GENEROUS donors have thrown a lifeline to the last paddle steamer built in the UK by raising around £20,000 for the charity which owns it.

The Maid of the Loch, which has been out of commission since 1981, has been undergoing extensive refurbishment works while berthed at Balloch slipway and the iconic vessel's engines were fired up for the first time in four decades last October.

But operators The Loch Lomond Steamship Company saw their progress halted in March as they closed the visitor attraction at the start of the coronavirus outbreak and placed all staff members on furlough.

READ MORE: Maid of the Loch charity says paddle steamer 'needs urgent financial help'

Costs were cut back to a minimum and lockdown has meant that the company will lose almost all of this season's income from visitors to the ship and the winch house in Balloch.

In response to the crisis a fund-raising appeal was launched in May to help cover the £100,000 per annum operating costs, and more than 250 supporters pledged a total of £16,449 in 28 days to the cause, with further donations coming in since the appeal ended last Thursday.

A statement on the Maid of the Loch's Facebook page said: "The Crowdfunder appeal closed on Thursday morning but we had a wonderful £1,000 donation surprise direct to our website shortly afterwards.

"Including all Crowdfunder pledges and donations to our website the Covid appeal total is at least £20,000!

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

"This will be a huge help in getting the Maid ready to welcome all our supporters and friends once more. We'll look forward to seeing you then."

All money raised will be used to keep the ship maintained and safe and operators hope to be able to re-open to visitors and events in the coming weeks.

The long-running restoration project took a major step forward last year with the award of £950,000 from the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and the old lady's original 1950's interior is being restored.

READ MORE: Click here for all the latest Helensburgh and Lomond news headlines