SOMETIMES when you are getting on a bit and are set in your ways, persuading you to move even a few yards can be a trifle difficult, especially if you’re an elderly lady who, without being unkind, is no longer as sprightly as she was.

If you’re 65 years old, weigh 555 tons and are 200ft long, the chances are it’s going to be very difficult indeed to get you moving, especially when people want you to get out of the water and go up a slipway that you last travelled up more than 12 years ago.

So it proved for the Maid of the Loch yesterday when the last paddle steamer to be built in Britain could not be hauled out of the chilly waters of Loch Lomond.

In what is thought to be only a temporary setback, the operation to winch the largest ship ever built for inland British waters on to the Balloch Steam Slipway – itself a Listed building – had to be suspended after cables tore loose and some of the apparatus under the Maid gave way.

READ MORE: Maid was part of a proud Loch Lomond steamer tradition

The operation, known as “slipping”, was intended to last four hours and leave the Maid high and dry so that the refurbishment project could really get under way.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company had engaged Mackay Boatbuilders to carry out the slipping and from 10am onwards, the project proceeded according to plan. At about 1.30pm, however, it all went wrong, shortly after the Maid was fully out of the water.

She had been winched inch-by-inch up the slipway aboard a cradle-type carriage, but then something started going wrong with the gear being used to winch her.

The National:

Cables were seen to part and workers around the ship jumped clear as she trundled back down the slipway into the loch.

It has to be said that as becomes an elderly lady, the Maid did so quite gracefully and neither she nor anyone around her suffered any damage.

It is only the second time in 40 years that the Maid has been asked to come out of Loch Lomond, that last occasion being in 2006.

Her owners tweeted: “Unfortunately an incident has happened with what we believe to be the carriage and the ship is now back in the water. We will now secure her back to the pier to assess the situation.”

It later added: “The Maid is berthed again, safe and sound. It’s still too early to establish the circumstances surrounding today’s setback, but as soon as we know more we will update you all. Thankyou to everyone who has supported us so far! What a turn-out we had today.”

It is likely that once the situation has been properly assessed, a fresh attempt – possibly as early as today – will be made to winch the Maid up the slipway. Once that is achieved, a massive programme of refurbishment works will take place. The project aims to transform her back into an sailing experience rather than the static attraction she is at present.

As soon as she is up the slipway and secured safely, an ultrasound survey is to be carried out on the hull of a boat that was threatened with being broken up 10 years after she came out of service in 1981.

Following the survey, the internal refurbishment work will include the restoration of her interior saloons to their original 1950s style. An education suite will also be built.

Her engines will be restored along with the other machinery required to get her sailing again, though it is not known if she will be able to take aboard the 1000 passengers she could carry at her peak..

Funding for the initial £1 million project has come from the Scottish Government, who gave £950,000, with the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society £50,000. Should the initial project be completed successfully, Lottery cash will be forthcoming to complete the entire £5m refurbishment.

The Maid was launched on the Loch in 1953 after being assembled at the yard of AJ Inglis in Glasgow and then transported in sections to Balloch. In her 28-year career on Loch Lomond she was at first hugely popular with the “blue” train line disgorging tens of thousands of day trippers from all over Scotland at the specially-built station at Balloch where the Loch starts to drain in to the River Leven.

Visitors including celebrities and members of the royal family all made trips on the Maid which was at that time painted white with a buff funnel.

The growth in foreign holidays saw passenger numbers decline throughout the 1970s and she became economically unviable. She was tied up in 1982, a year after her last commercial trip, and was decaying badly until the then Dumbarton District Council bought her in 1992.

Four years later, the volunteers of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company began their long campaign to restore the Maid of the Loch and it is their red, white and black colours that she sports today.

Chairman John Beveridge told reporters later yesterday that no-one had been injured, and that everyone who had been working on board and around the ship was safe.

He said it was thought something snapped, resulting in the cradle sliding back down the slip, taking the ship with it.