“WE are thrilled to have our patron, Lord Smith of Kelvin, fire up the engines for the first time in nearly four decades and to celebrate the completion of our wonderful £1.1 million refit.

“We are still some way from achieving our aim of her sailing again, but are more determined than ever to succeed.”

The speaker, earlier this week, was John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC); and he was talking about the Maid of the Loch, the historic paddle steamer on Loch Lomond. Her engines were fired up this week, nearly 40 years after her last commercial sailing in 1981.

The Maid, which was assembled in the Glasgow shipyard of A&J Inglis, and could carry no fewer than 1,000 passengers, was for many years a much-loved fixture amongst holidaymakers on the loch: she is seen here (right) in 1967 and (far right) in 1960. In her time she played host to three million day-trippers, as well as a good number of royal guests and celebrities.

Eventually, the heady attractions of affordable overseas travel had an adverse impact on the Maid’s revenues and passenger numbers.

She was decommissioned in 1981; in the years following, she suffered what the LLSC describes as “a sorry period of neglect, decay and vandalism” until she was bought, in 1992, by Dumbarton District Council.

Four years later, she was rescued by the volunteers of the LLSC, who began taking care of her and raising the substantial funds necessary to get her sailing again.

Her launch, in March 1953, stirred much interest.

Our sister paper, the Evening Times, noted: “The Maid is a tidy ship, and her white superstructure made her an impressive-looking craft.”

The main deck had a large observation lounge aft and a dining saloon forward. The lower deck had a bar and a deck shelter. There was living accommodation for the captain, mate, chief engineer and eight crew members.

The captain was Donald McDonald, who had worked for 33 years on Loch Lomond steamers. He was a native of Lewis, and had been master of another Loch Lomond steamer, Prince Edward.

This week, the results of a £1.1 million restoration project could be seen. The biggest transformation is in the engine room, where work has included professional overhaul of the engines, installation of new pipework and a mobile boiler plant erected on the pier.

Mr Beveridge added: “Our fundraising efforts will continue, and, in the meantime, visitors can come and see the Maid in her former glory and enjoy the spectacle of seeing the ship in steam once again.”

Lord Smith of Kelvin added: “Since 1996 the Loch Lomond Steamship Company has worked tirelessly to save and maintain this beautiful ship, and everyone involved deserves huge congratulations in what they have managed to achieve. I know there have been many disappointments along the way, including the rejection of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid a year ago, but now to have a real “live” attraction and newly refurbished rooms is a real achievement”.