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The Lady of the Lake celebrates her 140th year

PUBLISHED: 11:33 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:42 29 March 2017

Ullswater Steamers Lady of the Lake

Ullswater Steamers Lady of the Lake

not Archant

This year sees a series of events to mark the 140th anniversary of a famous steamer, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing

It might be rude to reveal a lady’s age, but when she’s been working since 1877 and still managed to look shipshape, it’s something worth boasting about.

This particular lady is, of course, one of the Lake District’s famous steamers. The Motor Yacht ‘Lady of the Lake’ is celebrating her 140th year – a birthday she shares with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

She is one of the heritage vessels in Ullswater ‘Steamers’ fleet carrying thousands of passengers on idyllic cruises on this most beautiful lake.

‘Lady of the Lake’ is one of the oldest working passenger vessels in the world with a remarkable history of battling through adversity and severe challenges.

Ullswater by John Lever Ullswater by John Lever

The vessel was designed in Penrith and built in Rutherglen, near Glasgow. She was transported to Ullswater in pieces, by both rail and horse-drawn drays, arriving in pieces at Waterside, near Pooley Bridge, where she was assembled and launched on June 26 1877.

But only four years later she sunk at her moorings during stormy weather. Having been repaired and made fit for service again, her next challenge came in July 1889, when a younger ‘model’ came along – M.Y Raven. Lady of the Lake was tested against her new sister ship and amazingly saw off the newcomer, passing the finishing line first in a trial race from Sandwick to Patterdale.

The fighting spirit she showed in this race was vital. In 1958, she sunk for a second time, but worse was to come. In 1965, fire engulfed her and ‘Lady of the Lake’ was out of service for 14 years. It was 1979 before she made her triumphant return, re-launched by politician, William Whitelaw, following extensive refurbishment.

Since then, it has been pretty much plain sailing for this wonderful vessel, which glides along proudly as she cruises with up to 200 passengers, introducing them to the stunning natural arena within which Ullswater takes centre stage.

The ‘Lady of the Lake’ was the woman who legend says gave King Arthur his sword, Excalibur. On his instructions, after being fatally wounded in battle, Excalibur was said to have been returned to the Dark Lake. As Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, was reputed to live close by, some believe that the Dark Lake was in fact Ullswater.

For this reason, the ‘Lady of the Lake’ birthday year has just seen the launch of a new and free King Arthur App Trail.

Ullswater ‘Steamers’ is also planning a special birthday celebration for the oldest star in its fleet on June 24 and 25 when all passengers arriving for a cruise will be given a commemorative gift – an excellent reason to use the special hashtag #stepbackintime.

The next day, June 26, she will have a bottle of champagne broken over her bows to celebrate her wonderful life. With the Penrith Town Band in attendance and lots of fizz and canapés, this should be another great day in her history.

To find out more about Ullswater ‘Steamers’ go to www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk

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