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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Puffer to build new head of steam
Vic 32 Clyde Puffer
The Vic 32 is currently moored on the Crinan Canal
The final working coal-fired Clyde puffer is to be restored to its former glory thanks to a 105,000 grant.

The Heritage Lottery Fund award will be used to install a new boiler in the vessel which is currently moored on the Crinan Canal in Argyle.

Known as Vic 32, it was built in 1943 and named after the Victualling Inshore Craft (Vics) fleet it belonged to.

In their day, puffers served the west coast islands where they carried coal, grain, stone and whisky.

Nick Walker, maritime enthusiast and director of the Puffer Preservation Trust, explained the vital role they played serving as a lifeline to the islands' remote communities.

Island hoppers

He said: "Their standard trade was coal from Glasgow through the Crinan Canal out to all the west coast islands.

"They used to beach themselves and a horse and cart would come alongside.

"All the locals would come out and unload the coal and on the way back the puffers would perhaps pick up glass-making sand or builders' sand.

"They were very useful people puffer skippers because they could bring everything and anything to the islands."

The Vic 32 is the last ship of its kind in operation and was involved in an historical re-enactment recently when it was used in the filming of the popular BBC drama Para Handy, based on the lives of a fictional crew.

During the war she carried cement, ammunition and aviation fuel to the fleet, as far away as Scapa Flow and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Vessels.

Without this generous grant it is unlikely that the Vic 32 would ever have sailed again and at best she would have just become a static museum piece
Nick Walker
Puffer Preservation Trust

About 40,000 of the Lottery grant will be used to provide its new boiler so that it can return to the seas.

Once the work is complete, the public will be able to holiday on board and take part in the running of the vessel.

It will also be used for educational visits to help children learn about the past importance of the puffer in Scotland's maritime heritage.

Colin McLean, Heritage Lottery Fund Manager for Scotland, said: "Whether your memories are first hand or from Whisky Galore or Para Handy, puffers are remembered with so much affection that we are delighted to make sure that this one is kept in working order.

"It's one of those parts of Scotland's heritage, at one time a vital lifeline for rural communities, that puts a smile on people's faces."

Mr Walker added: "Everyone involved with the puffer is absolutely delighted and extremely grateful that the Heritage Lottery Fund has stepped in to enable her to be restored.

"Without this generous grant it is unlikely that the Vic 32 would ever have sailed again and at best she would have just become a static museum piece."

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