Children boarding Maid of the Loch in 1967
Children boarding Maid of the Loch in 1967

A weekend of celebrations on Loch Lomond

The UK’s last paddle steamship is celebrating the 65th anniversary of its maiden voyage this weekend.

Loch Lomond’s historic Maid of the Loch left its Balloch base at 11.25am on 25 May 1953, a week before the coronation of the Queen.

This journey took its 1000 passengers to Balmaha, Rowardennan, Tarbet, Inversnaid and Ardlui.

For 28 years the Maid became known as the ‘heart’ of Loch Lomond, carrying millions of visitors including Her Majesty The Queen, Queen Salote of Tonga, and the President of Sudan, around Scotland’s bonnie banks.

Today, the ship is moored at Balloch Pier as a static tourist attraction following decommission in 1981, where it remains at the very heart of the community receiving thousands of visitors each year.

This weekend she will welcome guests new and old on board for a 1950s themed celebration, with a very special visit from local man Hamish Teaz (78), who witnessed the maiden sailing 65 years ago.

Hamish said: ‘I remember that day as if it was yesterday, and will never forget the sight of seeing the Maid sailing by. It was a quiet day and I was with my dad as we couldn’t get a ticket for the maiden voyage; a memory I’ll always hold on to.

‘Sixty-five years on I’m now a volunteer on the Maid, helping to restore her, giving tour guides to visitors and generally assisting in any way I can. It’s a real honour to be here to mark the anniversary.’

Children boarding Maid of the Loch in 1967

Whilst the Maid has lay moored since 1981, her future looks set to change thanks to an exciting restoration programme led by local charity the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC).

The group of dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly for more than 20 years to restore the ship back to its former glory, and a recent £950,000 grant from The Scottish Government to support the restoration has taken the project significantly closer to its £5.5m target.

John Beveridge, chairman of LLSC, said: ‘The Maid of the Loch is a huge part of our cultural heritage, not just for Loch Lomond but for Scotland as a whole. People from all over the world have shared the joy of sailing on this special ship, and we are thrilled to celebrate her 65th maiden voyage this weekend.

‘It’s taken over 20 years, but we are now within reach of gaining the full amount required to get the Maid refurbished and sailing on Loch Lomond once again.

‘The opportunities it will offer in terms of creating jobs and providing economic growth to the area is second to none, and we are very excited about this next chapter in her journey.’

From noon until 5pm this Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 May, the Maid will throw a 1950s party with music, original rock ‘n’ rollers, vintage cars and special performances from Alexandria Mandolin Band and HMS Neptune Volunteer Band to welcome visitors aboard.

A free 1958 Bristol Lodekka double decker shuttle bus will run from Balloch station to take visitors to and from the ship.