A PETITION to bring the iconic paddle steamer Waverley back to Helensburgh has reached more than 1,100 signatures after Saturday’s ‘Wave for the Waverley’ rally.

An estimated crowd of 300 people turned out at the town’s pier in glorious sunshine for the weekend event, organised by Helensburgh Seafront Development Project (HSDP).

The crowd, which included local MSPs Jackie Baillie and Maurice Corry, had a clear message at the rally – save the pier, and bring the Waverley back.

Waverley Excursions Ltd, the operators of the historic ship, announced last month that the much-loved vessel will not call at Helensburgh during its 2019 season because of the condition of the pier.

READ MORE: Hundreds turn out at 'save the pier' rally

A shuttle bus service will instead be run to Kilcreggan Pier, where the Waverley will call on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Ms Baillie has pledged to help seek support from the Scottish Government, while Argyll and Bute Council has reaffirmed its keenness to restore the pier, which closed to marine traffic in October.

However, it also repeated its earlier warning that repairs to the pier – which it is estimated will cost nearly £1 million – may not be complete for the Waverley’s 2020 season.

READ MORE: Council admits Helensburgh pier may not be fixed by 2020

HDSP said in a statement this week: “The HSDP would like to thank all those who turned out for the ‘Wave for the Waverley’ event which took place on Helensburgh Pier on Saturday.

“A crowd, estimated to be in excess of 300 people, took to the threatened iconic Victorian pier in protest against its closure to marine traffic.

“Residents, business owners and community group representatives from Helensburgh and surrounding areas along with MSPs Jackie Baillie and Maurice Corry called for the council to dig deep and find the funds to repair the iconic structure.

“[This is] whilst supporting the HSDP’s vision to upgrade and regenerate the pier to allow it to accept craft of all sizes including a ferry service for cruise passengers from Ocean Terminal in Greenock thereby creating a sustainable future for the pier for many years to come.

“The HSDP also took the opportunity to reveal to the public artist’s impressions of a vision as to how the pier may look once repaired and upgraded.

“The HSDP would also like to thank local resident, Carolann Cameron, who started a petition to ‘Bring the Waverley Back’.

“Numerous comments have been left calling for the repair and restoration of the pier to accommodate the return of PS Waverley to the town.

“The HSDP has also been buoyed by offers of support from locals and would ask that, if anyone is interested in helping them bring new life to Helensburgh Pier, you contact them by emailing helpHSDP@gmail.com.”

READ MORE: Waverley won't sail at all from Helensburgh this summer

Ms Cameron’s petition burst its initial target of 1,000 on Tuesday evening and now has a revised target of 2,000 signatures.

By Thursday morning the number of signatures had passed 1,200.

Among those attending the pier on Saturday was Burgh resident Grierson Steen, accompanied by his brown and white spaniel dog.

His T-shirt said: “Every summer I walk my dog, Rhu, to Helensburgh Pier where I pull the ropes for the Waverley.

“But not this year. We are both very sad.”

Ms Baillie and Mr Corry also gave speeches over a loud hailer at the pier, before lining up for photographs with HSDP officials to show their support.

Ms Baillie said: “The council is being very short sighted in not carrying out urgent repairs to the pier. It is clearly disappointing that the Waverley will not be calling at Helensburgh this year and the council must ensure that the pier is fixed for next year.

“The pier is important to the town, both for our local economy and our culture, so it needs to be fixed.

"I approached the Scottish Government previously about whether there was money to repair piers, and I am happy to help the council secure assistance from the government."

READ MORE: Helensburgh pier is closed to marine traffic on safety grounds

Meanwhile, Mr Corry added: “The rally on the pier was a very clear display of the support that our pier has, both in Helensburgh and the wider area.

“I look forward to seeing the results of the survey, but we must push ahead to make sure the pier is brought back into full use as soon as possible, to the benefit of Helensburgh’s economy, so that we can see the Waverley using it again in future - and hopefully other vessels too.

“I commend the excellent work of the HSDP committee, and the enthusiasm they have demonstrated for the pier and its long-term future.”

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “We are as keen as everyone else to have the Waverley calling at Helensburgh again.

“The full structural analysis of the pier currently being undertaken needs to be completed before a decision can be taken on how to proceed.

“Early findings indicate that major work will be required before the pier can be made available for berthing. Works of this nature on any structure in the water are complex and it may not be practically possible to complete repairs in time for the 2020 season. Updates will be provided once more detailed information is available.”

The petition can be viewed and signed at www.ipetitions.com/petition/bring-the-waverley-back-to-helensburgh