THE charity behind the restoration of the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer says the popular visitor attraction will remain closed until the end of June because of the coronavirus lockdown.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC) says it's been forced to 'furlough' all its staff, halt all non-essential spending and close the charity's office.

In a statement posted on Facebook, LLSC chairman John Beveridge said: "We’re very sorry to inform you that the Maid and the winchhouse will not reopen at Easter and will remain closed until the end of June.

"This will be kept under review as the Covid-19 situation in the country develops.

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"Our volunteers now have to stay at home, contractors have ceased work on the ship, and the Board have now taken the tough decision that with no income coming in, for the charity to survive this crisis we furlough our staff and stop all non-essential expenditure.

"The office is now closed and throughout this closedown period, emails, phone calls and any post can only be monitored on an infrequent basis, so replies may be delayed."

Until the lockdown conditions took effect, work on the Maid's restoration had been continuing through the winter after the ship's engines were fired up last autumn for the first time in 38 years.

The long-running restoration project, which still has the ultimate aim of bringing the 'Maid' back into service on Loch Lomond for the first time since 1981, took a major step forward last year with the award of £950,000 from the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

READ MORE: Picture special: Maid of the Loch's engines fired up for the first time since 1981

As well as getting the ship's engines back in operation, the funding also contributed towards the cost of returning the Maid's internal lounges to their original 1950s condition.

Mr Beveridge continued: "The better news is that all winter our volunteers have been brilliantly working away on the main engine and auxiliaries, the galley, and wheelhouse, and our contractors were progressing well with the refurbishment of the dining saloon.

"We will also be exploring ways of engaging with you when you’re stuck at home, and keeping up your interest in the Maid.

"Thank you for your understanding and support, keep safe, and look out for each other. And roll on summer."

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