The Maid's News

Fair winds but stormy seas

Fair winds but stormy seas

 The £6 million project to return the Maid of the Loch to steam operation gained ever-increasing support during the year. With the successful granting of a £122,417 award by LEADER and Scottish Enterprise at the start of the year, there followed a sell-out concert for the Maid as part of Glasgow’s Celtic Connections international winter music festival. All the artists gave their time for free, and a specially commissioned song about the Maid was performed.

In February, we were delighted and honoured when Lord Smith of Kelvin KT CH agreed to become the charity’s Patron. His distinguished career and vast experience are very welcome.

With the funding from LEADER and SE, five new consultants were engaged to help produce all the necessary reports and spreadsheets for the HLF Stage 2 deadline in June. Costs were calculated, designs drawn up, plans produced, policies prepared, and fundraising finalised. An amazing feat to raise over £2 million* by a charity with one employee. A truly exhausting time, but the application deadline was achieved. In total, over 200 documents were submitted, and over £470,000 of time and money had been spent to get to this stage.

Meanwhile, the volunteers kept the ship looking smart, events were staged, and the good weather resulted in more visitors than ever coming on board. The increased investment in social media and publicity saw the website develop further, Facebook followers increase to over 5,000, and Twitter accounts increase to over 1,000. The Board was strengthened with the addition of three new members.

During July and August, time was spent developing strategies and advertising for a new boiler, naval architects, and a project management team. Questions raised by HLF were comprehensively answered in the run up to their decision day in September. Firstly, the Scottish Committee gave it their highest ranking, then the HLF UK Trustees met on 25 September. The following day, it was announced that the project had been rejected. The reason – “due to insufficient funds” (by HLF). So ironic, given that HLF’s biggest concern with the project had always been LLSC’s ability to close the funding gap.

The public response was of overwhelming support with a record reach of 20,000 on Facebook, and the local MP and MSP both raising the issue directly with HLF. Tenders for the advertised work had to be returned unopened, volunteers’ morale hit an all-time low. Was the project sunk?

Not likely. The LLSC Board unanimously agreed to fight on. In December, after much hard work and worry, The Scottish Government accepted a revised strategy and outcomes and confirmed the award of their £950,000. Other main funders confirmed their support, with the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, The Hugh Fraser Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, and The Robertson Trust awards allowing a £1.1 million project to go ahead.

Immediately, plans were drawn up and orders placed to bring the Maid out of the water in early 2019. A partial refurbishment will proceed, including getting her engines turning by steam power for demonstration purposes. This is a huge step forward for the charity.

The Maid has weathered the storm and 2019 will see a transformation of her fortunes. With her engines turning once again, new business opportunities, additional staff, and ever-increasing support and visitor numbers, calmer waters lie ahead. The aim to return her to steam operation is stronger than ever. The disappointment of the HLF decision is a setback, but only means her complete return to steam operation will take a little longer.

The charity would like to thank everyone for their fantastic support over the year, and over many years. The volunteers who come down to the Maid every week, the companies that give their support in many ways, the organisations which have backed the project with grants, and all the donations from the public, local, national, and international. Do come and visit the Maid in 2019 and see just what can be done. You will be delighted and amazed.

* £2 million raised is £1.61 million in cash pledges plus £431,000 of volunteers’ time