Outlander star Bill Paterson has joined forces with Celtic music legends Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain to help save the UK’s last paddle steamship.
They feature in a new short film about the Maid of the Loch, offering the public a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save the ship and see her sail again on the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.
The film is being released for the launch of a crowdfunding campaign with a target to raise £125,000 in just six weeks, to buy and install the special steam boiler that will power the engine and thus restore the ‘Heart’ of Maid of the Loch.
The stars of the film are encouraging people to watch and to share the film with #MaidtoSail and the website www.maidoftheloch.org on social media to help get the word out.
Bill Paterson on deck, Aly Bain (left) and Phil Cunningham
In the new film, Bill Paterson – whose roles range from hits like Outlander, Fleabag and Shetland to cultural classics Dad’s Army, Truly, Madly Deeply and The Killing Fields – brings his wonderful flair for story-telling, to the tale of Maid of the Loch.
As Bill takes viewers on a tour of the ship, Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain – known as Phil & Aly to fans of their Scottish traditional music around the world – play a specially composed song about the Maid on the deck, with views of Loch Lomond behind them.
Engines being inserted into the Maid in 1952
Remarkable archive footage and photography runs throughout the film, showing the Maid in her heyday, packed with passengers enjoying a day on Loch Lomond.
Bill said: ‘The Maid has a genuine, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right now to sail again, thanks to a generous pledge from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
‘The many thousands of people who know and love the Maid will be aware of the long running, David and Goliath efforts to raise the funds to restore her.
‘But few may realise that right now this is not a just a long-held dream, it is a very real possibility. However, Heritage Lottery Fund’s commitment of £3.8 million funding, is only a pledge which will be awarded if Maid of the Loch’s charity, Loch Lomond Steamship Company, can raise £1 million. And that’s where this campaign comes in and why Phil, Aly and I made this film.’
Bill Paterson in the Maid’s engine room
Phil Cunningham says the story of the ship inspired them to write a song about it too.
He explained: ‘The Maid is known, quite wonderfully, as the ship that was built twice. She is the UK’s only remaining example of an ‘up and doon’ vessel. First built in Glasgow at A&J Inglis shipyards, the Maid was then taken apart, put on a train to her new home in Balloch and put back together again before her launch in March 1953. She was the heart of Loch Lomond and carried millions of passengers over the years.
‘Sadly, she was decommissioned in 1981, and has not sailed since. Since 1996 the volunteers of the charity the Loch Lomond Steamship Company have been lovingly maintaining the ship and working towards their ambitious mission to fully restore the ship to her former glory and get her sailing again.’
Maid of the Loch at Inversnaid in 1981, the year she was decommissioned
Aly Bain continues: ‘Maid of the Loch’s story is an inspiration, with highs and lows, and she is at a really critical moment in her journey right now – on the verge of a great new high. Such stories inspire musicians like us and we hope our film with Bill will inspire others to give at this crucial moment.
‘We have just six weeks to raise the £125,000 necessary pay for this boiler which will bring steam back through the valves, through the pipes and the engine which will turn the paddles again! We hope this film will get the word out as far and wide as possible and help to make that happen.’
John Beveridge is one of the founders and of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company. He fell in love with the ship as a boy, going sailing on Loch Lomond and has spent more than 20 years volunteering his time and skills to look after the Maid and raise fund to see her sail again.
Maid of the Loch, pictured in 1975
John explained the urgency of the campaign to buy the new steam boiler for the ship and how it fits in with the wider efforts to match the funding from Heritage Lottery Fund.
He said: ‘We need to raise this £125,000 now, so we can get the order in for the special steam boiler by the end of January, and receive the boiler in time to do the work to install it over the summer of 2018.
‘We are in a bit of a catch 22 situation just now, so the timing of this appeal is crucial to the success of our overall effort to raise the funds to fully refurbish the Maid.
‘Heritage Lottery Fund have generously pledged to donate £3.8 million to us if we can raise match funding of £1.7 million by June 2018. We are getting close to raising this money, but some of the pledges that have been made depend on us definitely having the restoration work underway in 2018.
Children boarding Maid of the Loch in 1967
‘However, we cannot use any of the money raised towards the match funding target, until it is met. So this crowdfunding campaign is vital to raise the money for the boiler, which in turn will mean we start work in time to receive donations pledged.
‘So we are immensely grateful to Bill, Phil and Aly for making this film to help us inspire people to help the Maid over these final hurdles and sail again.’
The film can be seen and donations to the appeal can be made at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/maid-to-sail