A MASSIVE crew of more than 4,000 Waverley lovers have steamed in to help the iconic paddler sail again — and pushed donations beyond the half-a-million pound mark.

A river of contributions to rescue the famous Clyde ship has flowed since her operators declared just three months ago that she needed the maritime equivalent of open heart surgery.

New boilers for the cherished steamer were ordered last month as the charity which operates her presses ahead with returning her to 'doon the watter' pleasure cruising next summer.

But the target to ensure the Waverley is shipshape to make a glorious comeback in 2020 is £2.3 million.

General manager Paul Semple said: "Thanks to the fantastic public response to our 'Save The Waverley Boiler Refit Appeal' we have reached a key milestone in our fundraising campaign.

"To date more than 4,000 individuals have donated with some of our core supporters giving a 'once in a lifetime donation' knowing that we urgently need funds to secure Waverley's future.

"In addition, we have received offers of help from several organisations and companies, but we will need further help to get Waverley's paddles turning again."

Waverley's entire 2019 summer cruising season had to be scrapped as hopes that repairs to her existing boiler units would be enough were dashed.

Several other boiler room components are also to be replaced as part of a major investment to ensure that the grand old ship — which entered service in 1947 — can sail on 'for at least another 20 years'.

The work required to remove her famous red, white and black funnels, as well as a large section of decking, will take several months to complete if full funding can be secured.

Mr Semple singled out four-year-old Ethan Pringle for special praise after the youngster decorated his wheelchair in Waverley livery and raised £1,600 for the cause with a trip round Cumbrae last weekend.

Ethan summed up the sentiments of everyone perfectly when he said: "The Waverley is broken. We need to fix it."

Mr Semple said: "With the new boilers already on order we must increase our efforts to secure further funding to allow our plans to progress which will see Waverley undergo major surgery commencing in January.

"I am exceptionally grateful to everyone who has come forward to help us Save The Waverley and with continued support she will sail again.

"We simply can't allow her to remain static.

"She is the sole survivor and I know so many people are willing her to succeed."

Donations can be made online at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by calling 0141 243 2224 or by texting STEAM £20 TO 70085. All donations made directly to Waverley Excursions will be recorded on a Donor Wall on board Waverley.