Photo of the month: October 2017

Maid of the Loch at Inversnaid on 3 June 1975. Copyright Graeme Hogg

Graeme Hogg remembers the day when Maid of the Loch briefly sported a ‘tartan lum’, and looks forward to the day when, no matter what the funnel colouring, she returns to service.

The photograph above was taken on 3 June 1975, the only day Maid of the Loch ever sailed with a ‘tartan lum’. The funnel colours emulate those carried by ships of the combined CSP/LMS fleets in 1923-24. That colour scheme had been devised to placate supporters of the former Caledonian Steam Packet and Glasgow & South Western Railway fleets, which had been merged following the railway amalgamations of 1923. The red band shrank in 1924 and disappeared entirely the following year, leaving us with the familiar yellow and black funnels that prevailed until the lions appeared in the mid-1960s. However, the description ‘tartan lums’ was coined unofficially for the short period they were to be seen.

The story of Maid of the Loch’s unusual funnel colouring is slightly more convoluted. She had had an ‘annus horribilis’ in 1974. A minor grounding early in the season had created boiler problems, which plagued her for the rest of the summer. These caused days out of service and poor steaming, and resulted in much more smoke than normal being emitted from her funnel, which had been all-yellow since her debut in 1953. There was always some soot discolouration round the funnel rim by the end of each season, but this was much more pronounced by the 1974-75 winter. As a result of her poor financial results in 1974, which, almost inevitably, followed her poor operational performance, CalMac had appointed a dedicated manager, Norman Wright, to revive the fortunes of the ‘Maid’ for 1975 and beyond. One of his early changes, on seeing the mess the funnel was in, was to have the top painted black.

The ‘Maid’ began her 1975 season with an old style CSP funnel. Copyright CRSC Archive Collection

Thus, the ‘Maid’ began her 1975 season with an old style CSP funnel. However, either Mr Wright or someone else in authority quickly decided this was unacceptable and, if the funnel top was to be black, the rest of the funnel should be CalMac red. Whether this was to conform more closely to the rest of the fleet or to re-introduce the traditional Loch Lomond funnel colours was not explained. There was certainly no mention at any stage of applying yellow discs and red lions to the funnel.

However, on 3 June, a painter appeared at Balloch, set up his ladder against the funnel and started applying red paint. Whoever had decided on the change had also decreed that the black top should become shallower than it was. This was odd because there was a metal band round the funnel, which marked the obvious point to which the black should be taken. But the painter had his instructions, which meant he had to carefully mark a straight edge round the funnel, several inches above the metal band, and repaint a black strip in red. This obviously took a while and, as the ship approached her sailing time of 10.40, it was clear that this was as far as he was going to get that day, so he downed tools and the ‘Maid’ sailed as illustrated.

I was present for all this because, in my final season as a summer Purser, I had been asked to be Purser on Maid of the Loch through June until the school holidays started, and Robert Cleary could be released from teaching duties to be Purser for the bulk of the summer. Luckily, I had my camera with me and was able to take this photograph at Inversnaid.

The new Maid of the Loch at Balloch in 1953, with Prince Edward on the left. By courtesy of Graeme Hogg

The painter returned the following day and must have been under instruction to finish the job as he sailed with the ship and, with the relevant part of the top deck roped off, continued to paint the yellow section red. I suspect health and safety regulations would prevent a painter going up a ladder to paint a funnel today, especially cruising at 10 knots or so on Loch Lomond. From memory, he accomplished the task by the end of the morning sailing and the ‘Maid’ continued to sail with a red and black funnel for the rest of the season.

The change was short-lived and she re-appeared the following season, and for the rest of her CalMac career (until her withdrawal from service in 1981) with her traditional all yellow funnel.

During her subsequent lay-up and preservation phase, she has sported both colourings.

Currently she has the red and black funnel again, with the black carried down to the metal band, which looks much more in proportion than the 1975 version. Artists’ impressions of her back in service show her sporting what, for her, is the traditional all yellow funnel.

The most important thing now is for the Loch Lomond Steamship Company to find the money to enable her to be returned to operating condition. Arguments about colour schemes can follow, as, no doubt, both funnel colours will have their supporters. Given the involvement of the Heritage Lottery Fund in funding her restoration, it would seem likely to me that her original colours will be deemed appropriate.

Like so many others, I look forward to the day when she plies the waters of the Loch once again.

Incidentally, the second unusual feature of the photograph is the snow on the Arrochar Alps in the background, which incredibly, had fallen the previous morning. My train to work that June day was detained at Dumbarton Central because of the adverse weather conditions.

Click here for information on how you can help the campaign to get Maid of the Loch back into service.

Maid of the Loch at Inversnaid in the latter part of the 1975 season when her funnel colouring was red with slim black top — less in proportion than today, thanks to the black now being carried down to the metal band. Copyright Graeme Hogg

All-yellow funnel with soot discolouration: Maid of the Loch as she began and ended her career under Gourock’s management. Copyright Iain Dewar