MS: 'The Bonnie Lass o' Ballochmyle'

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


This manuscript headed by Burns 'A Song -- Tune Etrick banks -- On accidentally seeing Miss W.-- A. in an evening walk'. It was written after Burns had strayed into the private estate of Claud Alexander in Ballochmyle. As he wandered along the banks of the river Ayr, he caught a glimpse of Claud's sister Wilhelmina, allowing Burns to let his fancy take flight, wishing that they were on the same social plain so that he could woo her.

On thefirst page Burns sets the scene of his walk with that happy eye for detail so typical of his writing, describing the dewy fields and the song thrush singing with nature in all her peaceful splendour.

The second page describes Burns as he wandered in the woods and chanced to spy the bonnie lass on whom he confers a surpassing beauty in his imagination. His flight of fancy and hyperbole give us a picture of love, peace and harmony with nature. Burns then expresses the wish that they had been rustic social equals.

On the final page Burns tells how he would work hard with a joyous heart on his farm to support her. He is not is seeking a fortune on the high seas or down some foreign mine. He would stay at home, happily tending his sheep and tilling the soil just so long as he could enjoy the simple life together with his bonnie lass o' Ballochmyle.

Claud Alexander brought his sister Wilhelmina (Miss W.A.) to an estate at Ballochmyle near Mauchline, which was not far from Mossgeil farm where Burns lived. In November 1786, having composed the song, Burns wrote to Miss W.A. seeking her permission to allow him to publish it in his second book of Poems. As she was 30 years old and no great beauty, she thought Burns was teasing her and so she never replied. However, when she died a spinster aged 87, it was one of her most prized possessions.

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