The leader of the Maid of the Loch restoration project says work to finally get the paddle steamer cruising again should start before the end of the year - if a multi-million pound funding boost is confirmed this week.

John Beveridge, director of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, which owns the ship, insists they “have done as much as they possibly can” as his team face a nervous final wait to find out if years of fundraising have paid off.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is holding a meeting of trustees in London this week and is expected to make an announcement within days on the fate of the £3.8million pound grant application to return the famous ship to steam with electrics and plumbing restored amongst other works.

The HLF has already provisionally agreed to part-fund the £6m project to refit the “Maid” and get her back in service for the first time since 1981 – but that pledge depended on the community being able to raise the remaining £2.4m.

Mr Beveridge said: “We think we have done as much as we possibly can and we are very hopeful. Until they make the decision we have everything crossed waiting for the result to come through. Everyone has been very tight-lipped and it is a waiting game unfortunately.

“Work should start before the end of the year if we get the go ahead. It will make a huge difference through jobs, training for young folk - and the spin-offs are tremendous. It will mean more visitors, businesses will do well and the area’s profile will go up.”

The HLF’s announcement, due to be made by the end of this week, comes after government agency Historic Environment Scotland approved a grant of £25,000 towards repairs on Balloch Pier - work which is deemed vital to enabling the Maid to actively use the pier once she returns to service.

The work, being carried out by Kelsen Technical Ltd, marks the first stage of the £6m refit of both the Maid and the pier.

Beveridge added: “Balloch Pier has been home to Maid of the Loch for many years now, and this work is the first piece of construction and stepping stone towards the £6m refurbishment of the Maid and Pier.

“After all the years of fund-raising it’s a significant milestone to see work actually taking place. Visitors to the Maid will be able to view the work taking place during this exciting development.”