THE charity behind the restoration of the Maid of the Loch paddle-steamer has been reunited with the original builders’ plaque after more than 30 years.

It is one of a number of items handed in during a recent amnesty.

The historic vessel’s original purser, who now lives in New Zealand, sent in his handheld passenger counter - a ‘clicker'' The ship’s original wheel has also been handed in, anonymously.

The amnesty was part of a recent crowdfunding campaign to finance a new steam boiler for the Maid, the last paddle steamer to have been built in the UK. The six-week campaign, which ended on December 8, raised £80,000 out of a hoped-for £125,000.

“We were absolutely delighted to get the builder’s plaque, which says that the Maid was built by A & J Inglis, Glasgow, in 1953’, and was on the outside of the ship, just outside the purser’s office,” said John Beveridge, Chair of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, the charity that looks after the Maid.

“It had been missing for 30 years and it now has been handed back in. It was delivered by somebody to our office in Balloch. It just turned up out of the blue - we didn’t know whether it was still in existence or not, whether it had been melted down for scrap, like so much, sadly, of the Maid when it was decommissioned. That was the fate of such items as brass fittings and pipework. The plaque is now in our office, locked up.

“The wheel is sitting downstairs in my basement at the moment, safe and sound.

“Those are two items we have been very thankful to get back, because they’re easily identifable as being the Maid’s.

“We’re still looking for the original engine-maker’s plaque, in the name of Rankin and Blackmore, engine-makers from Greenock. It was put up in the engine room, and we would love to know if it is still out there.

“In the nineties we had a local appeal and as a result of that the ship’s bell was returned anonymously. It was in good condition and had evidently been kept by someone who was aware of the importance of the Maid’s heritage.”

Mr Beveridge said another item had been sent from New Zealand. “The chap who had been the very first purser, Alastair Brown, came over for the Maid’s 50th anniversary and helped to cut a cake. He has now sent in his clicker passenger counter, which was the first one ever used on the Maid.

“It would be nice to know if any other items from the Maid are still out there.”

The Maid was launched from Balloch in March 1953 and sailed until its decommission in 1981. It lay derelict until 1996 when it was rescued by the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, which has spent years caring for it and raising funds in order to get it sailing again.

The LLSC has raised £4.5m, £3.8 million of which has come from Heritage Lottery Funding. It needs to raise another £1m in order to unlock further Heritage Lottery funding and successfully complete the project.

Mr Beveridge said the charity was delighted with the response to its crowdfunding appeal to raise £125,000 for a new boiler and ancillary equipment.

“We are very happy with this campaign, in terms of the money raised, the return of historically important missing parts via our amnesty appeal, and from the high profile it has given to the Maid across the UK and internationally. More than 400 people from around the world have given to the campaign.

“We are just a few thousand short of the amount needed to pay for the boiler and this means we can confidently begin the process of meeting with the specialist manufacturers to agree the boiler specification, receive their quotes, and then make a decision on which boiler to order. Everyone who has contributed has helped us reach this significant milestone for the Maid.”