THE famously iconic paddle steamer Waverley may never sail again, it is feared.

Her 'deeply disappointed' operators say the ailing 72-year-old vessel needs a major — and expensive — boiler transplant if she is to be given a new lease of life.

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), the charity which owns her, has launched an appeal to save the legendary ship which has provided pleasure and unforgettable memories to generations of daytrippers.

It had been hoped earlier this week that repairs to Waverley's boilers would be enough to salvage at least part of her summer 2019 cruising season.

But this was dashed with the grim news delivered yesterday by the general manager of Waverley Excursions, Paul Semple, that she will be laid up indefinitely.

Mr Semple said: "The whole Waverley team is deeply disappointed that we are unable to repair the ship's boilers and operate this season despite every effort being made to overcome the challenges presented.

"I know first hand the fondness that the general public have for Waverley and I know this news will be disappointing for the tens of thousands of passengers who would have sailed with us this

year around the UK."

Mr Semple added: "The registered charity which owns Waverley will shortly launch an appeal to save the ship and ensure she sails again.

"The cost of the required works is significant but if every passenger who would have sailed this year was able to donate the cost of a ticket towards the appeal then we will be able to return Waverley to steam next year.

"More than ever we need support to preserve this iconic vessel as the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world."

It is understood that work on Waverley's boilers has been ongoing since February.

However, extensive investigations have concluded that they must be replaced if she is to have a future and sail again next year.

A recent economic impact study reported that Waverley contributes more than £5.6 million to the UK economy — equivalent to 136 jobs per annum.

She has carried more than six million passengers since being bought by the PSPS for £1 in 1974 and operated on a not-for-profit basis.

Donations to save the grand old paddler can be made now by visiting or calling 0141 243 2224 or by texting STEAM followed by your chosen amount £10 or £20 to 70085.