' spectacle and a major undertaking for us all. It will be the first time any work has been done on the hull since 1981, so there is great excitement among our volunteers who can’t wait to help”.

The biggest transformation to the ship next year will see the engines turning under steam power. Work will include having the engines professionally overhauled, new pipework installed, and a mobile boiler plant sited on the pier producing enough steam to allow the paddles to turn.

The engine room last month received two feed boiler pumps, a critical component in getting the ship sailing once again, from Coatbridge's Summerlee Heritage Museum.

Mr Beveridge added: “Everyone who has visited the Maid over the years have said we must get this beautiful ship sailing again. Getting her in steam and with her paddles turning again is the next best thing, and we anticipate great interest next year as people come to watch her majestic engines moving for the first time in 37 years.”

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has also confirmed a grant of £50,000 will still be granted, taking this work package to £1 million.

The Maid currently operates as a static tourist attraction and hopes to earn industrial museum status for the ship and steam slipway as a growing number of artefacts are collected and restored to working condition.